What Makes You Shout?

I remember vividly the summer of 1985. Fresh out of High School, the world was my oyster. I had the eyes of a dreamer and the courage drawn from a sense of personal invincibility. I had an internship with a US Congressman from New York, money in the bank and a scholarship to university. Those summer days were spent at the beach and on the golf course. The summer nights were spent hanging out with friends and listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40.

Shout was a #1 hit song for the band Tears for Fears that summer. The accompanying music video played constantly on MTV. It was certainly one of the most recognizable songs of the Eighties. I won’t go as far as to say they were a one-hit wonder, but without question Shout is the band’s signature tune. And with good reason. Its power chords, heavy percussion and mesmerizing, mantra-like lyrics pull you in:

Shout, shout, let it all out
These are the things I can do without
Come on, I’m talking to you, come on

But don’t let this simple chorus fool you. Shout was song about political protest. It was born out of the political, economic and cultural upheaval happening across the globe in the waning years of the Cold War. It was basically an encouragement to protest.

This song played over and over in my head as I took in the events of last week’s Inauguration and the protests and marches that accompanied it. Lots of shouting wouldn’t you say?

We human shout for dozens of reasons. We shout at cars when they cut us off. We shout at sporting matches to cheer on our team. We shout when we are surprised. We shout when we are excited. We shout when we are happy. But we also shout when we are angry, disappointed and afraid.

Psalm 27:6 reveals the heart of King David of Israel. He says, “I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy.” Doesn’t that seem an odd pairing? Shouting in connection to the offering of sacrifices? I like what Paul David Tripp says commenting on this verse: “In so doing, David reveals what is really important to him. It is important to him to admit who he is…to humbly embrace the reality of how deep and consistent his problem with sin actually is.” He goes on to say, “…in your life there are things that make you shout, and what you shout reveals something about what is going on in your heart.”

I hadn’t ever made that connection before. Shouting really does reveal what is important to me. When I shout for my favorite football team, it reveals something about my passion for the team. When I shout at a fellow driver, it too, says something about what I value. When I shout at one of my children or my wife, it reveals a frustration, insecurity or fear within me. When I shout at God…well, you get the picture.

Here’s the uncomfortable truth: In my life there are things that make me shout and what makes me shout reveals something about who or what is ruling and reigning in my heart.

What makes you shout?

Are You Enough?

Have you ever had that nagging sense that you just aren’t enough? Have you ever spent copious amounts of time comparing and competing with others? Have you ever modulated who you truly are and what you deeply value in an attempt to get someone’s approval? How much of your perceived worth is linked to what others think and say about you? Do you sometimes find yourself in the role of a CPA – adjusting the bottom line of your life according to the size of your successes and failures?

These are the kinds of questions that run through all of our minds and some point or another in our lives. In a way, those things, and many others just like them, are symptoms of what it means to live in what the Bible describes as a fallen world. Things are not as God intended them to be. Relationship with God, each other and the world around us is broken. We are all east of Eden. We are all less-than-human.

What these questions reveal are legitimate and authentic needs. First, they reveal our desire to be seen, valued, and loved. They point to our need to be accepted, included, and part of a community. But they also shine a spotlight on the longing within each of us for the Holy and Transcendent. They highlight that there is something outside of and beyond ourselves that we cannot give or do for ourselves. Ultimately, they disclose what we treasure and to what or whom we have given our hearts. They are the symptoms of having lost our way on our journey with God.

Continuing along the path of seeking to find ourselves in the approval and acceptance of others is risky business. Sometimes our attempts to be recognized and praised by others fail to be acknowledged by those from whom we seek approval. What then? Try harder? Morph even further?

As painful as those experiences of rejection can be, they can also be grace-filled moments. They can be course-correcting opportunities to discover that who we are in the eyes of God is not dependent on the opinions, praise or approval of others. There is nothing we must do to gain God’s acceptance, approval or love. Our identity is found is who and whose we are – beloved children of our Creator-God. When we recognize and accept that amazing truth, we’ve taken a huge step forward on our faith journey. To quote one Christian mystic, “Lent is not the journey from bad to good, or sinner to saint; it’s the journey of coming to ourselves and returning home.”

On Blue Devils and Identification

The calendar flipped to March today, the beginning of a favorite time of year for me. Along with the warming weather, longer days because we “spring forward” and my birthday near the middle of the month, it is also the opening of baseball spring training and the beginning of March Madness in college basketball.

I don’t know exactly how or when it began but I am a die-hard Duke Blue Devil fan. I suspect it began when I was a teenager or soon after I graduated from High School, but somewhere along the way, I identified as a Blue Devil fan. I don’t remember watching Johnny Dawkins in the early 1980’s but I’m old enough to remember some of the Duke greats like Danny Ferry, Bobby Hurley, Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Jason Williams, J.J. Redick and Kyrie Irving. As of this season, there are over 20 former Duke players still performing their craft in the NBA!

So why talk about my identification with the Duke Blue Devils?

I was reminded this week from a concept I gleaned from Seth Godin when I joined his Tribes group. Essentially, it contended that while we typically think of identity as something we forge on our own, most of our sense of ourselves comes from the community we belong to, our family of origin, and the folks with whom we hang out. In this sense, identity is always given, even borrowed, not simply created.

A quick example from my opening. No one wakes up one day and says: “You know who I’m going to be? I’m going to be one of the Cameron Crazies who paint their face and bodies and taunt opposing team members from the lower stands in Cameron Indoor Stadium.” Instead, you hang out with friends, watch lots of games on TV, get invited to go to a game, then more games, and then you brave the elements in a tent city outside the stadium to get one of the coveted student section seats, then you paint your face blue, and then all of a sudden realize you are one of those persons! You are a Cameron Crazy! And you could say the same about bikers or Trekkies or just about any of the other groups we associate with and from which we derive a lot of our identity.

Within the Christian tradition, one such group identifier is our baptism. Baptism marks our entrance into the covenantal family of faith and, even more powerful, told that we are God’s beloved child, imager bearers of God, and therefore have infinite worth. That’s a message we can not hear too often at our Gatherings – that we are children of God, that God is with us and in us and desires to use us to be agents of restoration in this world.

The reality is this: when push comes to shove, all the various temptations we face stem from the primary temptation to forgot whose we are and therefore to forget who we. Because once you don’t remember who you and whose you are, you’ll do all kinds of things to attempt to find that sense of security and acceptance that is essential to being happy.

Isn’t that Adam and Eve’s problem in the Genesis story? When the serpent comes, he doesn’t start out with a temptation but instead sows mistrust in Adam and Eve. The serpent tries to undermine the relationship of trust between God and God’s children. “Did God really say,” the serpent asks, misrepresenting and undermining God’s instructions. “You will not die,” the serpent asserts, suggesting that there are things God knows but isn’t telling. It’s only when this primary relationship has been undermined, when they forget whose they are, that they become susceptible to the temptation to forge an identity independent of identity of their relationship with God.

We are bombarded daily if not hourly, with subtle messages that seek to undermine our identity and invite us to forget whose we are. So many media messages suggest we are inadequate. In the face of all of these you-are-not-enough messages comes the promise of God, sealed in our baptism, that we are totally and completely loved by God.