About that One Who Pushes You…

Take a moment and think of someone who was part of your life who was also hard on you, personally. Maybe it was a parent — always riding you about your laziness. Or maybe it was a teacher — always nagging you concerning your academic performance. Or maybe it was a good friend who was always on your case concerning something in your life where you weren’t doing as well as you could have done.

Do you have that person in your mind? Good. Let’s call him Chauncey.

Now consider this question: Why was Chauncey so hard on you? Did Chauncey hate you? Probably not. Was it because Chauncey wanted to ridicule you? I doubt it. Was Chauncey generally obnoxious? Not really.

Here’s what I have noticed about myself: I am generally the most frustrated with the people in whom I see the greatest potential. If I see little potential in someone, I have small expectations of them. If I see great potential in someone, and I see time passing by without them pursuing their potential, I become disturbed — for their sake. And the degree of anger I feel concerning this shortcoming in their life will correspond with the depth of my love for them.

In chapter five of his excellent book, The Reason for God, Tim Keller considers the question, How can a loving God be an angry God? As he addresses this, Keller points out that when you have love, you are bound to have anger against anything that injures what you love. Keller quotes Becky Pippert, who writes, Anger isn’t the opposite of love. Hate is, and the final form of hate is indifference. I get that, because it is generally those that I love the most and wish the best for with whom I become the most frustrated.

This helps explain why some say, “I feel more acceptance from my drinking buddies than I feel from the people I go to church with.” Sometimes this is a matter of projection — the speaker is projecting a disposition onto his church family that most of them do not own. Other times it’s a matter of “Christians” being overly-critical. That happens.

But there’s a third explanation: Maybe his drinking buddies don’t really want the best for him or the best of him. Maybe they want nothing more from him than for him to be a good old boy. In contrast, maybe his brothers and sisters in Christ want the best for him and the best of him. And when he fails to pursue that very thing, the friends who love him most let him know.

Could this be the explanation for the behavior of Chauncey — the person that pressures you toward better things?

And whether it is the explanation or not, how would your life be different if you were to see those who press for the best for you and in you as an ally?

ADDENDUM: Perhaps, when Chauncey stops bothering you, he’s given up on you.

How to use Facebook, and not become depressed…

So how do you feel after five minutes on Facebook? Informed? Connected? Thankful? Satisfied? Maybe. But that’s not the case with everyone. Many indicate that after spending time on Facebook they feel depressed.

May I suggest that this is not a fault of Facebook? It’s the airbrush.

petersonOver two decades ago, Eugene Peterson wrote a book for pastors regarding the issue of their spiritual life as it’s affected by their position. I wore my copy out.

Written with the prophet Jonah in mind, Under the Unpredictable Plant is a study in vocational holiness. In it, Peterson makes an observation that immediately resonates with pastors who have been exposed to what was then called The Church Growth Movement.

Peterson suggests that, just as a man might view pornography, see the airbrushed images of near perfection, and thereafter look upon his wife with disappointment, so pastors can look at church growth material, see airbrushed presentations of churches like Willow Creek, North Point Community, and Saddleback, and feel something between frustration with and contempt for the church family he leads. Church growth material, at least in those days, didn’t talk much about failure, betrayal, lazy parishioners, and self-serving leadership. More often, it, like a centerfold of the day, was presented perfectly — airbrushed to be without spot, wrinkle, blemish, or bulge.

Peterson called this ecclesiastical pornography.

So you get the idea, right? If a husband looks at images that have been airbrushed to perfection, he may struggle with the ordinariness of his wife’s appearance. And if a pastor reads airbrushed accounts of ministries that grow by dozens and hundreds and thousands, he may struggle when those Five Key Measures to Guarantee Church Growth don’t work. He could become depressed — even resentful.

What does this have to do with Facebook? Well, when I look at the thousands of images my hundreds of friends have put on Facebook, generally what I see is airbrushed. Not literally. No, they aren’t even literally Photo-shopped. But what they are is carefully selected presentations of their lives, more often than not a product of image-management. I recently read that today’s smartphone users are less screen-addicts than they are brand-managers. They are working to present themselves in ways not unlike the ways Apple works to present itself.

I don’t like to talk badly about your friends, but the reality is that many of them are posting things on their Facebook to make themselves look good — like they are living the good life. Generally, there are no images of them hearing the doctor deliver the bad news. No videos of their children striking out with the bases loaded. No accounts of what they’re paying for their DUI conviction. No stories about their latest marital squabble. They’ve airbrushed those right out of their lives. When anything sad or difficult is presented, it’s usually to solicit prayer. Or sympathy. Beyond that, it’s a lot like brand-management.

Actually, it’s not just your friends who are presenting a one-sided image of life. It’s you. And it’s me.

So wait a minute. Maybe it’s not the airbrush that’s to blame. Maybe it’s not our friends. Maybe it’s our failure to see Facebook for what it is: A collection of advertisements that we create in order to share the good things in our life with other people — whether from good motives or bad.

If we could see Facebook this way, it might be less depressing.

PODCAST: The Mask of Knowledge

You see it on faces of people everywhere: In high school, in colleges and universities, in Bible colleges and seminaries, in pulpits and Sunday School classes, even internationally. It’s the Mask of Knowledge.

Knowledge, we “know” is a good thing. But at times we can acquire knowledge for the express purpose of hiding and avoiding — hiding our sin and brokenness, avoiding dealing with real issues.

If you consider yourself a theologian or one who has worked to develop a keen sense of biblical knowledge, this podcast may be more important to you than to others. It may help you to remove your mask.

God may help you to become real.