Wednesday, March 09, 2016

A Boy and His Walkman

Mike rode the bus to school every day. His mother made him leave the house early, causing him to wait at the bus stop for several minutes each day. There was only one other boy who waited at that stop, but he didn't talk to Mike. The other boy had headphones over his ears connected to a thing called a "Walkman" clipped to his belt. Mike envied the boy because he appeared to have a great time waiting for the bus, while Mike was just bored. The other boy's head swayed back and forth, he tapped his foot, and he often moved his hands as if he were writing in the air. His eyes were closed and he had a smile on his face as if he were in ecstasy.

Mike got some money for his birthday, so he decided to buy himself a Walkman. The next morning, Mike put on the headphones and plugged them into the Walkman, which he clipped on his belt just like the other boy did. He stood at the bus stop with his Walkman, but he didn't feel anything. He was still bored, the only difference being that he now had the discomfort of the headphones squeezing his ears. Then Mike realized what was wrong, so he closed his eyes, tapped his foot, swayed his head, and slowly moved his hands. Mike tried to force a smile, but it didn't last long because he didn't feel better. In fact, he felt silly. He opened his eyes and looked around to see if anyone saw what he was doing. "This thing doesn't work for me," he thought, so that afternoon he took the Walkman back to the store and got his money back.

Although it is unlikely that anyone would buy a music player and not put music in it, many people try out Christianity, but are disappointed when they don't get anything out of it. People might try going to church for a while, attending some classes, or reading the Bible and some other books. When that doesn't seem to do anything for them, they might try to imitate what they see other Christians doing, including using a certain vocabulary, dressing a certain way, following certain rules, saying certain prayers, or participating in church social activities. They might work very hard to conform to an image of a Christian that they see, but the only results are a lot of frustration. They come to the conclusion that the whole Christianity thing doesn't work for them, but maybe they are neglecting a key part of the Christian experience; maybe they are missing something that is as essential as a music cassette is for a Walkman.

The whole point of Christianity is reconciliation with God, leading to an intimate relationship with him. He is our heavenly Father, and we are his children. All of the other aspects of the Christian life should lead towards or flow from this relationship with God. However, entering into this relationship with God is not as easy as popping in a cassette or downloading an mp3 because there is an obstacle that must be overcome before such a relationship can happen. We are members of a race that has declared independence from God and is in rebellion against him. The salvation that God offers through Jesus Christ is to transform us from rebels into friends and to give us the joy and peace that comes from living in harmony with the creator rather than fighting against him. Such a transformation requires that we admit we are rebels, lay down our arms, and let God change our lives.


Ruminations said...

Nicely done. I was wondering a bit where the story was going at first. Once the Walkman was purchased, I had my "ah-ha" moment. But your analogy is quite excellent, I think. I remember as a young boy seeing some old movie about St. Francis or St. Joan and thinking, "Hey, maybe I should make the sign of the Cross when I pray, too! That way God will know I'm really religious!" I tried it for a while but it didn't really seem to do anything. So I quit doing it. Much like the Walkman, there was something missing.

Gregory Graham said...

Thanks, Doug. That's a good illustration. The sign doesn't have power in itself. It performs its function when it reinforces faith, which connects us to the reality it signifies. It's similar to when we say, "in Jesus' name" at the end of our prayers. We start off doing it because we are told that's the way we should pray, and for that reason alone, it's good to do. However, when we grow in our understanding of what it means to pray in Jesus' name, and we recall that truth when we say the words, it changes from just a thing we say to something good and powerful.

This is a big difference between magic and prayer. A magician follows some kind of formula repeating words of an incantation that he might not even understand, in order to manipulate some power to do the will of the magician. Some people approach prayer to God in almost the same way, but true prayer is entering into communion with God so that the prayer conforms his will to God's will and receives power from God in order to obey.