Saturday AOL played an April Fools joke on me.
Besides posting here, I send my Lenten Journal to a number of folks by email. I had it all typed and ready to send, hit the button and got a message in return that told me to go to KW: RATE LIMITS. I typed the phrase just as it was written and kept getting sent to a page on kilowatt-hours and electrical rates. I was stumped and I wasn’t laughing. I had no time yesterday to follow up, so this afternoon I sat down and, when I had hoped to be writing so I could watch the basketball championship, I tried once more to deal with AOL. I tried the online help, but could not get through. I dialed the 800 number and, after listening to a computer act like it was listening to me, I finally convinced her I needed to talk to a person and was put in an eight minute queue, hoping the next voice I heard would not be disembodied.
The first person I talked to talked me through dumping a bunch of stuff off of my hard drive and said everything would be fine. It wasn’t. I went back to the online help and got through, only to find I couldn’t converse for some reason. I picked up the phone again.
The second person I talked to should not be on a help line. He treated me like I was stupid. The reason I kept getting stuff on electricity was because I typed in KW, which stands for “keyword,” he told me as though I was the only one in the world who didn’t know that. When I said I couldn’t respond to the online help he told me it doesn’t work with Macs. When I said I wish that were posted somewhere he said, “Well, it’s common knowledge.”
“Could you be more dismissive?” I asked.
I don’t need this to be as painful for you as it was for me. The short version is I spent an hour and a half feeling dehumanized by a series of computer windows, computer voices, and computer experts. Though I finally figured out what was wrong, I didn’t deal with anyone who treated me as anything other than the problem. I was nothing other than the next one in line. Waiting in queue for AOL Help is something I will add to my definition of what Hell is like.
Ginger and I were in Boston again today. We had a few minutes to kill before our appointment, so we went into The Artful Hand, a wonderful art and gift gallery. ON the way out, I noticed a beautiful round glass platter engraved with words. I stopped and began to read.
“I am not a Christian, or a Muslim, or a Jew,” it began and went on to make a statement about the unity of humanity coming about when we all discard anything that makes us different from one another. That kind of sentiment drives me up a wall. It reminds me of going to a service at King’s Chapel in Boston, right after we moved to the city. On the front of the worship guide it said, “We are Unitarian in theology, Episcopal in practice, and Congregational in polity in order that we do not offend anyone.”
There are two things wrong with that statement. One, trying not to offend anyone is not much of a goal and, two, trying to please everyone is ultimately offensive. Trying to make us all the same works about as well as mixing all the watercolors together to make one shade: you end up with a murky mess that no one wants to look at.
At Bible study tonight we were looking at Jesus statement, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” We read the whole of John 14, beginning with Jesus’ words about his going where they would go also. The disciples were confused and didn’t appear to catch his drift, which had to be a bit disheartening to Jesus, considering the conversation was taking place just hours before his arrest leading up to his death.
“How will we know the way?” one of them asked.
“I am the way,” Jesus replied.
Growing up, I was told that verse meant Jesus was the only way to God. He was The Way, The Truth, and The Life. Anyone who didn’t believe that was going to hell, period. Christianity was the Truth. But over and over I keep finding out life doesn’t work out that way. Truth, in the best sense, is not propositional but relational.
I read some more of Blue Like Jazz today. Donald Miller talked about an experience he had in college. The school he attended did not have much regard for Christianity at all. In the midst of one of the school’s big party weekends, one of Miller’s Christian friends suggested they put up a confession booth in the middle of the school grounds, not for people to confess their sins, but for them, as Christians, to confess what had been done in Christ’s name that had nothing to do with Christ: the Crusades, colonial expansion, televangelists. They set up the booth and found their confession opened the door to talk about God’s love. Miller points out it’s not Christianity as a religion that matters (that’s what’s done the damage), but Christian spirituality, which is living like Jesus.
If the Truth is we have to believe one thing or we’re out, God ends up sounding a lot like the AOL guy who made me feel stupid: “It is common knowledge.” That’s not God. Jesus said, “I am the Way.” When I look at his character, I see someone full of grace and compassion, someone who noticed people no one else saw, someone who had time for those whom no one had time for, as well as those who did not have time for him. He wasn’t looking for people to sign a petition or join a movement. He wasn’t creating a club that could define itself by who it left out. He was demonstrating what it meant to be fully human, to truly live as one created in the image of God, which involved loving everyone and relishing in their differences.
I am a Christian and I notice the differences between me and those around me. On my best days, I see those differences as the things that give our life the color and texture God intended. On some of the other days, my judgment gets the best of me. Then Jesus says, “I am the Way – follow my lead.” When I hear him, I remember it was never about who gets left out; we are all invited.