Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Layers: Onions, Ogres, and Me

In the long tradition of God using cartoons to teach me theology, I've recently been thinking about Shrek. When explaining to Donkey why being friends with an Ogre is, er, complicated, he refers to his "layers."

Shrek: For your information, there's a lot more to ogres than people think.
Donkey: Example?
Shrek: Example... uh... ogres are like onions!
[holds up an onion, which Donkey sniffs]
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes... No!
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry?
Shrek: No!
Donkey: Oh, you leave 'em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin' little white hairs...
Shrek: [peels an onion] NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.
[walks off]  

Since worshiping at a liturgical church, I've been realizing my own, er, layers in a new way. Here's what I mean. I am a Christian, which means I've heard the good news that God is God and I am not-- and I've believed the good news that I can not only serve Him, but have a personal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. I'm a Christian, which means that my whole story-- past, present, and future-- has been put in a much bigger frame, because I've found it to be a small part of a much bigger Story-- one that involves all of history, and in which God is the central character, not me. 

In the past few months, I've come to realize that the Christian life is about living in and being shaped by that one reality. But I've also come to realize my tendency to want to treat the Christian life like grade school, where I memorize information and then get to "move on" to new information. Sometimes I want the Christian life to stay in my head, where the incredible reality of God's, well, --Godness!-- is safe from the deeper layers that I, like Shrek, don't want others invading. 

In a liturgical church setting, however, I "re-live" the Story of God every Sunday. Through the confession of sin, the reading of the Word from Old and New Testaments, and the celebration of Communion, I'm reminded weekly of the Big Story that frames my whole life: God created, sin distorted, God redeems, sin is destroyed. In short, Jesus is the Hero and He invites me to follow Him. Exclaiming, experiencing, and enacting this fundamental reality week after week, year after year, sends it deeper and deeper into the layers of my life, until all of me truly hears it, truly believes it, and truly lives it. 

In worshiping this way, I'm learning that what I need is not more words; it's the same Word more deeply. I'm learning that God "grows" me as a Christian not by graduating me on to new information, but by letting what He's already revealed penetrate every area of my life, layer by layer.

What about you? Are you used to thinking that being a Christian means checking a box at church or believing certain bullet points of information? What attracts you about the idea of living in God's Story and letting it change you layer by layer? What scares you about it? 

No comments: