Thursday, June 30, 2011
What's so great about being "good" anyway?
God never said He'd speak to me through a beer ad. But then, He never said he wouldn't either. God doesn't limit Himself because - and this is self-explanatory - He's God.
So there it was. An 18-wheeler with two guys in the cab being dogged by a stretched trailer reminding everyone that beer exists. Brought to you by your buzzed friends at "Miller Lite". They were stopped at a busy intersection on a cross street with their message and their grins in full view.
Men in the beer business must be the happiest men on the planet.
It said, "Tastes Great. Less Filling." Not exactly a "thou shalt not" moment and the driver certainly didn't bring to mind Charleton Heston. But it struck me, even though beer tastes like liquid shredded wheat and I'd prefer a divine message in an ad about Syrah.
The night before I'd been reading John MacArthur's book, Hard to Believe. Just started it. And guess what the first chapter is entitled. You got it: Tastes Great. Less Filling.
It's basically - and this is where I surmise the pants off of it - about liking Jesus only when He's likable, i.e. when He's all love and blessings and promises and fuzzy slippers and such. But the Jesus who asks us to take up our cross, to love Him more than our parents or children, to follow Him even into death...well...He's not as much fun.
That's what I'd been thinking about during my drive to a client yesterday morning. In fact, that's exactly what I was thinking about when the grinning guys stopped at the intersection in front of me.
"Tastes Great. Less filling"? What the smack? God, you trying to tell me something?
I wrestled and warred and tangled with this thought all day. Was that just a truck carrying beer to the next fraternity party or was that aimed directly at me? Am I God's fair-weather friend? Do I only call God "good" when I get "good" things? Could that have simply been a coincidence? Do beer ads usually affect me?
No, not usually.
I want things. Lots of things. Things for myself. Things for others. Things that aren't shallow. Things that are. Things that would greatly enhance my life and happiness. Things that would greatly enhance my greed. Things that I would share. Things I would not.
And here is what I realized. I could get them all. Every last one. I could write a notebook full of my wants and requests and make God a deal: Do these things for me and I'll call you "good" and "trustworthy" and "loving". But tomorrow, sadly, I could fill another notebook. And the deal would still not be fulfilled because I can never be fulfilled.
I'll always want. I'll always need. These aren't little things. They deal with health and family and life and necessities. They mean life for me, life for others. These aren't small requests or easy to brush off and let go. They mean EVERYTHING to me. Absolutely everything.
What they can't mean is how I define God. They simply can't. Jesus is bigger than that. He's bigger than me and my wants and my wishes and my needs and even my life and the lives of others. He's more than that. He can't be placed inside a lamp waiting for me to rub it.
I don't always feel this way. Sometimes my requests are so dire, they are so precious, I wonder how I would react if Jesus told me "no". Sadly, I truly wonder. And though it makes me disappointed in myself, it doesn't in the least take me by surprise.
I'm nothing, you see. Not anything of anything. I'm not glorious in my own right, or giving or great or even good. I'm evil and corrupt and, trust me, you wouldn't like me. Not as me. Not when that's all I am.
If I showed up at your door, you'd use a stun gun. That's me, curly-hair cruelty and all. I'm not the least likable or honorable or strong. I'm flawed, and not even in the charming "oh, she's adorably flawed" flawed.
I'm quite unimpressive.
A friend asked me once, "Why do I make such stupid decisions? You don't make those kinds of decisions. I want to be more like you."
Uh, no you don't. You don't want to be anything like me. Not the real me. I'd run from her, too, if I could. But she follows me everywhere so instead of running from her, I'm learning to overcome her. You should see our arm wrestling matches. No matter who wins, I'm always left with a sore shoulder.
God IS good. Not because He did anything good for me today. Not because He's got something good up His sleeve for me tomorrow. He's good because that's who He is. That's all He is. That's all He does.
If I see it differently, then I'm wrong. My view is skewed or finite or hasty. And what I really need is to humbly examine what I define as "good" and then invite God to a beer summit.
Then I'd ask him to change the beer into wine.
(One of my favorite musicals. Met the cast. Seen it multiple times. Just glittery with goodness. Best part comes at the last three minutes. I give you, 'The Rock & The Rabbi')