Super Weird, Part II

Oh, America, America. What has happened to you?

I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised. I mean, it’s been this way for years and years now. The ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, even during this young century: Everyone is looking for love. Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone wants to give love to someone else. Everyone just wants everyone to love each other. Love, love, love.

It’s always the funniest commercials that usually make the headlines the morning after the Super Bowl is played, and those are usually the ones which leave people talking the longest. Every year has its share of serious spots as well. Oddly enough, some of the most touching commercials in recent years have been advertisements for beer, although other companies struck a more gentle tone this year as well.

1422463197_budweiser-lost-dog-zoomMacDonald’s is encouraging people to pay for their food at the restaurant “with love.” A computer tech spilling a bottle of Coca-Cola inspired all kinds of thoughtful acts in an ad for the soda company. Numerous commercials touted the noble attributes of family and fatherhood. And then, of course, there was that adorable little Budweiser puppy dog being rescued from a pack of wolves by a herd of thundering Clydesdales. Even the horses were showing love.

There’s nothing wrong with love. It’s great. It’s fantastic. Close-knit families, kind human beings, even affectionate animals are all wonderful things.

They’re just not enough. They’ve never been enough. And they’re not ever going to be enough.

That was my pervading thought as I watched all these messages of love flash across the television screen in front of me. We live in a love-starved world. It’s a vacuum we are all desperately trying to fill. My question would be, though, if we have been promoting love for all this time, in so many creative and different and uplifting ways, why is it not taking hold? Why do we all still seem to be so lacking in it, and why do we still feel the need to promote it, as if our message is going to resound differently than the million that came before it?

We are running from God. We are running from the only love that can save us. We’ve been running from Him forever, decade after decade after decade, thinking we can replace His place in our hearts with just enough of this or just enough of that. It’s folly.

I am certainly not going to disparage anyone from promoting peace and love, especially considering the heinous acts human beings perpetrate on each other on a daily basis. Love needs to be shouted from the rooftops every chance we get, even during the Super Bowl. It’s an incomplete message, though, and it’s going to keep missing the mark until we understand that in order to love fully we have to turn to the one who loved us first.

I applaud every company which used its advertising dollars for this year’s Super Bowl to promote positive, encourage messages aimed at making this world a better place to live in. They can’t make us love God, though. We’re the only ones that can do that. He’s still waiting. Why are we?

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Super Weird, Part 1

(As I’m writing this, I’m at home with either the flu or strep throat. Tests for both came back negative at the doctor’s office yesterday, and I’m currently on medication for both. I don’t think I’ve been this sick in a long time. I meant to have this up yesterday, but I just wasn’t feeling up to it. So no “Tuneful Tuesday” today. Just pretend it’s Monday with me.)

I used to write every now and then on the blog I maintained before this one about how I had basically given up on watching the Super Bowl. The main reason for this was because I just don’t like watching football very much. The game is too slow, I don’t get the rules half the time, and I hate the way people in America are utterly obsessed with watching it all the time. The secondary reason is that people just sort of stopped inviting me to Super Bowl parties, which were really the only way I saw any of the games at all. Perhaps they figured out my main reason. Hmmm…

This year, however, a good friend and co-worker invited me over to his house to watch the Super Bowl, so I thought I would give it another shot. I am no fan whatsoever of the New England Patriots, but I did appreciate the Seattle Seahawks taking down Peyton Manning last year, so deciding which team to root for was a fairly easy choice to make. Maybe one day, I’ll explain the dislike I expressed in that last sentence, but that’s probably another post for another time.

By now, primitive tribes in the deepest heart of Africa probably know how the game ended, but just in case you don’t, here it is in a nutshell: Seattle has the ball on the 1-yard line with 24 seconds left in the game and decides to run a pass play, despite having three downs to get the ball into the end zone and Marshawn Lynch, one of the most feared running backs in the NFL, in their backfield. Patriots intercept the pass, massive brawl breaks out on the next play, Patriots get to move the ball out of the end zone, take a knee, game over.

I may have mentioned a dislike for Peyton Manning earlier, but I’ll give the guy credit for one thing: He controls his pete carrollown game. Why in the world Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson didn’t audible out of that play the second it was called in to him is beyond me. Since he didn’t, though, that only leaves one person to blame – Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll.

One of the things that has always fascinated me about professional sports is the almost insanely high confidence level of the people who coach and play them. Did Carroll back down from the call he made at all? Nope. Not in the least. “We had a terrific call, but it didn’t work out,” he told a reporter after the game. The man actually used the word terrific. Even if I did not regret my decision one iota in that instance, I would never, ever use the word terrificTerrific calls win games. No, Coach, this was not terrific.

