I don’t know if it’s my pride talking, but I kind of like overthinking. I know. It makes a situation harder than it needs to be, adds on anxiety, hastens the fuse of my aggravation, makes me appear pretentious, it’s haughty, and…wait, why do I like it again? I guess I like the feeling of having a more sophisticated and erudite take on all things life. Don’t associate me with other philistines and their simpleton’s desire for the drab. (I’m just kidding, for those that don’t have a built-in sarcasm radar on your Google Chrome.)
I was texting with a friend last night during the final moments of the Oscar’s. I’ve always appreciated his take on film, mainly he’s affirmed most of my opinions on film, which is a selfish reason to like anyone’s opinion, but I’ve said it and now let’s move on. But I appreciate his opinion more now that he graduated from film school and is aiming to work in the “biz”, as they say. But as we were texting, I realized one stark difference in his take on movies since our undergraduate days: he was definitely more critical. And I don’t think he was critical in the worst sense. Like, he isn’t the berating P.E. coach that rips into you when you don’t run a 5-minute mile. He’s critical as a result of being a recipient of good pedagogy of all things film. I don’t blame him. He, now, has a much more elevated lens in which he defines a “good movie”. He has so many more filters in which he distills a movie. He has to evaluate the authenticity and credibility of the characters and the dialogue. He has to observe the quality of the cohesion and plot development. The tuning fork that is now embedded in his mental checklist is so fine tuned that it almost takes on a curmudgeon-esque tone. And I think that’s great. For him to appreciate movies on a higher plane is something that I don’t think I can ever exist in.
But at what point is overthinking criticisms a detriment to ourselves? When does the analysis end and enjoyment take over? This friend of mine was visibly (or as visible one can be in a text message) upset over La La Land’s near win of best picture. He was so elated that the movie didn’t win. The kind of relief he expressed is the kind of relief you get when your professor allows you to use a note card for your final. And I almost felt stupid for peeping, “I liked it.” I felt like so bad I also had to follow up by texting, “don’t kill me”. And I realized that although this dear brother of mine has gained many tools to become a writer in the film industry (I am writing it like this because it’s going to happen), it seems that it is also put him in a stratosphere where it is increasingly harder to simply just enjoy a movie without any qualifications. And that’s a tough place to be.
This is not a critique, however, of my friend. I am actually thankful for his microscopic and meticulous take on film. It challenges my own ignorant opinions and helps me grow. At the same time, I want to also watch “Dumb and Dumber”. Can I like “Dumb and Dumber” and still have a high palate for film? I don’t know.
I realize seminary did the same thing to me. I don’t blame seminary, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as I become more learned in theology, I’ve also become much more critical about things of the church. Ask my wife. I am a walking, talking asterisk. I am an overthinking theologian who always has to have an addendum to a statement. I used to love Hillsong worship songs. Now I have to dissect it like a frog and break it down to see if it is theologically sound. I used to love retreats and alter calls. Now I treat it like a fat kid treats kale. I used to love WWJD paraphernalia and bible covers, but I’d never be caught dead in them. I used to read the The Message. Now I’m ESV or bust.
I hate what I’ve become. How do I silence this ticking mechanism that is obsessive over all things? The worst part of it is (and a real reflection of my own sin), is that it’s really hard for me to get blessed from some sermons. Rather than receiving the words of life, I find myself making a checklist to see if it’s preached in context, or if he is preaching from the text at all (or using it as a jumping off point for his own opinions). Did the preacher give a solid application for me to take home? It’s bad. And I’m a recovering sinner who’s trying to find my way back. I want to be that young kid who was so enamored with the Gospel, that the Gospel is truly all that I wanted. I miss the days in which I would be so blessed by Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. I miss being so easily moved by God’s love. Would I even like Blue Like Jazz, if I read it today in my current state? I’d probably called Donald Miller a crazy person because of his view of the church and he’s not “reformed enough” (although I wouldn’t because I still love him). In a not forced example, the most elevated form of sushi, one would argue, is just the fish itself. If the fish is good enough, it is not necessary to serve it with tempura flakes and spicy mayo. But I’ve become to guy who orders the Super Saiyan Seattle Roll with extra tobiko and then thrice fried. Where have I gone wrong?
There’s a lot of parallels between the chefs and pastors. Every time I watch a culinary show, it sometimes leads me to a rabbit hole of reflection on my own journey as a pastor. I recently binged a show called Ugly Delicious. I am a huge fan of David Chang and I think he’s a genius. I really appreciated the main thrust of the show, in which he challenges the precocious culinary world that good food also has to be pristine in its presentation. (On a side note, it’s really weird to see an old youth group friend married to him and on the show).
In the first episode, the talks about pizza and David talks to Mark Iacono, who is, in his own right, a pizza making legend. But David brings up the idea of Domino’s Pizza, Mark almost writhes in disgust. He not only denounces such a poor excuse of a pizza, but says that other pizzas such as ones with salads and other ingredients are flatbread and not pizza. Here I am, watching the episode (whilst in the season of Lent in which is self-imposed cruelty), and thinking, “I like Domino’s”. David, as the mastermind behind the show, champions the cause for the franchise, even calling it good for what it is. As a James Beard award winner and considered one of the more important chefs in the world, genuinely likes Domino’s pizza.
I want to be in that place where I can simultaneously push the envelope of my own learning and appreciation of the sophisticated, but be humble enough (especially in this Lenten season), to appreciate the most basic, simple and trite sayings. What a shame it would be if the most familiar phrases or lyrics no longer touched the cockles of my heart?
This is something that I have been eschewing for so long, but I am reminded of the first Sunday school song I learned as a child. Let it be enough.
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to him belong
They are weak but he is strong
Oh, yes Jesus loves me
Yes Jesus loves me for the Bible tells me so