Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
From Sunday, March 23rd
I already shared about not going to church this morning (Part 1). But as I climb the stairs to my office, I sense an urge to actually change that decision. Hold on…all morning I felt great about staying home. Now I’m feeling different? Testing my motivations, it doesn’t take long to figure out what’s going on.
I want to be entertained.
Our church does a phenomenal job with so many things. Easter is usually one of them. In fact, having been a member there for close to nine years, I’ve experienced my fair share of Easter services. I’ve also realized that churches in general can become productions. And as in any production, whether it be Broadway, a movie, or a Chris Brown concert, every great show centers on a climactic scene or moment that generally determines the success rating of the production. That’s where the money is made. And in defense of churches on Easter morning, when you’re celebrating The Climactic Event of the universe’s story, there can be some added pressure to make it errr, climactic. But this is about me, not about a church. As someone who lives amidst this culture, I’ve developed the expectation and anticipation of being entertained. I am my own Siskel and Ebert. Or maybe worse; my heart’s critique probably resembles Simon Cowell’s. I expect perfection and am none too shy to let judgments fly, at least to the audience of myself.
The climax of every story or production is a wonderful thing. Really. Would Titanic be the record-setting box office hit that it is if the ship didn’t sink? And would we guys sit around the locker room reminiscing of Gladiator with such admiration had Maximus died prior to fighting Commodus center-stage in the Coliseum? Producing a pinnacle moment for someone to experience a story’s power is an awesome thing. However, when I count on a church’s Easter performance to be my five loaves and two fish, my spiritual sustenance, there is a problem. As I climbed the stairs this morning, I wanted to go to church so that I wouldn’t have to work at digging into the Scriptures myself. (It’s hard work, by the way, and I’m usually content to have my pastor do it for me.) I wanted someone speaking passionately on a stage with the aid of lights and music and videos to be God for my soul. Instead, with my Bible open before me, I sit in silence.
The silence reminds me of another reason entertainment sounds so delightful. Without all the bells and sound and singing and hoopla, ache in my soul arises. The silence gives it room to speak. Noise and people would have distracted me, made me forget it. Here I know it exists. I must sit with it, as if over coffee. It’s an opportunity to get to know it, converse with it. As I do, I learn that I’m no expert at this. I don’t know how to do aching well. Those who do are special, I imagine. Probably know God better than most. As the silence speaks, I realize this yearning for Life is both my enemy and my friend. I hate it and love it. The ache makes death appealing, and yet also makes life worth living.