Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Question of the week

Meg Ryan changed my life.  Well, more accurately, it was Meg Ryan speaking the words of the character Kathleen Kelly in Nora Ephron's screenplay, "You've Got Mail". 

Sitting at her computer, Kathleen Kelly types:

"I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small.  And sometimes I wonder:  Do I do it because I want to, or because I'm not brave?" 

I have seen "You've Got Mail" at least 36 times, and this scene never fails to nail me. And not just because the inner voice that talks to me about my life is the voice of Meg Ryan.  (When God speaks to me, he usually sounds like Gregory Peck.  Jesus, depending on what he is saying, sometimes sounds like Peter Jennings or Kevin Spacey.  I imagine this would come as a suprise to all of them.)  Anyway, whenever I am talking to myself - or even now, as I am talking to you, I hear Meg Ryan's voice.  I've heard Nora Ephron say that whenever she writes a screen play, it's Meg's voice she imagines speaking the heroine's dialog.  And it's Nora's dialog that stopped me in my tracks the first time I saw "You've Got Mail" and all 35 times I have heard these lines since then.  Not because Meg was asking the question, but because I realized it is the question I ask myself; it is what I wonder about my life, what I will wonder when I am 85 and probably when I am almost to my grave:  Why do I live the way I live?

It is, I think, a good question to ask.  It is the question Jesus asked.  Matthew's gospel tells us that Jesus emerged from his 40 days in the wilderness and burst upon the scene delivering the message, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."  Dallas Willard, writer and theologian, translates Jesus' message in this way:  "Rethink your life in the light of the fact that the kingdom of the heavens is now open to all"  (Matt 4:17).

To repent is to change any or all of the elements composing one's life - attitudes, thoughts and behaviors.  Jesus, of course, was particularly addressing the demands of God for right living, for joining the action of God in the world.

Re-think your life, Jesus challenges us,  in view of the fact that God is here at work among you and in view of what he intends to accomplish.  Ask yourself:

    what is valued in heaven?
    what is the end goal in heaven?
    what is the main work in heaven?
    who is in charge in heaven?

And then, ask yourself, how do I live in light of that understanding? 

Why do I live the way I live?  It's a question Jesus repeatedly turned to ask often.  Why do you worry about your life?  Why do you run after the things the rest of the world does?  Why do you judge your brother?  Why do you spend your life on things that cannot satisfy?  Why are you afraid?  Why do you have so little faith?

His second public message was an invitation:  Follow me.  Implying that if you want to know the answer to the question I have posed, I know it.  This way to the answer.  In fact, Jesus said, I am the answer.  Everybody who is wants to re-think comes to me.

I come to him often wondering, "Is my life valuable?" Not as in, "Are you proud of me?  Do you put my artwork on your refrigerator?" But as in, "Am I doing what you want me to do?"

I have a friend who's spent the greater part of his life working as a musician who jokes that one day he'll get to heaven and God will say, "Hey Rob: I said, 'magician.'"

There are some areas of my life in which I have not yet decided: Do I do this because I want to, or because I'm not brave?  But I have decided that it's important to ask the question.  It's important for me, at this moment in my life, to re-think.  And I think it's important for you to do it also.

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