Sometimes, 140 characters needs more explanation…
Tweet: 3 types of people: 1) scenery (pass us by), 2) machine (serve us like ATMs), 3) people. I want to see, really see, more people people.
It’s always fun to categorize the world into types of people, like “there are two kinds of people in the world: men and women;” or “there are two kinds of people in the world: Christians and non-Christians;” or “there are two kinds of people in the world: Elvis fans or Beatles fans.” I’m not sure why this is fun, but it is, so I’m going with it for now.
I have borrowed this current type of people paradigm from Jamie Winship, an evangelist and missionary to the Middle East for more than 20 years. He said there are three kinds of people in the world: scenery, machines, and people. The paradigm goes like this:
Scenery people are the hundreds of people that pass us peripherally throughout our day. These may be our neighbors we don’t notice as we get into our cars, or most of the people in line at Starbucks, or the co-workers along our walk to our office or cube. Scenery people are like trees; we are aware of their presence, and if they all suddenly disappeared, we might suspect an invasion of locusts had occurred, or a firestorm had ravaged through the area (I guess more so for the trees than the people). But we don’t normally notice them.
Machine people are the tens of people that we interact with on a daily basis without really interacting. These are the cashiers at our morning coffee shop, or the rental car return guy, or the toll booth employee. Machine people are like ATMs; we simply make transactions with them. We might even engage in pleasantries with them, asking how they are and saying we are fine. But we don’t really interact with them.
People people are the rare people we truly engage throughout our days. These are the friends we are interested in, or the co-worker we’ve been praying for who shares part of their story with us, or the person who asks how our day is going and gets an honest answer. We interact meaningfully with people people, but we do so infrequently.
Jamie told us a story about a machine person he knew for a year. She was the clerk at 7-11 where, when he was a DC-area cop, he stopped each morning. One night he responded to a call, where he found this girl with a stab wound in her stomach. Her blood was all over her shirt and the ground, and Jamie started treating her while he waited for the paramedics to come. When they finally showed up to take her away in the ambulance, Jamie asked them if she would make it. “Probably not,” was their reply. He began thinking of all the chances to share the gospel with her that had slipped by. As the paramedics put her on the stretcher, one of them looked back at Jamie and said, “Hey, be careful—her blood is on your hands.”
That was a sobering statement for Jamie to hear. Even though it wasn’t meant in the way it was received, it puts people into perspective. All people are people people, if only we had God’s eyes to see them in this way. So my prayer has been to see more people people, to see them through God’s eyes, because more is at stake here than getting through the line faster or getting the correct change.
Original Tweet: http://twitter.com/christomlinson_/status/4145304099
I was talking with a guy behind the counter at a surf shop in Hermosa Beach one Sunday morning after church, and he asked me about the difference between the church that was across the street and the one that was further down the block. I told him how they were similar and how they were different, and we ended up in a conversation about God. He said he wasn’t sure if he believed in God or not, that he was kind of spiritual but didn’t like organized religion, which basically meant he wanted to sleep with his girlfriend and party that weekend. At one point in the conversation, he asked me about Jonah and the whale. “What do you mean Jonah got swallowed by a fish?” he said.
“Don’t have a problem with God because of Jonah and the whale,” I said. “Start with God. The Bible said God has always existed. And then He spoke the universe into existence and made everything. And that’s how all of this came to be. Or take Jesus. The Bible said He is God and has always been God, and He was sent to become a man, and was born as a helpless infant to poor parents in a tiny town in a conquered country, and he lived a sinless life, and was crucified for our sins, and rose from the grave, and ascended back into heaven, where He exists in a glorified body, reigning over the universe, ready to come back again one day. Start with those things, and ask yourself if you believe them, because if you do, you’ll have no issue with Jonah and the whale.”
“I see your point,” he said.
There’s this beautiful video I have seen of a tornado swirling in a violent dance of wind and dust and shadows, and this scene is backlight by towering clouds rising into the air with beams of light bursting through small holes in the clouds. The tornado spins and bows to the sound of an unheard chorus that is drowned out by the thundering noise it creates as it rumbles through the sky. Undoubtedly, it is wreaking havoc on the earth wherever it draws near, but from the safety of distance, it appears peaceful, even graceful.
The funnel twirls and dances on and on, but eventually it tires, and as it readies to exit the stage, there’s this moment where its shape begins to change. Not into a single form, but into two forms connected in a narrow middle. As the music fades, the video slows to show two fingers, one from above and one from below, grasping tightly to one another. And then they break from one another, the lower form drifting quietly into the darkness below and the upper form pulling softly into the clouds above.
If you have seen the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, you will know what this pictures looks like. This funnel is like the hand of God and the hand of man, so very close but yet so far.
Seeing this makes me wonder about Adam’s sin, about the moment Adam and Eve first broke hands with their God. They must not have fully known the consequences of what they were about to do, for surely they would have thought better of it. But the fruit of that tree required two hands to take, and so they let go of God’s hand which sealed their fate. They, like the lower finger of this funnel, fell to earth, a mere shadow of their former glory, and the hand of God withdrew to the heavens.
But the Son shined on in the distance, as God made a sacrifice to clothe their nakedness and promised a coming seed who would conquer the enemy of their soul. So this is where we live, in separation from the imminence of our God but restored by the light of His Son, eagerly awaiting the day we will rejoin Him in the heavens and renew our dance once more.
There is a part of me that loves fairy tales. Maybe there’s something to the feeling of power that comes in constructing an entirely new world, one that is different, and sometimes better, than my own. I don’t actually write fairy tales, but when I read them, I’m slowly building this new world sentence by sentence, as if I could just speak the words and the forest or cottage or carriage just materializes out of thin air. It’s fun feeling powerful.
There are times when I’ve thought Christianity was just a fairy tale. It’s embarrassing that I have these thoughts, and they actually come more often than you might suspect. I remember this one time when I brought my co-worker in the Air Force to an evangelistic skit on hell that was put on by my old church, and when I sat there and watched her watch this skit, I had a moment of pause where I wondered if we had just made up this whole notion of God.
In spite of these moments of doubt, I believe in God very deeply, and I even believe in Him superficially. I’ve grown up in this faith, and it’s really all I ever believed since I can remember believing in something. What’s interesting to me is all the things I take for granted: Jonah sitting in that fish, the parting of the Red Sea into two towering walls of water, Elijah running at 140 mph, God hovering over His people as a pillar of fire and smoke. And I’ve considered these stories to be strange but true facts, like Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. “What do you mean Jonah got swallowed by a fish?” people say. “What do you mean Neil Armstrong landed on the moon?” I think.
When I actually considered some of the things we Christians believe, and know, to be true, I get the sense that faith in God makes us a little different. And God would say the same thing. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).
Here is the wildest of all ideas that we believe, that this God who spoke into nothing, and nothing obeyed and became an eminently glorious something, came out of heaven to become a lowly man, a babe even, to live among such small creatures, to grow and learn and work like they did, to be murdered by them, to rise from the dead by His own power, and then to ascend back to heaven. This is the stuff of fairy tales.
And I agree, so long as fairy tales are true and the point of all existence.