Prince and the Product”
by Kari Morris
Sometimes late at night, when “Oprah” is over and I can't decide on a movie, I'll flip channels. The glare of their teeth hits me first. Then, the steam-pressed suits. I finally pause to observe the species known as televangelists. Exuding dynamic to the tips of their fingers, they wave their Bibles in a passionate fury, and stadiums of souls are captivated. Who wouldn't be? The phraseology [always in a Southern dialect no matter where they're from]. “Nothing has worked for you, because this is the real thing!” “The life you've always wanted!” The stories. “Drug dealers healed overnight! Marriages saved! Cancer cured! Instant millionaires! Yes folks! Come to Jesus, and all this can be yours! And, as a special thank you, combine Him with other special offers for maximum effectiveness: Book A with seven steps to a better prayer life. Tape B with fifteen minute Bible devotions. Seminar C on how to be healed and find “your calling”. And next fall, don't forget to attend our rallies on how to read Book A, listen to Tape B, and choose Seminar C”.
Masses come to Christ with this message in their hearts, that God is the one-stop miracle that instantly makes everything better. They say “yes”. They are changed; most have a beautiful cathartic experience. But then…the honeymoon wears off and they’re back to square one. They haven’t instantly changed; they still feel just as empty. But they wouldn’t dare admit it. Their product is supposed to work, and they don’t want to look foolish. Instead, they do what they’re told to do. Read more of the Word. Serve. Pray. Fast. Still no change. Their emptiness gets worse. They begin to feel like a failure as a Christian. Of course, the church begins to chime in. “You need to be in a small group!” “Well, are you really surrendering to God in prayer?” “Have you been in the Word enough?” Of course, they’re feeling just as disillusioned. But they wouldn’t dare admit it. Their product is supposed to work, and they don’t want to look foolish. Instead they do what they’re told to do. They continue going to church with their plastic faces and cliché answers, each wondering why they can’t be as holy as “so and so” or have it all together like “such and such”. They become crippled. They become heartbroken. Finally, they go on autopilot. Autopilot Christians are the saddest race of all.
First. Jesus Christ is not “the answer”. He’s the question. The only question that gives a name to that emptiness and pain in our hearts, that place we always try to cover up or forget. He doesn’t fill the emptiness. He does something better: He keeps it asking. If we all knew our partners, spouses, and friends the instant we met them, what would be the point of the relationship? If that place aches more over time, that’s exactly as it should be.
Second. Jesus Christ is not a “quick fix”. He’s a moment-by-moment commitment. Jesus refers to us often as His brides. But even though He can turn water into wine, marriages don’t last on a wedding night of ecstasy and bottle of Chardonnay. It takes commitment over circumstances. Devotion over emotion. Do I always feel “in love” with God? Honestly? No. Some days I can’t stand Him. There are days when He seems distant. Days when I’m distant. Conflict hurts both of us, and being honest is often painful. I bang my head against the wall every time the same issue comes up…again. But it’s worth it. If the walk becomes deeper and harder over time, that’s exactly as it should be.
Third. Jesus Christ is not “black and white”. He’s grey: a harmonic blend of every color. Instead of trusting in God’s mystery, we often try to regulate His divinity. Like Job’s friends, we feel the need to pinpoint the definitive answer for things we don’t understand. We finally settle on calling something evil as our last resort to give it an explanation. Without meaning to, we begin to treat the Bible as a safety manual; predictable pages that hold the “black and white” definitive answer to anything. All the while, God tries to talk to us, but we’re too busy looking Him up. Why get to know your husband at all when you have his autobiography? Surely He wouldn’t shed any more light on the subject than you already know? So, God throws us a curve. The duck-billed platypus. Chuckle. Artifacts of the missing link. Mmm. Ambiguous genitalia. [sound of flipping pages] The gay gene. [sound of more rapidly flipping pages] Christian homosexuals! [sound of much more rapidly flipping pages coupled with profuse perspiration] Job never did figure out the “grey areas” of his circumstances, although I’m sure his friends continued flipping pages. Instead, God showed Job the intimacy that comes with simply embracing His mystery. Do I know why I’m gay? Nope. Will I ever figure it out? Nope. But where was I when God made the heavens and the earth? God gives us all “grey areas” in our lives to look up from the pages and into His eyes. It’s in the “grey areas” that we learn to truly trust His sovereignty. And when we do, it’s in the “grey areas” that He truly reveals His majesty. If the questions become deeper and the “grey” becomes larger over time, that’s exactly as it should be.
And one more thing. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. He loves you. You are exactly as you should be.
© 2005 Kari Morris
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