I am a firm believer that there are sources for inspiration everywhere. All you need to do is look around you at any given point and you have the potential to see hundreds of things that will get your mind moving. From the beauty of a flower opening to the complexity that is the human body, the wonders of this world are amazing and thought provoking. However, one of my favorite thought generators is not necessarily part of the “natural” world, but it something created by man. In every town across America, and similarly in many other countries, there are these wonderful creations that have the potential to generate deep thoughts and hopefully open discourse about their meanings.
What is it that I am talking about? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Yep, that’s right, those signs that are out in front of nearly every church with short little snippets designed to clue you in to the plan that God has for you. Sometimes these messages are just quotes from the Bible, at other times, they are witty messages designed by a clever mind within the church to grab your attention. If you are on Facebook, Tumblr or any other social networking site that allows pictures, you have probably seen some of the marquee messages that have gone wrong. These are always amusing as those of us with more perverted minds twist good intentioned messages into slogans you would expect to see on a porno movie. Don’t believe me? Do a quick search on the internet for “Church Sign Fails” and you will get gems like “Behold! I come quickly.”, “The most powerful position on Earth is on your knees” and “Bored? Try a missionary position.”
Signs like these have a way of bringing out a giggle in me as my inner child is really just a twisted little 12 year old boy who likes boobs and sex jokes. But these aren’t the ones that get my attention and start my brain working. No, the ones that really get my mind churning are the more inspirational ones. The ones that are intended to bring us a little ray of light and realization about what that particular church feels our relationship with the creator should be. Over the past few months, I have seen some very poignant ones that I thought I would share with you and give you my take on them as well.
The first one that has been brewing around in my head was spotted last year in the late fall at a church on my way home from work. The message was a bit more cryptic than most, but the overall gist still came through. “One king to rule them all, one king to find them” Now, I know that they are talking about Jesus here and the idea of him being the almighty King of Kings. I can only assume that they were hoping to draw in a younger crowd by making a very clear Tolkien reference as well, but I think they might have missed the mark on their intention and inadvertently hit on a big reason why many people actually flee the church. My first observation with this sign was that while it was clever, I am not sure you want to base your sermon or church’s message on the poem describing Sauron’s One Ring which was crafted to bind, rule and destroy all inhabitants of Middle Earth. Doesn’t really speak much of love, forgiveness or charity to me. My second thought though was that this is particularly the mindset that many people have of past and even some modern Christianity. It’s hard to argue that the church has not had a pretty notorious background when it comes to spreading its message throughout the ages. Like the other 19 rings that were given out in Tolkien’s stories, the initial message of Christianity was often spread as a blessing and gift to those who received it. However, through the desire for power by the men in charge, the gift that was given freely soon became a curse and a binding for those under its power. The faith that was supposed to save them now has them doomed to a fiery eternity should they betray any of the orders given. The peace loving, generous King of Kings was transformed into the warrior King of a jealous God. Not exactly the kind of guy you want to open up to when you have hit rock bottom in your life. I truly hope that they put a good spin on this one during the sermons as anyone who caught the Sauron reference was likely a little concerned about the direction of that church.
The next one that has been swimming around my head is certainly not a new slogan, but has always been one that just had me puzzled. I was never really sure why it had me in such a quandary until I started exploring my own spirituality more and could see it from a different perspective.
“God is my co-pilot”
This one has been on marquees and bumper stickers for as long as I can remember. Based off of the book title by General Robert Scott, Jr of the same name, this slogan has been a staple in the Christian community for decades now. The general idea behind it is that while you are the pilot of your life, God is there to help support you and give you back up when you need it. In general, I like this idea and I think with the planes of the 1940′s it was a good metaphor. However, this never really resonated with me in today’s time and culture. As I understand it, most planes that have two pilots, need them both to operate. There are too many functions to properly maintain flight for just one person to do so. For me, this implies that our lives are too complicated for us to handle on our own. We are in need of some outside deity to pick up the parts of our lives that are beyond our reach or scope of control. For some of us, this may be true. If you imagine your life like a 747, carrying everything and everyone that has ever held meaning for you, then yes, you probably do need a co-pilot as you are carrying way more than you can handle. But what if you look at things a little differently. What if you take God away from the co-pilot seat and put him in the position of charterer. Picture your life now as a private plane that seats just what you need. Before initial take off, God has set a destination with you. All the resources you need will be provided throughout the journey but it is up to you to use them wisely. The course for the flight is up to you and can be altered throughout the duration depending on how you see fit. Along the way, there are specific stops that are requested on this charter flight and while only the final destination is guaranteed, you can be certain that if you refuse to stop at the requested mid points, you will likely be bugged about them over and over again until you stop. Along the way, you will pick up additional passengers and drop them off again when their journey with you is over. Some may fly with you for years and others for only a quick shuttle flight on their way to something different. As each passenger comes and goes, it is up to you to allow them the space in your plane to feel welcome while they are there and cherished when they must go. As you arrive at your final destination, it is up you to clean out your plane and recap the flight. Did you lose anything along the way? Did you find yourself doubling back over and over because you were too arrogant to accept the suggestions you were given? Did you land that last time with a sense of pride and purpose or a feeling of lack and regret? Either way, your charter was completed. Either way, you will have the option to do it all again if you choose.
The last one that has been piquing my neurons is one that I have just seen recently and was one of the more clever ones for word play.
“Forbidden fruit creates many jams”
This one quite obviously ties into the whole original sin bit and the idea that if Adam and Eve hadn’t tasted from the one tree they were told not to, then we might still be living in paradise as we speak. The idea of “forbidden fruits” being tempting is likely as old as man’s organized gathering into tribes and creating primitive leadership. One person says the something is off limits, someone else feels an insatiable need to do it. Very few people really enjoy being told that they cannot do something. Even when it is fairly obvious that the outcome will be bad, there is still a lust for doing it simply because we were told we cannot. This sign sparked in me a thought of how would society act if there were no steadfast statements that said certain things are absolutely off limits. What if instead, there was an education that all things can be done, but that there are very specific reactions that will come form them. You might call them consequences, but I prefer the idea of simple action and reaction. This takes something like “You shall not steal” to “If you steal, you will be prosecuted and punished”. This is a very simplistic way of looking at things, but the thought is there. Would we act any different if there was no forbidden fruit? Would we adjust our overall societal view if we looked at each choice we face simply from an action/reaction perspective? I can’t say one way or the other, but it keeps me wondering if it is the tasting of the forbidden fruit that makes the jam or the fact that the fruit is forbidden in the first place.