The day after the Cubs won the World Series I caught wind of the news down in Haiti. I’m not a huge cubs fan, but it would be un-American to be apathetic about baseball. John is from Chicago so I ran and told him the news, then we spent the next hour calling some friends back home to hear a breakdown of the game. As we started to settle down, I couldn’t help but think about how nobody in all of Haiti cared one bit. Few people even know about baseball and I’m sure not a single Haitian has heard the Cubbies’ Curse. Yet in America, the celebration would draw a bigger crowd than the pope.
Don’t get me wrong, I love baseball as much as the next guy, but when you consider it we’re really just hitting a ball to see who is better at hitting a ball. And the cubs winning is only a big deal because for over a hundred years, people have told them they are losers. Think about it, Even fans of the losing team receive flak, just because they associate themselves with a losing team. What does that say about our whole system? I think you feel it too, that we are all in a big game of king-of-the-hill trying to prove to everyone else we are important and we matter.
That may seem kind of dramatic when you’re only talking about baseball, but I just have to look at my own heart to know this is true. I mean today I got upset with John because he beat me in a card game… a card game. I didn’t freak out on him or anything, but I sensed a feeling of resentment towards him, like he had taken something from me. At least until I beat him the next round, then he was okay again. It’s not like there is a penalty for not being the best, but it feels like there is, it feels as if we are disrespected then we’ll die.
I’m constantly looking to things outside myself to tell me I’m good. In this way I only allow certain people get close to me. I only have real conversations with people who like me back, I’ll feed them a little bit at a time, never letting them tread too deep if they don’t accept me. It happens with writing too, because if I’m really honest, I think I write so other people will tell me I’m good. This affirmation flows into my heart like water, but it’s a thirst that never feels quenched.
I clearly don’t propose that baseball is evil, or that we all need to drop anything competitive. But it shows that from high school hierarchies to higher education and the world series, we’ve constructed this system built entirely on importance, and every member of every group seems to be climbing to the top of this ladder. Even within Christian communities, especially within Christian communities there is often a battle for claim to the most moral person.
I just wonder how different everything would look if we all actually believed we were loved by God. If he was the only acceptance we needed, we throw this system on its head, and it would be glorious, my friend.
In his book, Searching for God Knows What, Donald Miller wonders out loud if this diversion didn’t all start in the garden. He argues that maybe we are the way we are because long ago, two people in a garden ate a forbidden fruit. Miller writes about the fall of Eden’s effect on humanity in this way.
…all our civilizations, our personalities, our families, our souls, are walking through the wreckage of a war, running from Tokyo, running from Hiroshima, our mouths gaping, the fire burning behind us, our wounds wet with blood and muddied with ash. This is Sarajevo all over again, only this time it’s the walls of our hearts that are littered with bullet holes, it’s our souls that are feeling the aftershock.
Miller goes on to explain how Genesis chapters 2 and 3 compile all the evidence we need to explain our desperate desire for acceptance. We were created to receive our importance, our love, and our security from God. There was a perfect loving relationship between God and man, a relationship we couldn’t even fathom now. And in an act bears no comparison, Adam and Eve were deceived to betray their perfect lover. Ever since that moment, we’ve been trying to find anything that would give us a little bit of what we used to get from God.
So we were banished from the garden forever, destined to wander broken hearted and feeling empty because our perfect lover can’t directly be with us anymore. Imagine God’s dismay at this, when the object of his perfect love chose something much more futile. And I think this comprises most of the Old Testament: humans trying to find gods in things that aren’t God.
All the while our perfect God still loves us deeply, he just couldn’t directly be amongst imperfect life.
In this way Christ dying for us was more than a practical step needed to fulfill a prophecy and cleanse us. Jesus’ death was a beautiful love letter from God. Judah Smith calls it the greatest rescue plan in the universe. In an unmistakable action, God declared that he loves us, forgives us, and is obsessed with winning us back.
If you feel alone, jaded, insecure, or unimportant it is because we all do, we are all looking for approval in things that can’t fulfill us. But when you get to know God, when you stop reading the bible as rules and start seeing the relational invitation extended to you, it’s impossible to think of yourself as unloved or unimportant.
I think that’s what Jesus was talking about when he told the Samaritan woman he had living water, because deep in my soul I am the same as her. We are all clamoring around searching for anything to quench our thirst for approval, we’re just looking in broken cisterns.