As I was driving home from my friend’s house, I began thinking about how I would respond to making a bad play call like that, one so completely wrong that it cost my team the goal it had been working toward the entire season. My conclusion didn’t take much thinking, because I know myself; I would still be on television, radio, the internet, whatever, apologizing to anyone who would listen to me and self-flagellating myself to an endless degree. I don’t know if I could call another play again. I might just leave football altogether.

Yet, there was Carroll, a man who has won a collegiate national championship and a Super Bowl, talking about his “terrific” play call immediately after his team lost the big game. Where does that confidence come from? Is it born out of a complete aversion to reality, or is it the makeup of someone who is completely comfortable in their own skin and able to live with their own decisions? I grew up believing that type of confidence was pure arrogance and should be avoided at all costs, and in many instances it is and it should be. There is a definite elasticity to it, though, which allows people to shake off their mistakes and move on to whatever happens next.

Before anyone thinks I’ve lost my mind, I’m not advocating that we all try to be more like Pete Carroll, because most of the time I think the guy is a pompous jerk. What I am saying is, we could probably all stand to go a little easier on ourselves and not wreck ourselves over every mistake we make. Yes, professional athletes and coaches sometimes display irrationally high levels of confidence, but they’re able to move on to the next play, the next possession, the next game. I guess, in a weird way, I do want to be more like Pete Carroll.

Tomorrow, Part II: Commercials!

Sins vs. Mistakes

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

I hear the word “mistake” used a lot these days. Thing is, I don’t think many people are using the word correctly.

Take Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, for example. By now, most people know that Rice knocked his wife out and dragged herray rice from an Atlantic City elevator (Thank you, TMZ.). He would later apologize and call the incident “the biggest mistake of my life,” but I don’t think his wording is quite adequate. I mean, to me a mistake would have been aiming for her stomach and hitting her in the head. Taking a swing, well, that doesn’t accidentally happen.

As far as wording goes, I don’t believe a “mistake” is something that can happen deliberately. For instance, if I decide to drink a bottle of tequila and get drunk, my inebriation is not an accident. It would be poor judgement, but the alcohol wouldn’t have accidentally spilled into my mouth. I would have put it there. In fact, the Bible refers to drunkenness as “debauchery,” which leads into a very uncomfortable three-letter word…

S-i-n.

I have only recently begun to understand what this word actually means. To put it more accurately, I’m gradually realizing what Jesus dying for our sins really entails. For years, this is how I thought forgiveness works: If I commit a sin by mistake (like cutting someone off in traffic accidentally or something), God is cool with that because I didn’t know what I was doing. If I knowingly did something wrong, though, I would suffer dire consequences because God does not take kindly to His rules being broken. Thus, any bad circumstance that occurred in my life must be my fault because I can’t … stop … sinning.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Okay, I like that verse. I always say that the apostle Paul wouldn’t have spent so much time telling all those churches to stop doing bad stuff unless, well, they were doing lots of bad stuff. And these were the Christians he was writing to, not the heathens on the street. It would appear, then, that God stands ready to forgive a Christian if they sin, whether it is on purpose or not.

But…

“No one who is born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he hasbrennan been born of God.” This scripture is not so reassuring. There are countless stories out there of alcoholics who poured all their liquor down the drain the night they got saved, but there are also those stories of people who continued to struggle with addiction for the rest of their lives (Brennan Manning, author of The Ragamuffin Gospel, would be an example of this.). Did the second group not really get saved? If they confessed every time they got drunk, were they still covered? I’ve never been drunk, but I’ve done plenty of other dumb things since becoming a Christian. What does that mean for me?

To be honest, I’m still struggling with the answer to that question. I look at the story of Peter in the Bible, and I see forgiveness written all over it. In fact, Jesus even told Peter how he was going to sin. Peter didn’t accidentally not recognize a photo of Jesus that night; he deliberately and purposefully said to the crowd, “I don’t know the man.” You can’t inadvertently lie and say you don’t know the son of God when, in fact, you do. If Jesus could have mercy on Peter after that, it would stand to reason that deliberate sins could be covered.

Regardless of the answer to this question, though, the key point I’m trying to make is that sins should be owned. They shouldn’t be reclassified as “mistakes” because they’re usually not committed accidentally. And if they aren’t owned and confessed as being deliberate acts – no matter how awful the judgement may be – then they can’t ever be dealt with properly.

john newtonThe mistake would be to think I’m not the kind of person who would do that kind of thing, because I obviously was. We all are, and that’s why we need Jesus so desperately. As John Newton once said:

“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”