When my middle daughter was in 7th grade she called home from an overnight Christian youth conference to tell us that she and her friend Jackie were no longer going to date boys because they had decided to date Jesus.
I stopped her mid sentence, put the phone to my chest, and laughed out loud.
“I’m serious dad. Why are you laughing?”
“Well for starters you’re in 7th grade and haven’t had a boyfriend yet. But mainly because that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Well that’s what our conference speaker said we should do.”
“That’s because he’s an idiot.”
“He was being honest.”
“Well, dear, you’re going to find out that in life just because someone’s a Christian, and honest, that doesn’t mean they’re smart.”
“But we’ve already texted the boys that like us and told them that we’re only going to date Jesus.”
“Tell them that you were playing a prank, and while you’re at it text me the name of that conference speaker. We need to have a little chat.”
“Because you can’t date Jesus. What happens if two months into it you decide you really don’t like Him? Are you going to break up with the Lord and Savior of the universe just to go to the 8th grade prom with some kid named Jack?”
When Analogies Hit A Brick Wall
Most of the analogies and metaphors we use to describe our relationship with God are utterly unhelpful, unbiblical, and ridiculous.
Starting with the word “relationship.”
Where in the Bible are we encouraged to start a “relationship” with Jesus?
The only reason we use that image, repeatedly, is because its one that we can understand. Becoming a Christian is kinda sorta like being in a relationship with the opposite sex. We notice him or her. We find that person attractive. We date. We get engaged. We get married.
But we don’t have sex with God, do we?
Or withhold sex from Him because we’re ticked?
Or force Him to go to couple’s counseling?
Or have our lawyer serve Him divorce papers?
The Need For An Analogy Audit
All analogies break down after a while, especially the ones we repeatedly use for our faith.
As Christians our language has become sullied, like a used diaper that’s been left inside a baby’s bag for days. It seems like every time we find ourselves needing to describe what a connection with Jesus looks and feels like, especially to children, we keep reaching for the same banal imagery.
At the end of Thorton Wilder’s play Our Town, after the main character Emily had been given another chance at living life, for just one day, Wilder pictures Emily as a person brought to the brink of despair. Exasperated by the surface level conversations she’s encountered and the way her family missed several opportunities for meaningful connection, she looks at the stage manager and says,
EMILY: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”
STAGE MANAGER: “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”
Nowhere is skimming the surface of life more clearly seen than in the words we employ.
Take a moment this week to perform a Christian cliché audit.
Listen to yourself talk.
Listen to yourself pray.
Listen to yourself preach.
Chances are you’ll find, like I have, words, phrases and imagery that have long since lived past their expiration date.
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