Babies, Bathwater and Season 2 of Lost
Instincts are pretty amazing things aren’t they? I once heard a great story about baby giraffes and their survival in the wild. And then of course there’s the touching tale of penguins marching across frozen wasteland, eggs warming on the male’s feet, and the big huddle to stay warm – all accomplished instinctively. However, nothing in nature is more amazing than one particular human instinct. It seems that the whole world over; across time and culture there is one aspect of early childhood that remains constant: equitable time share with resources. Even as children we are very careful not to play too long with one toy, especially when there are new toys involved. Scientists have yet to observe a child actually spend more time playing with a new toy than the others. In fact I love the way most little kids will keep a daily log of how much time was devoted to each activity, ensuring that they get everything in every day. This doesn’t stop in early childhood; I know I’m still the same way. If I’m reading a great book or watching an exciting movie and my internal timer dings – man, you better know that I put that book down to go on to the next equally valuable task…such as mowing the yard, bathing my children or alphabetizing my DVD’s…
It doesn’t hurt my feelings if you debate these empirically verifiable truth claims. The Bible says that in the last days people will turn away from the truth anyway.
I do realize that there are plenty of folks with Type A personality who’d love for the world to behave in exactly this way. It’s orderly, efficient and as I mentioned before, equitable. But with the exception of a few special individuals, such as the famous lawman Adrian Monk, this just isn’t typically the way of things.
In my limited experience, I’ve learned that many people, young and old alike, tend to go through phases. We play with our Hot Wheels for a few days and then rediscover the joy of our basketball. I will watch Everybody Loves Raymond every night for a couple weeks, get tired of it and move on to something else only to return in a month or so. The beloved mailman recently delivered my Lost Season 2 DVD’s…this is such a great way to be obsessive! I’ll watch the entire season in less than a month (I have to because Season 3 starts on October 4!) I don’t have to watch other shows to pass the time until the one I want to watch comes back on…endless hours of cinematic enjoyment. The only problem is that just the other day a friend loaned me the first disc of Prison Break Season 1…he wasn’t supposed to do that, it has messed up my system! I’ve now finished the first 16 episodes of Lost and 12 episodes of Prison Break. The result? I’m hooked on 2 shows simultaneously! Thank you friend, thanks a whole lot. Because of your generosity, I am now in need of counseling.
But here’s the deal: its okay to play with one toy at a time. It is okay to allow your children to have several hours of Christmas fun just playing with the boxes and ignoring the new “stuff”. It is acceptable for you to read a book all the way through without needing to start something else in between.
And sometimes we need to do this with spiritual issues as well.
I remember hearing an older guy complaining about a preacher that didn’t overtly present the entire “plan of salvation” in each of his sermons. I love the idea that an eternity of truth can be presented neatly in half an hour identically every week. But for just a moment let’s set aside our defense or attack of the 5-finger exercise and look at the deeper message being communicated.
Is it possible that there may be times when a valid topic or even word should be set aside in order to consider another issue? Could it be the case that some truths, if kept on the top of the conversational stack, can cloud our ability to consider other, equally needed truths? Could it be that if we spend all our time playing with our Lincoln logs that our A-Team train set (yes I had one, it was awesome) might be neglected?
In the current postmodern conversation, some have called for a disposal of “propositional truth” or claims of an absolute nature. Expository preaching is out, narrative and communal interaction is in. And in so far as this is a full fledge jettisoning, I believe a grave error has been made. It has been said that we should not throw out the baby of reason with the bathwater of enlightenment. (I not only agree with this statement, but am on record for having said so myself.) But maybe that metaphor is too limiting.
I have kids and there is one thing I know – you simply cannot do the things you need to do (like clean out the bathtub) while holding the baby. Occasionally you have to put the child down (somewhere safe) and maybe even let them cry for a few minutes while you accomplish necessary tasks. And guess what? That’s okay…it is a scientific fact that a few minutes of crying will not void the warranty on your baby, nor will it cause any decreased psychological or physiological functioning. This of course assumes that when you finish whatever task that you do plan to actually return to said baby.
So I think that it is okay to set aside words like “evangelism” in order to consider “disciple making” as Brian McLaren did in More Ready Than You Realize; to talk about communicating the Gospel through relationship rather than propositional truths. Not all people need a couple years of emails and random conversations to decide that they want to be identified as Christians. Some just need a logical explanation…a Case for Christ if you will. I believe there are still people who are looking for a good class on Sunday morning that helps them grasp Biblical principles or study the text itself.
Yet I think many people are hurting for a more relational understanding of Christianity…the truth statements aren’t what they are concerned about, it’s the lack of congruency they find in the lives of Christians. Perhaps it is okay to set the baby of reason, proposition and debate aside while we clean out the tub a little bit. It is okay to preach about lament because there are people among us who are either lamenting or who need to but haven’t ever been taught how. It is okay to hear a narrative that combines good storytelling and imagination with Christ-like principles or lessons. I’ve talked to several people myself who have no issue with the truth claims of Christianity – they’re just wondering when Christians are going to actually reflect these teachings.
That doesn’t mean that these “new” issues should once-and-for-all replace the old, but rather once addressed, should become a part of the more complete language we use to speak to one another. Eventually I’m going to finish watching Lost and Ray Barrone will probably get another chance to make me feel better about my own family experience. Until then the Barrones will have to share their dysfunctional quibbles with the poor saps stuck watching syndicated television at the scheduling mercy of the network executives!
…its no big deal anyway, I can just borrow the Raymond DVD’s from my sister-in-law.