When I was in grade school, it was a big deal to get one’s hands on a Playboy magazine. The gloss and glitz! The provocative photos and enticing article titles! Groups of us would gather round, hoping to taste the forbidden fruit of adult sexuality so our eyes would be opened to the wondrous carnal knowledge unjustly denied us by our parents. Yes, the cunning serpent was alive and well!
I wish I could say the serpent has since been banished from our world. Instead, its tactics have been widely adopted. Have you noticed how everything from restaurants to politicians and even church services vie for our attention? It’s all about the gloss and glitz, provocative or emotion-laden images, promises of truth, success, insider knowledge, and superiority, and preferably accompanied by a catchy tune or memorable phrase that sticks.
These tactics certainly do attract attention, generate donations and patronage, and gain followers. The problem is they often don’t lead us to God or to real truth. Jesus doesn’t entertain us, demand our attention, or present in attractive images. He never promised us an easy life free of pain and filled with material wealth or worldly success. Jesus works among the suffering wherever they are found, and he works quietly, out of the limelight, off to the side. He invites, waits, invites again, teaches, reaches out, offers healing, and brings what the world can never give.
This healing and unconditional love are offered freely, too, without cost. We don’t have to do anything to “earn” it. We only need to ask with sincere desire and get our own ego and desires out of the way. God can then penetrate our senses and well-honed defenses to open our eyes and ears from within, changing and molding us to the core of our beings. There’s nothing glitzy or glamorous about it. In fact, I find that taking concentrated time for God, asking and allowing God to change me, is one of the most challenging aspects of my life. Yet over time, as God works, it is profound and life-altering.
What attracts your attention? Where are you spending time, energy, and money in ways that do not lead you to God (and perhaps even lead you away)? What do you most wish for God to heal within you? Let’s focus on those things and let go of the serpent’s tempting pathways filled with empty promises that eventually lead nowhere. Let’s instead examine our activities and temptations, and more consciously open ourselves to the truth that will set us free.