We live in an age of celebrity Christians. If it’s not the mega church pastors, it’s the best-selling authors or the Christian rock stars. While we may not worship them (at least not that we admit), we certainly want to be like them. But we constantly fall short.
Christina Kelly (former editor of young women’s magazines like Sassy and Elle) once wrote,
Why do we crave celebrities? Here is my theory. To be human is to feel inconsequential. So we worship celebrities and we seek to look like them.
But it is so dumb, with this stream of perfectly airbrushed, implanted, liposuctioned stars, you have to be an absolute powerhouse of self-esteem not to feel totally inferior before them.
So we worship them because we feel inconsequential, but doing it makes us feel even worse. We make them stars but then their fame makes us feel insignificant. I am part of this whole process as an editor. No wonder I feel soiled at the end of the day.
Oftentimes the greatness of others is crushing to us.
Last Sunday night my mood turned ugly. I was talking with a friend and he said something that lit a fire in me. I ranted and raved; I said harsh things about someone not present, and the best efforts to silence me merely aggravated me.
I went to bed angry, and I woke up remorseful.
Why had I said those things? I was embarrassed, contrite, and a bit ashamed of myself. I was in a mood to repent. Then I read My Utmost for His Highest,
We trample the blood of the Son of God underfoot if we think we are forgiven because we are sorry for our sins. The only reason for the forgiveness of our sins by God is the death of Jesus Christ.
Chambers’ words aggravated me more. (Maybe my anger hadn’t dissipated completely.) Here I was genuinely sorry for my sin—in the mood to repent—and Chambers said my sorrow plays no part in my forgiveness. Not one tiny morsel.
How important is sorrow in our forgiveness?
Several years ago I met with a woman distraught over her son’s rejection of Christianity.
She said, “I did everything I could to raise him right. I taught him to be like the ‘heroes of faith,’ with the faithfulness of Abraham, the goodness of Joseph, the pure heart of David, and the obedience of Esther.”
She wondered why he had rejected Christianity.
I wondered why it took him so long.
Within the span of seven short days, I met two people who formed two completely divergent opinions of me. I could do nothing to change their rock-solid first impressions. That week of mistaken judgments happened thirty-five years ago, but it feels like last week.
When I was twenty years old, I wanted to spend a summer abroad, but as a college student I barely had enough money for Raman Noodles. I found work on a communal farm in Israel (sort of like modern day WWOOFING). For a bit of manual labor, they provided me with food, a room, ten dollars a month, and a pack of cigarettes a day. (It was the cigarettes that sold me.)
The weekend before I boarded my plane, I heard my first talk ever on being a man (though I completely missed its message). On the way to Israel, I stopped in London to visit some friends who were doing mission work. With the talk on manliness ringing in my ear, I swaggered, spat, and tried (unsuccessfully) to play the man.
During a two hour dinner party in London, I was introduced to a young woman who promptly deemed me shallow, insincere, and stupid. (I skipped dessert so I could quit while I was ahead.)
A few years later she married a friend of mine, but her opinion of me was chiseled in stone. I once loaned her husband ten thousand dollars; she felt I was being manipulative. But if I forgot to send him a birthday card, she felt my true colors were revealed.
To her, I was a jerk, and everything I did or said, or failed to do or say, reinforced her judgment.
I’m discovering that meditation is the most powerful way to hear God. Actually, “powerful” isn’t a strong enough word. Meditation may be the most profound, deep, life-changing, heart-enriching way to hear God I’ve ever experienced.
But there is a problem. I picture meditation—maybe you do too— as something kind of weird. It’s someone dressed in leotards, sitting in an awkward position, humming nonsensical syllables, emptying the mind, and thinking of “one hand clapping.” It’s the mystic monk escaping the world. It seems totally disconnected from real life.
But everyone is a meditation expert. We meditate all the time. We don’t know it because we call it something else, and we slip into it accidentally.
Transforming our everyday meditations into prayerful imagination will change your life.
A few weeks ago, I wearily dragged myself home from a retreat. Exhausted. The retreat was terrific, but I had slept abysmally and felt utterly spent. Empty. Pathetically useless.
I despise that feeling of uselessness: I want to accomplish something, to make a contribution, to feel I did my part. I didn’t feel completely worthless, but I somehow sensed the sorrow of barrenness.
This morning I read the story of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. More than ever, I sympathized with Peter. His reaction seemed honest. Think of your best friends. If you could choose between washing their feet and letting them wash your feet, which would you prefer?
I would choose washing the feet of my friends ten times out of ten. A thousand out of a thousand. It’s not that my feet are especially disgusting (I do bath occasionally); it’s just that I can’t stand the idea of my friend bending before me and doing something so menial for me.
Ask me to climb Mt. Everest or to steal the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West. Some great deed. Even washing their feet would be tolerable; just don’t let them wash my feet. That would be unbearable. Far worse to let Jesus wash my feet. Let me wash his.
I would far rather be helpful to God than be helped by him.
Four weeks ago, I dropped my Smartphone. The screen cracked, and with it, my heart. For the first time in eighteen years, I walked this earth without my constant companion.
I’ve had a Personal Digital Assistant since my first Palm Pilot. I loved it. I called it my PDA. I didn’t mean Public Display of Affection, though the way I waxed lyrical led friends to believe I was in love. It supplanted my long friendship with Day-Timer.
It organized contacts, to-do lists, and schedules. It played MP3s, electronic books, and Bible software. In 2003, when Palm integrated my PDA with a phone, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
I felt great affection for my lovely new assistant, Ms. Smartphone. We were inseparable.
Then, in a heart-stopping crash, she died. I felt alone and confused. Her absence was too unsettling, her death too tragic. I realized something was terribly wrong. So I decided to extend my mourning. For the past four weeks, I’ve lived back in the dark ages. Without a PDA or Smartphone. Not even a Day-Timer.
I publicly apologize for my three missed lunch appointments, all the commitments I neglected, and the texts and calls I failed to return.
My personal assistant was cracked.