Game Nights

Recently a few friends of mine have started doing game nights every (or most every) Friday night. I have to admit that I really enjoy this, and not just because there’s a young lady there who I rather like. It’s about community, and community is important, whether it’s a meal with people from the church, game night with friends, going to see a movie, or just hanging out drinking whiskey and talking about Jesus (and yes, the two of those go together very well).

We weren’t made to live alone, and all too often most of us do. Even those of us who spend lots of time with people often feel alone, in fact I would go so far as to say that loneliness is one of the most significant modern problems. We’ve forgotten how to live in community, how to get outside of ourselves. Life together, as Bonhoeffer titled his book, is about more than just spending time around people. It is about getting to know them, investing in their lives and letting them invest in yours. Life together is about becoming a family, trusting one another, accepting one another, forgiving one another, and helping one another, and this is something that we aren’t taught to do anymore.

As Americans, we live in a society that is so completely opposed to the concept of ‘togetherness’ that we’ve turned selfishness into a virtue. Individuality is the highest goal in American society, but we’ve made it such a high goal that we even see it’s flaws as golden, or at least gilded in gold. Personal ambition, greed, selfishness, pride… all things that we not only put up with, but seek after. Oh, we rename them sometimes: pride becomes self-confidence, ambition becomes goal-orientation, greed becomes success, and selfishness becomes individual expression, but they still leave us lonely and unfulfilled.

This is not to say that utter dependency is a wonderful thing. To be unable to do anything on your own simply makes you a burden. However, as I have said before, everything is balance. If I must give up some of myself to have five people in my life who know me and love me anyway (not the easiest thing in the world, certainly), then is it not worth the sacrifice?

I have to admit that this is not a balance that I’ve yet found. As in many things, I tend to vacillate between extremes without ever managing to settle at a comfortable medium. It is something that, at least I hope, God is still working on me in.

Coolness and Respectability

All too often we forget what’s important in the effort to be cool, relevant, respectable… whatever. I finally got to sleep last night and when I woke up this morning I was considering shutting down this brand new, completely anonymous blog and opening up another one because I realized that the name ‘oldmanvirgin’ sounds slightly better than the name ‘oldguyvirgin’.

The entire concept of anonymity is defeated by this desire to be ‘respectable’. Here I am, blogging anonymously on a page that I’m not going to tell anyone about, and I’m worried about what name sounds more respectable. Why? Because we all have the innate need to feel good about ourselves, to feel important, liked, cool, etc. The problem is that in this quest for coolness we inevitably lose track of the things that are important to us.

This could be a relationship with Christ, or it could be a desire to be open and honest, it could be both. Regardless, it is far too easy for us to get distracted by whatever we think it means to be cool or respectable, but ultimately we forget that we don’t get to decide how people see us. What I think is cool, someone else thinks is weird, and what they think is respectable, I think is pretentious. People are going to see me and treat me in whatever way they decide to see me and treat me, and all of my ideas about coolness, respectability, or relevance don’t matter in the least. They simply serve to take my mind away from the things that really matter: honesty, compassion, service, devotion to the glory of God.

The important things always require a lot of attention, and a balance. God loves all people, so much that he sent Christ to satisfy the requirements of his justice. However, he is also perfectly just, so much so that all the love in the world couldn’t allow him to abandon the requirements of justice, thus necessitating the sacrifice of Christ.

I must balance contemplation of his truth, his glory, his perfection, his word, and his world with action taken to spread that glory. If I simply go out and do without learning, listening, and meditating, without taking the necessary time for solitude, contemplation, and communion with the father, then I’ve lost the very essence of what it means to follow Christ. Following requires me to actually follow his lead, rather than simply doing… something. If I don’t know the father, then how can I follow the father?

At the same time, if all I do is lie on my bed, contemplate the father, and study the scriptures, then, again, I am not following Christ. How can I follow him without actually following? To follow requires me to do… something surely. Certainly more than just lay around and feel spiritual.

So, the balance must be maintained between ┬ácontemplation and action, just as balance must be maintained in many things in life. However, if the entirety of my focus is on being respectable or cool, in other words if the entirety of my focus is on how others choose to see me, rather than on what I actually am, then I will inevitably lose track of many of the delicate balances that make up the Christian life. I will forget that I must ‘be’ Christian, and that truly being Christian is all too often antithetical to what culture expects of me.

Does this mean that I should reject the church entirely? Reject the notion of religious Christianity and simply seek a spiritual union with God? Of course not, the notion is ludicrous. If I reject the church, then I am rejecting the very body of which I am a part. Could my pinky separate itself from my hand, and say to my hand, “You don’t fill my needs, and thus I will forge my own relationship with the head”? The concept is laughably ridiculous. The church is the body of Christ, and while that body may be ill, this does not mean that it is any less a body. If the body dies, the pinky will die as well, but if the pinky is removed from the body, it will still die, only it will do so all the faster.

Thus, if I cut myself off from the body of Christ, I will die because community is part and parcel with Christianity. I cannot be a loan Christian. It is not simply ‘me and Jesus against the world’, even if I sometimes want to convince myself that it is. So, here too a balance is necessary. I have an individual relationship with the Father, but that individual relationship festers and dies when it is removed from community. Thus, I find myself once again looking at the importance of balance. I must balance my solitude and silent communion with my seeking of community and fellowship with the great body of believers. Thus, all things require balance.

Oh, and I decided to close the profile I opened on fuckbook… well, not close precisely. I couldn’t really figure out how to do that, but I changed my password to something that I’ll never remember. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that was a particularly ridiculous misstep that seemed wise in the throws of sleep deprivation.