Saturday, February 25, 2006


For the first couple years I was married, my brother-in-law-in-law, Dave and I played a lot of golf and basketball together. I remember once there was a game on TV, and Dave was planning on watching it when I called and told him there was a game about to happen and asked if he’d like to play, even though he wanted to watch the game on TV. He said he’d much rather play, than watch.
Of course, I’ve always been that way. I grew up playing ball year round, and daily. Empty lot touch football, outdoor hoops, wiffle ball, little league, junior high and high school basketball, but I’ve never really been a TV sports watcher. I think of other things I need or want to do, and lose interest. Maybe that’s why I remember Dave’s comment. Though he purely enjoys watching a ballgame more than anyone else I know, he’d rather participate.
Last week in the Canyon, Jack made a similar statement. I can’t remember the exact context, but we were making choices as to how to spend our time, and he opted to spend it hands on rather than vicariously. I was very proud of that. Another quote from Neil’s book, Ghost Rider, speaks to the difference in vicarious experience and real life participation. He observes that watching a movie or reading a novel might make you feel sad, or happy, but in the end, nothing had really happened in your life. This is not true of real life experiences. One emerges from life experiences, regardless how small, affected and changed. Again, the point of Jack’s and my journey.

But I also thought more literally about Neil’s example, books vs. real life - in particular, our approach to reading the bible. We do, all too often, read it vicariously. I’ve stated recently on my blog that I feel we are a vicarious religion. For most of us, we read the bible and are inspired or moved, or convicted or amazed, but in the end, nothing real has happened in our lives. Often, at best, our behavior has been changed in that we are more resolved to avoid certain behaviors, but how often are new behaviors instilled in us? I feel like that is because the bible doesn’t have the power to change us, it merely reveals the One who does have the power to change us – to cause something real to happen in our lives. If we read without looking for the One who is revealed to us, the book becomes a behavior code from which we’ve extracted the dos and don’ts, but have long since forgotten the reason. Love as a positive motivation is replaced by guilt, as a negative motivation. When this happens, the behavior code no longer represents who we are, or what we’re about, but only how we act.
I’ve often lamented that the book itself is sometimes worshipped in lieu of the God to whom it points. The book can tell us how to experience God, but it can’t cause us to experience him. He does that, and we are merely brought to him by his revelation. Sometimes it just feels like a generic envelope that arrives in the mail saying, “you may have already won $10,000,000! But until we claim it, it is simply available, it is only what someone else has already won. No matter how many times we read the envelope, we will not get our prize.