I’m a big reader, and recently I picked up a copy of the book “Stuff Christians Like” by Jonathan Acuff at the library. It’s pretty hilarious – not funny ha ha, but funny because it’s true. If you have spent any time in church, you’ll see yourself in the essays he writes on aspects of being a Christian, such as:
- How to raise your hands in worship (page 87)
- Not knowing how to hold hands at church (page 109)
- Fearing your church will do something wacky the one time you invite a friend (page 90)
- Finding typos in the worship music (page 97)
- Dominating the “Please turn to. . . ” Bible race during church (page 152)
and, my personal favorite…
- Trying Harder (page 200)
I posted it below for you all to enjoy:
“Trying Harder” by Jonathan Acuff
I’m not a big fan of exaggeration, which is why I don’t casually make the following sentence:
“Chuck E. Cheese is the most terrifying place I’ve ever taken my oldest daughter.”
It wasn’t the man-sized rodent character that haunts the floor of this family fun center or the wooden balls they give toddlers to throw for skeeball, or even my fear of people who have single-letter middle names (I’ve got nothing but love for you, Samuel L Jackson). It was the maze.
For starters, it’s attached to the ceiling. So when your three-year-old wants to play in it they have to climb a series of ladders as if they are entering the terrordome. Then, once they’re inside, they simply disappear. As a parent you pace the floor nervously, bumping into tables of people enjoying birthday cake, staring up at the ceiling trying to deduce which of the shadows in the thick, brightly colored plastic tubes is your kid. Occasionally you’ll see her press her head and hands against a window in the maze similar to how an impassioned inmate would during their phone call with a loved one.
“Is she okay? Is she mouthing, ‘Help, these tunnels are infested with eight-year-old boys’? Is she having a good time?” It’s impossible to tell and there’s no clear plan for her removal. Unless Chuck E. Cheese has some sort of vacuum system suck kids out of the ceiling maze, you just have to hope your kid will eventually find the exit and crawl down to terra firma.
It wasn’t always this way. I remember going to Chuck E. Cheese as a child and loving the animatronic music show and the pizza. Best of all though was perhaps the ice cream bar. As a kid, having access to my own supply of jimmies or sprinkles was mind-blowing. Usually your parents were to distracted watching everyone else at your party, so you could pile on sprinkles into your bowl of ice cream until the bowl was 90 percent sprinkles, 10 percent ice cream.
Not everyone was able to handle the pressure though. I remember when I was in the second grade watching a fifth grader fall apart at the ice cream bar. The problem he faced was that the hot dog bar was right next to it. While was waiting in line I watched him take a big bowl of pristine white soft serve vanilla ice cream and approach the first condiment dispenser. He pressed down hard and out came a serving of mustard.
It was all over his ice cream and he looked down at it with complete and utter devastation. I felt bad for him but out of nowhere a Chuck E. Cheese employee jumped in and said, “Here, that’s okay. Here’s a new bowl of ice cream. That’s okay. Here you; have some new ice cream.”
I’ll never forget that little boy’s face as he looked up at the employee and down at his ruined bowl of ice cream. He was so ashamed at what he had done, so embarrassed that he had put on it that he paused and then told the employee, “I’m fine. I’m fine. It’s not a big deal. I’m fine.” And then he started to stir the mustard into the ice cream.
He tried as hard as he could to mix that bright yellow mustard into the bright white vanilla ice cream. Finally it all became this pale emo-yellow-colored mush. He looked back up and then returned to his table, presumably to choke down his mustard ice cream.
I don’t know about your life, but I’ve put a lot worse than mustard in my bowl of ice cream. I’ve got motor oil and D-batteries and a dead bird in there. And for most of my adult life, I thought that being a Christian just meant stirring harder. Maybe I had some different tools than people that weren’t Christians, like reading my Bible or prayer, but ultimately it was up to me to try harder. To stir harder until I was good enough Christian or a righteous enough Christian or a holy enough Christian.
But when I came to the end of me, when I finally saw how broken my bowl really was and realized that I could not fix me, with me, I learned a secret.
Jesus came for the sick.
Not the holy.
Not the righteous.
Not the perfect.
Not even the average.
He came for the sick.
He didn’t come to take just the good people with him on a bus, and say it was okay if the sick folks like me clung to the side or rode on the roof. He came for us, the broken, the beaten, the severely messed up. Like me. Like you.
In Mark 2:17 Jesus says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
When I bumped into that truth, it changed the way I saw my ruined bowl of ice cream. It was no longer something I needed to stir and try to make perfect. It was no longer something I imagined Jesus and God being disgusted by. My wasted years and broken promises were no longer something I needed to hide.
My bowl was a lighthouse for a doctor that was looking for me, a neon sign that flashed, “Help, I’m over here! I need you! I need you!”
I don’t know what’s in your bowl, but I know that it’s miserable to eat mustard ice crem and stirring as hard as we can is exhausting. So let’s quit trying to be enough or make things work. Let’s stop trying so hard.
Let’s be sick. Let’s be Loved.
Which makes no sense. There’s nothing else in life that works this way, where can you break something over and over and over again. And when you admit it, when you hold the pieces in your hand, you’re met with the last thing you could ever think possible, Love. That’s ridiculous, but I think that’s the gospel in four words.
Be sick. Be Loved.
-By Jonathan Acuff, stuffchristianslike.blogspot.com