Short answer: One day, when I was still living in Athens, a friend of mine and I were having lunch in Schlotzsky’s. We started talking about deep life issues, and then he drew a picture on a napkin. God said, “Yep.”
Longer answer: We have a tendency to make our lives, faith, and cars far more complicated and full of unnecessary distractions than they need to be.
In life, we tend to get hung up on names – everything from titles (ranging from your level of education to who you’re in a relationship with/defined by the company you keep), accolades, activities and interests. It’s the age-old example of how when you meet someone in a social setting for the first time, the standard fall-back line is “What do you do for a living,” or “What are you majoring in?” This can then lead into a discussion of what various groups, organizations, troupes, or other sundry fellowships one might associate with, and then in turn go on to be a conversation about how you’re involved with them. This really starts back in the days of junior and senior high, and then it spills into and through the college experience – and then, this need to fill the pause of when our resting heart rate feels as if it could bring on a coronary attack continues through our lives, as we continue to find other ways and other places to get involved, or find other ways to busy ourselves.
In matters of faith, we tend to either look for the designated formulaic patterns and rituals we are comfortable with (from everything between specific denominational idiosyncrasies to music styles) or we create that formulaic feel, replicating it where and when we can in what we crave. Too many times we find ourselves getting wrapped up in the trappings of being in church, then a small group, then a morning/afternoon social group, then in a leadership position, then going to conferences, then going to seminary…oh, wait; that’s probably just my personal cross to bear…but the reality is that many of us would probably rather undergo the literal pain of crucifixion than, as been suggested for us, to be still and know.
In terms of our cars, where we once – if we were lucky – had a cassette deck or CD player (that would be single-disc, kids), we now have the option of having a multi-disc CD player…as well as a GPS system, Bluetooth headset, iDock, dual individual A/C and heating controls, power seats, power windows, DVD players, and rear-view video. It’s the rear-view video hat just kills me. Nowadays, you don’t even have to turn around to see what you might back into. There’s never a “need” to literally look behind you to see what dangers are there, or to see who is behind you tat you might accidentally run over.
(I would like to thank the auto manufactures of the world for giving me the ability to make the metaphor listed above.)
Life…faith…cars…all of these used to be much simpler. And this isn’t just looking through rose-colored glasses into the past and pining away for bygone days and less complicated times. We have simply too many distractions placed before us, either by ourselves or by the constraints we allow to distract us.
In our daily lives, it used to be our family and friends that were our priorities. Now, more often than not, we allow extended work days (“I’m just putting in some extra time to catch up”), after-hour commitments and prioritizing “getting ahead” in our jobs – and yes, even volunteering our time and talents to any organization just to let ourselves be seen – that defines many of our lifestyle choices.
Our faith used to be centered on caring for our community and environment, however one wishes to define these two aspects. It used to be about letting our spirit and the Spirit intermingle in times of prayer, meditation and communion with others. Now, for many, it’s about doing what you can for your church, and forsaking a Sabbath. It’s about finding the five steps or three points to solidify your faith – when in reality there is really only One. It’s about finding ways to codify (emergent/emerging/traditional) or qualify the ways in which we worship, aligning it with a movement, association or denomination instead of simply letting our passions, dreams and callings move, motivate and define our spirituality. We’re so caught up in giving names to things that we forget that I AM is the only name we need to remember.
In our cars, it’s about finding the best satellite radio station or podcast, while simultaneously checking the GPS to see if we’re on the right street, while checking the billboards and neon signs we see. Or, we’re checking out the cars – to say nothing of the drivers – that pass us, wishing we weren’t driving the decade-old faded-in-color Jetta with a sagging roof and detached front bumper. We’re comparing others’ supposed credentials (if ever the term “street cred” was applicable, this is it) and how nice their cars are, never really paying heed to our own speed, or distance from the vehicle in front of us.
Maybe it’s time to stop giving so much validity and value to all these distractions and instead begin to trust our hearts, and the path of our own journeys.
Maybe it’s time to strip off the nametags and put away the business cards and day planners…and simply breathe and be. Spend time with family and friends, free from an agenda.
Maybe it’s time to again tear down the temple veil after we put it back up…and honor the beauty of redemption. Revel in a simple, pure faith, free from the trappings we impose on it.
Maybe it’s time to pull our eyes up from the dashboard…and take an unobscured look at the world around us. Simply and directly…
…look through the windshield.