If I’m in the right mood, I can be easily convinced to join a group of people and play a game. My in-laws are really big game people, and that always makes for a lot of laughs at family gatherings. Most of the time, the humor comes from someone making a Freudian slip and saying something completely inappropriate, causing the entire room to erupt in laughter.
A few years ago at Christmas, my wife and I gave my brother-in-law a new board game. Not too long after the presents were opened, we gathered together as a group near the still-twinkling Christmas tree and decided to take a crack at some new and healthy competition amongst family. It was a game none of us had ever played before, so the routine course of action took place before we could all get started and play: we read the rules. Ugh.
Honestly, I absolutely can’t stand reading the rules before playing a game. I’m ready to talk smack to my opponents and just get into it. There is fun to be had, and pausing to make sure I engage in the fun correctly kind of saps away most of the excitement for me. The truth is, however, if someone didn’t read the rules first, we would end up playing the game wrong, the scoring wouldn’t make any sense, and the actual fun would get derailed by arguments, frustration, and someone inadvertently kicking the glass coffee table.
A few years ago, I went to see an intramural softball game with my father-in-law, Ed. My wife’s brother was playing in the game that consisted mostly of people from my in-laws’ church. Don’t let that fool you, though. A lot of these church dudes could absolutely crush a softball out into the parking lot without even thinking about it. None of the minivans parked just beyond the outfield were safe.
We got to the game about five minutes before it was supposed to start, leaving us enough time to pick a good viewing spot. Then we busted out our lawn chairs and waited for things to get rolling.
The players on both teams were practicing their throws and swings when I noticed a glaring absence from the field—the umpire. Game time had arrived and nobody was actually there to call the game. I overheard a random discussion from some of the players about what I had just noticed, and looks of concern began to spread quickly over everyone’s faces. Nobody wanted to forfeit the game, but they needed an umpire there to make sure the score could be accurately recorded in order to have the game catalogued in the system for appropriate rankings and what not. I know, I know…this all seemed a bit much for me too, but church softball leagues have a tendency to take themselves very seriously and I wasn’t about to openly mock the system while a bunch of large, angry softball players were close enough to swing a metal bat at my face.
In today’s world, immediacy is the name of the game. And it’s everywhere around us: blazing fast internet speeds, overnight FedEx delivery, laser hair removal, Hot Pockets, and the like. If you can’t get it quick, it pretty much isn’t worth getting at all.
I guess this is why the things that move slowly in this world stand in such graphic contrast to the pace of the surrounding environment. Things like a hand-written letter are a rarity when someone opens up their mailbox nowadays and I’m personally taken by surprise when I’m blessed enough to get one.
And since time-occupying things like this are so uncommon in the modern world we live in, they often have an effect on us that we are unable to ignore. Case in point: Thanksgiving dinner is always worth talking about because it usually takes all day to prepare. Or gloating about finishing a 1000-page novel becomes unavoidably commonplace because it probably takes triple the time to read in comparison to a normal book. In short, the more time, the more noteworthy and influential.
I think about myself a lot. In fact, not a day goes by when I don’t think, “What could make me happier right now?” or “What do I want to do?” And if you were honest, you’d probably say the same thing about yourself. Am I right?
Self-obsession has always been a human problem, but recently I think we’ve taken it to new levels. Ask any kid what they want to be when they grow up and this is what they’ll most likely tell you: a rock star, an actor, a fashion designer, or a superstar athlete. Hop in a time machine and ask the same question to a kid 25 years ago, and you’d get a very different answer with a very different mindset: a fireman, a mom, a police officer, or an army soldier. Yesteryear used to be about giving of yourself to make the world a better place. Now it’s about how to achieve the most success and get the most money to live in a big house with fancy cars and cool clothes while basking in the light of your own fame. I know I’m probably sounding a bit like a bitter old man here, longing for the past, but more and more I keep seeing what a “me-centered” society is doing to our thought process and belief system…and it isn’t good.
A few summers ago, I watched an interesting reality show on NBC called Last Comic Standing. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It’s cancelled now, but I enjoyed it when it ran.
Its format was pretty much like any other reality show in that a million people try out, and the group is eventually whittled down to the top twelve. In this case, they’re trying out to be a stand up comic. The top twelve are all thrown together in a house, they’re given specific comedy challenges, a few of them get promiscuous in the hot tub, America votes, and they get eliminated one-by-one until it’s the last comic standing. Clever, huh?
Well, the specific season I saw happened to include a top twelve participant that was actually a duo who called themselves “God’s Pottery.” Essentially, the two guys in the duo played out these characters (much like Sacha Baron Cohen played the character Borat) both in the house and on stage who were supposed to be examples of syrupy sweet Christian camp counselors.
Back in grade school, I would avoid confrontation like the plague. Wait, what am I saying? I still avoid confrontation like the plague. I hate it.
Recently, I’ve noticed that many people in my life are also non-confrontational like me. They recoil at the very thought of making a scene or disturbing the peace, because they’d rather stay quiet than ruffle any feathers.
And I am similar—I always prefer harmony over dissonance. We desperately don’t want to offend people because we really like being liked…and this is where the offensiveness of the gospel creates a major rub in the hearts of non-confrontational believers.
Do you have any idea what people think about you when you tell them you’re a Christian? If you are walking closely with God and have already established some sort of foundational relationship with a friend, they probably have a pretty accurate assumption of what the Bible calls a Christian because you have lived it out well in front of them. However, if you say “Christian” and they really don’t know you, their idea of what you are like is most likely a very inaccurate picture of the truth…and things can get awkward.
This makes me sad for a number of reasons:
Below is a link to an article I wrote for cru.org about the needs of a college freshman dude. Make good choices, boys!
As I’ve worked with college students for most of my adult ministry, I’ve often heard the question, What is God’s will for my life? Young people of an average university age are constantly trying to figure out what to major in, who to date, how to spend their time, and what job to shoot for after graduation.
Naturally, with huge life decisions comes speculation about what God wants for them, and how they should proceed. There’s a fairly abundant fear of the unknown amongst college students, but we all know that fear isn’t exclusive to them.
Back when I was a single dude living with a few other guys in an apartment, one of my roommates had a medium-sized, twenty-gallon fish tank with three or four fish in it, positioned in his room right next to his desk. And every now and then, I would go into his bedroom to sit in his desk chair and swivel it toward the fish tank to watch the little creatures about the size of a car key swim around their home. I did this a lot in order to help me relax a bit after a long day of work, because watching fish swim can be very therapeutic (that’s why you find fish tanks in doctor’s offices).
Anyway, one day I found myself sitting in my roommate’s chair, staring at one bright orange fish, a.k.a. Albert, as he swam from side-to-side in the tank, nibbling on little black specs of whatever gunk was in there near the tiny pebbles at the bottom that made up his home’s floor. As I watched him swim and nibble, swim and nibble, swim and nibble, a thought came to my brain that made me take pause.