3/15/2015

Stories and Storytellers

Something's been bugging me. I have always had a fascination with Christian celebrities. The fantasy that people who are doing what I always dreamed of doing (performing arts), are somehow doing it all for God to further His Kingdom in some indirect way. They are in the thick of the idolatrous world soup and yet appear to have this great faith. The story in my head about these stars is them getting up as normal people every day, eating, making tough decisions about their careers, fighting to resist temptations, and doing all the unglamorous and unedited life stuff we all do. Add to that, my version of the show business story that involves fun gigs and get-togethers with influential people, and you have it.

Over the years, I've tried to hang on to music and movies that the world offered. I'd try to find reasons to believe that the people who made them may or may not be under cover Christians. Now that I have children and am winding down my thirties, I'm less likely to watch anything that spits on the value of human life or listen to anything other than music about Jesus. Believe it or not, there's plenty out there for me to enjoy because I know where to look. But now and then I am romanced by a story the world offers, or a celebrity facade that seems Christian-y enough to get where I'm at.

That when I sense that I'm being drawn into the illusion again; the seduction of story that uses our imaginations against us. I see a face in a photo and read an interview online. Suddenly their world opens up in technicolor within my head and I'm happy to fill in all the gaps. I can see how they could be saints and I place a golden halo around their heads. I'm tempted to want to meet them or at the very least to be jealous of where they are in life. How come their road was paved for them and mine led me here behind this obscurity? My own existence starts to seem gray and dull compared to some glamorous life of my own invention.

(Jesus Christ, You save me again. Your word floats into my heart like a subtle fragrance.) The familiar scent of perspective that purifies the air and recalibrates the mind and says, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!" I recall Jesus as the rich young ruler walks away, unwilling to part with his comforts and treasures. Then I look at my surroundings and the pitfalls of American consumerism and I see that I am also rich and wrestling with this life's possessions. Status and influence mark success in this world. "The greatest among you will be the servant of all," Jesus says. Servant of all?

The grass seems so much shinier and perfect in Hollywood, though. (maybe it's plastic?) Being still and handing over my curiosities to the Spirit, I am warmed by a familiar vision. The softness of my toddler's cheeks are part of the precious jewel that she is, to be protected and adored. The kiss of my five-year-old as I carry him with his freshly broken leg through the house. "I love you, Mommy," he whispers in my ear as I tote his heavy man-child frame back to the couch. And the timid words,"Will you teach me how to hear God's voice?" my oldest daughter asked me tonight at bedtime. I can't think of a more exciting or complicated wisdom to impart! Lord, help me, what an honor.

Oh, but the world-famous ones are everywhere. The people who are making a living being spectacles that are paid to get scrutinized and photographed. For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to be that influential. I want people to take me seriously and to find the things I know to be indispensable to life. I want to sing the truths of God into peoples' souls and get them to question the illusion until it crumbles before them. Freedom to the captives, Lord!

But I'm also hating what entertainment is doing to my little ones. They don't have the ability to be bored, ever. Quietness is something to avoid and to fill. Before God has a chance to speak, we're off to some new thing. A counterfeit comes and parades as God's will. We scoop it up because it's here, right now, instead of waiting. Distracted again, we lose sight of Him and then we ask ourselves, "where did I go wrong?"

The seductive story catches hold and takes us away from the Spirit. You know what story I'm talking about, it's the one that delivers the resolution after a set amount of time. Epic films can last three hours, but television shows are also good at a quick wrap-up (with a teaser at the end to keep you coming back for more). God leaves so many stories hanging in mid-air. The conclusion only comes to us in Heaven. Trusting Him to tell it with our lives, that is real satisfaction within His Story.

Why can't we redeem the message and use it to illustrate God's love? Maybe we should leave that up to God to decide. Are we hearing Him first? Or are we making excuses to indulge in these things because we think we can hear Him within the noise? "I think He said...um, this thing." Really? Do you want to base your life on the speculation of words you thought you heard through the din of the world's noises? I'm talking to myself. I've steadily been turning down the other noises so I can tune into God's still, small voice. I'd better be able to recognize Him from all the counterfeits out there if I'm going to amount to anything. Get alone and into God's Story first thing, everyday. His is the only Reality.