Christmas is a difficult time for many people. Unfortunately, too many of us see Christmas as sending out the “perfect Christmas card,” putting up the “perfect Christmas decorations,” making certain the Christmas desserts appear perfect on that decorative plate for the upcoming Christmas party, and other mainly trivial items surrounding Christmas.
This morning, my wife and I have arrived on the campus of the Christian college that our daughter will be attending as a freshman this fall. Of course, the excitement that we have for her and her future is off the charts!
The entire process of checking in, finding one’s dorm assignments, getting a mug shot for your ID card (my first card was a real picture laminated & pressed onto an ID card – yes, very ancient!), carrying one’s entire belongings into a dorm room, meeting new roommates, figuring out how you are going to share that small room with three other roommates and all of their stuff, and trying to process the myriad of other tidbits of information is exhilarating for an 18-year-old moving away from home for the first time.
I stood there shaking my head. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Earlier this year, I was having a conversation with a pastor who was about five years my junior (approximately 38 years old). He was telling me that recently his parents (his dad is also a pastor) just up and told him that they didn’t like or agree with his wife’s choice of clothing.
Really? This still happens? Incredulous as it may seem and sad to say, but it happens more often than not. For some time, I have pondered this dynamic. The reason I use the word dynamic as a noun (i.e., a basic or dynamic force, especially one that motivates, affects development or stability) here is simple. These type of conversations or should I say “imperatives” usually do not end well but they definitely affect the development and stability of relationships. Why does a well-intentioned Christian feel the need to tell other Christians (especially adult family members) how they should live, especially in preferential matters?
I have a confession to make – I’ve been that person in the past. And I’m continuing to purge this divisive, disruptive, even devilish spirit. The following are reasons I believe that Christians act this way:
One year ago today, one of the world’s most beloved entertainers, Robin Williams, took his own life. Very few entertainers have cut across such a wide swath of age groups while entertaining the masses. From Aladdin to Peter Pan to Mrs. Doubtfire, Williams put his very own mark on every movie or act that he performed.
Several months ago, my wife and I had stopped at some yard sales in a small town near our home. While perusing a box of older VHS movies, I came across the movie Dead Poets Society. I had never watched the movie but remember hearing about it years ago. I purchased it for $1 and several weeks later watched the movie. Although we could debate some of the finer philosophies presented throughout the movie, one thing was undeniable. Williams was brilliant in playing his part as an English teacher encouraging his subjects to not just endure another English class but to seize life and live it for all its worth.
It was a beautiful fall day. One of those days when you wished that it was twenty-five years earlier and you were the one suiting up for a thrilling soccer match. There is something about the cool, crisp air in the fall that just beckons any true soccer player to the pitch. Although I was not the one playing, I was equally excited to see my three boys playing on that fine afternoon.
As the game progressed, I stood on the sideline and listened to the coach. To be honest, I couldn’t tell if I was listening to a cheerleader or a coach. To be fair, he was trying to inspire nearly every player that got close to the ball. However, looking at the level of play on the team, it was apparent that there had been more inspiration dispensed than instruction over the course of the year to that point. Continuing to watch their level of play, I was convinced that there had been much more cheerleading than coaching. Certainly a coach should inspire his players. There are times when he needs to encourage them to play above their level. However, the primary responsibility of a coach is to instruct, to teach, to train.
“It just goes to show that money doesn’t make you happy.”
“Wealth, fame, and popularity does not bring joy.”
“Having lots of money or being famous will not bring you inner peace.”
And although I agree with the truth behind these statements, we sometimes like to say certain statements to bolster the position of the Christian. We say them to show (albeit falsely) that we don’t struggle with these types of things. I am sure you have heard them. They go something like this:
“We Christians have that inner peace that the world doesn’t have.”
“Having Jesus Christ in my life keeps me from being depressed.”
“If they only had God in their life, they wouldn’t struggle like they are struggling now.”
Anyone that has been a Christian for any length of time and has dealt with people, knows the real truth – Christians struggle with depression too.
In my day job, when I am asked to assist an employee with a problem, I often ask them a very important question. If their response is in the negative, I nearly always ask them to do this one thing before we go any further. This one thing has solved more problems in the type of work that I perform than anything else. Recently, as I asked an employee this question, she looked at me with a sheepish grin (one of those grins that said, “I know I should be doing this more often, but I’m not) and told me “no.”
Before I finish that story, I think the first time I remember seeing a verse next to his signature was during high school. You see, my dad’s company had gone out of business and for a period of 3-4 months, he had to go out-of-state for employment to provide for our family (if you only knew my dad – he is the best Christian I know). So, he got on a plane in Missoula, Montana and flew to southern California to work with my uncle in his construction business.