Apr 27, 2012
Jesus in a Self-Selected World
My friend Jeff said this phrase a couple of weeks ago that’s stuck with me. Jeff called it “self-selected content.”
To begin, my Grandpa’d always had this Father Time kind of cool thing going on for him. Like most grandpa’s, he’d always tell me stories about when he was a kid. Epic stories. Even when I didn’t want to hear them. His stories would always come out at the oddest of times. He was a great grandpa like that; telling stories when no one really wanted to hear them for the one hundredth time.
Yes, grandpa, I’ve heard that story before. Yes, today. Yes, yesterday too.
They were still epic stories. Like the ones you’d hear of in fairy tales. Grandpa’s stories would always include walking uphill somehow, treading along in some apocalyptic-sounding snow storm, with barely anything of a coat, and some shoddy pair of shoes that were held together by one tiny little single string. “Kids,” he’d say, “have it lucky these days.”
Sometimes, I didn’t buy it. Like when that funny uncle would do that thing where it looks like he pulls off his thumb. I didn’t buy it like that.
Not that I didn’t trust my grandpa. It just seemed like he was always in a snow storm. Not to mention this his stories were always, it seemed, about walking to school. Apparently, I’d suppose, the big yellow bus didn’t run in his neighborhood. Of course, I discovered, it didn’t. Grandpa grew up in Nowhere, Montana; the land of no yellow buses or JC Pennies. So his stories were always about being on his way to school in slippers, a snow storm, and climbing a some mountain to get there.
I sometimes wonder what stories I’ll tell my grandkids. What would they be about? Never had to walk in a snow storm uphill in shorts or anything like that. What’ll I say? You know when I was a kid, we’d actually have to blow the dust out of the Nintendo to get it to work. How inspiring, right? I’m going to sound like my grandpa. Kids have it lucky these days. I didn’t have Facebook; we passed notes with little boxes that said “yes”, “no”, or “maybe.” I didn’t text; I talked. I didn’t have Netflix; I had a TV with eight channels. I guess grandpa’s are always supposed to sound a little crazy.
When I was a kid, I remember my mom and I would wait all year long for that one day a year ABC would broadcast Wizard of Oz. In a funny sort of way, I’d a massive crush on Dorothy. A secret crush. I still remember Dorothy posing, holding Toto next to the wooden fence, with the looming clouds behind and wind in her hair. Man she was hot. My crush lasted a long time. At least as long as I can remember. My mom suspected it, I’m sure, but she had the character to not make me feel guilty about it. Magical were here curls, rosy cheeks, and cute little dress. So it was always a long year having to wait for the broadcast. We had to wait.
Kids don’t have to wait anymore. The big change from my childhood to now is called Netflix. And Hulu. And illegal websites from Russia where the sounds is always a microsecond behind the video. These things change everything. Because kids no longer have to wait in order to watch what they want. They can watch what they want when they want it. I’m sure my grandkids will think I’m crazy.
My friend Jeff Martin calls this self-selected content. It’s the story of our world world. All of our music is self-selected. We all listen to what we want to listen to when we want to. Gone are the days you’d listen to the radio for that one chance of hearing your favorite tune. Now you can listen to anything anytime. Driving down the road, running, studying; we click on the self-selected music. We watch self-selected shows, read self-selected books, have self-selected friends. Because in this therapeutic culture of ours, we are used to having the things we need to medicate our pain right here and right now.
We believe in self-selected messages. We surround ourselves with what we want to hear. Reading books that agree with us, taking classes that interest us, having friends that do what we like to do, and engage in spiritualities that make us feel better about ourselves; or at least tell us what we want to hear.
Seems today like everyone is spiritual. Everyone has their own personalized form of spirituality that tells them what they want to hear. It seems like everyone’s spirituality is catered to their own individual needs and wants. Which, and I don’t want to step on anyone’s cute little spiritual feet here, makes me really uncomfortable. Because if we’re telling ourselves only the things we want to hear and believe the things that only we want to believe, what if we’re all wrong?
Jesus was not a self-selected God.
He didn’t fit what people wanted in a Messiah. He spoke things people didn’t want to hear. He healed people others wanted to remain unhealed. And He gave hope to people who had none. Jesus did for everyone what they couldn’t select to do for themselves.
Jesus is still doing this stuff.
This is why, and I’m convinced, people don’t like Jesus. Because He actually says stuff to our souls that we don’t like or want to hear. Jesus isn’t therapeutic like that. He rarely says or does anything just to make us feel better. Unlike others, He’s actually willing to step on the toes of humanity. For our ultimate good.
This is why I like church. Especially when I go to one I don’t pastor. On the rare Sunday morning I’m free, I’ll go to some other church. It’s so freeing. Because I don’t pick the Scripture. And I didn’t pick the songs. And I don’t pick who I sit next to. It is one of the few holy places in my life where I am not self-selecting everything about spiritual life. And I need that.
And so do you.
To be a Christ-follower is to willingly choose to being open to not having a life surrounded by self-selected content. The crazy, un-selected, life. Adventurously, these disciples choose to be open to the God who doesn’t do everything we want but is real because any god that does everything we want can’t be real.
That god is simply our stomach.
C.S. Lewis once said: “I am so thankful God hasn’t answered all my prayers or else I’d be in a whole heap of trouble.” His point was powerful. What we want is rarely, if ever, what is best for us. Disciples need to be reminded of this.
A real life, and a real God, are allowed to be free. To be who they are. Therefore, if people are given permission to come to church as we are, than Jesus has the same permission. “Come as you are, Jesus. We need you.”
In a self-selected world, Jesus is God-selected content.
Thankfully, for people like us, He won’t do everything we want. And will tell us stories we don’t necessarily want or think we need to hear.
Just like my grandpa.