Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Woody Allen Theology

I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of Woody Allen because, quite honestly, I haven’t seen many of his films.  I did see “Annie Hall” which initiated me into the appreciation of his humor. 

I particularly enjoyed a scene in which Woody’s character is riding in a car with Annie.  As Annie approaches the street curb to park her car, she leaves quite a distance to the curb.  As Woody’s character gets out the car, Annie asks him if everything is OK.  He responds, “Yep, I’m fine.  I can walk to the curb from here!”

It’s this type of humor that led me to appreciate my favorite Woody Allen quote.  “Eighty percent of life is just showing up.”  There is a lot of proverbial truth to this.  If you want to complete your college degree, show up for the first class.  If you want to learn to play the guitar, show up for the first lesson.  If you want to climb a 14,000 foot mountain, show up at the base and begin walking.

An equally compelling truth is evidenced by the converse logic that “eighty percent of failure is due to not showing up.”  If you want to be assured that you will never complete your college degree, don’t show up to another class.  If you want to be assured you will never learn to play the guitar, don’t show up for the first lesson.  Obviously, you will never climb the 14,000 foot mountain if you never travel to the mountain.

However, since this blog ought to be of a spiritual bent, you’ve probably presumed that my point is not whether one chooses to show up or not for guitar lessons.   I’m not going to encourage your ambitions by saying “life is your stage, go have the performance of your life!  Keep showing up!”  To say this would be to adopt the humanist view that life is about me and my experiences.  To say this would propagate the ideology that life is the sum of our experiences, so get out there and amass experiences.

What if life isn’t about amassing experiences?  What if life isn’t about collecting hundreds of Facebook friends and posting pictures of leisure, accomplishment and adventure that purvey a somewhat less than accurate picture of my true life?  Is it possible that if we evaluate life by the sum total of our experiences, that most of us will feel short-changed in the end?  What if my Facebook page said something about my haunting reflection that I showed up for life, but in the end, life wasn’t all that amazing?

What do I do then?

The first question of the Westminster Confession’s Larger Confession asks a penetrating question.  “What is the primary and highest purpose of human beings?”  While you are pondering your answer, let me mention a study done on the Facebook experience that showed that the more time someone spent reading the status updates of others’ Facebook pages, the more unhappy they became with their own lives.  The study concluded that the subjects of the study became depressed reading about the lives and events of their friends because they concluded that their friends’ lives were much more exciting.

So let’s get back to our question.  “What is the primary and highest purpose of human beings?”  No, it isn’t simply to show up for life.  No, it isn’t numerous exciting achievements and excursions posted to Facebook pages.  The Westminster Confession proclaims “to glorify God and to enjoy him completely forever.”

The men who assembled the contents of the Westminster Confession spent time thinking about one of life’s biggest questions . . . why am I here and what am I to do now that I am here?  I’m sure they pondered the writings of Solomon in Ecclesiastes where he concluded after gaining substantial wealth, wisdom, power and fame that it is all vanity and meaningless.  The writer of Ecclesiastes came to this sobering conclusion, “The conclusion, when all has been heard is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.”

I don’t think many would read this final summary and feel warm and fuzzy inside about the final purpose of humanity.  Though the writer of Ecclesiastes is entirely correct, the rest of Scripture paints the fuller picture with much greater color and detail.  This greater ensemble of Scripture is, I’m sure, to what the Westminster Confession alludes.

So how does this correspond back to Woody Allen’s quote? He got the first half right . . . the secret to life is showing up.  However, he missed the point of where we are to show up.  In a grandiose way, the Westminster Confession tells us.  We will find the meaning, purpose, and overflowing joy of life by showing up with God.

Beginning with the Old Covenant in Genesis 17 through the New Covenant, God’s heart and desire has been to be with His people.  He longs for you to simply come and abide with Him . . . no agendas, no fake religiosity.  Just as a mother and father crave the nestling of their child, so the Father craves His children’s presence.  He wants to hear His children tell Him that there’s no place in the world that they would rather be than in His arms.

I thought of the Woody Allen quote because of something a friend of mine has said.  I’ve known Mike for about six years now.  Every time we talk, I hear Mike’s heart for the Lord.  Mike loves evangelism and prayer.  When he speaks about prayer, he has a wonderful saying.  “God just wants you to show up.”

Mike’s quote is the fulfillment of Woody’s quote.  Woody encourages us to show up somewhere while Mike shows us with whom we are to meet.

My prayer is that after reading this you will commit daily to meet with your God.  You will find meaning, purpose and joy beyond anything this life can offer . . . because you are meeting with the Source of Life, Himself.  May God reward your quest as you seek Him.