How many times have you had a conversation with someone, sat in a conference, or sat in a sermon, and you were given 3-5 magical keys to unlocking something: your happiness, the peace within, the path to the love of your life, better behavior for your kids or pets (or both)?
We are a fix-it nation, so I’m willing to bet my Friday night ice cream (double or nothing!) that every one of you have experienced what I’m talking about. I certainly have, many times over.
I’m reading “Searching for God Knows What” by Don Miller. He’s an unconventional Christ-follower in that, in his writings, he questions pretty much everything the modern church does. Yet, he seems to have a fairly deep relationship with God. (We could unpack that sentence to the nines, but I’m going to keep going).
The biggest take-away I have gleaned so far, is: “It seems if there were a formula to fix life, Jesus would have told us what it was.” That sentence-slash-truth stopped my reading; I had to let it marinate for a while. I thought, how true. I thought, then why does almost every pastor I know give me bullet point sermons? I thought, if we could realize this, on the whole, we’d be so much happier. Miller says he is. Miller said once he became “so happy I laugh all the time, even in my sleep.”
Because the thing about formulas, is they take us back to 7th grade math class. Where we had to show our work for problems 1-12. And if we didn’t go step-by-step, carrying every remainder or drawing every arrow, no matter how good and right the answer was, we would get points taken off. And we’d feel like a failure. And we’d want to quit math class because Who’s going to need this crap anyway?!
That’s what I think about bullet point Christianity, bullet point self-help, bullet point relational fix-its. Each of those elements can lead to a full life – being a Christ follower, self-improvement, relationship maturity – but given the fact that we are all imperfect humans living among other imperfect humans, there can’t be a one-size-fits-all road to success. If there were, entire sections of Barnes & Noble would be wiped out; an entire genre of public speaking would be kaput; some pastors would be completely out of work (unless they found a way around their bullet points).
I have given you my fair share of lists:
But I make sure to let you know that mine are ideas. They are not comprehensive and they are not meant to fix you. They are not the magic formula for your relationship with Christ or your marriage or your daughter or for yourself. They are ideas. The danger comes when I listen to pastors and self-appointed self-help gurus say, “There are four distinct points in here that will bring you closer to your joy,” or, “Do this, that, and the other, and your relationship with Christ will be overflowing.” I do think a relationship with Christ matters, but it’s a relationship, it’s not a rule book. And there are steps to pursuing our relational goals, absolutely. But to assume that there is one magical road that will bring you from A to B, from X to Y to a self-actualization of Z, is preposterous. Life is not a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. There is no clear how-to.
So what’s the answer? I haven’t a clue. But I do think that if we pay less attention to formulas for fixing ourselves and spend more time embracing the here-and-now we’d find more general day-to-day joy. Which seems to be my main point lately, so there you go 🙂