Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Toothpaste and Life

To piggyback on my recent entry about disposable razors, I figured I'd talk a little bit about toothpaste.

Toothpaste is a big deal, if you didn't know.

I'm not joking.

Toothpaste can make or break relationships. There are two types of people in this world, the "squeezers" and the "rollers." I bet you already know what I'm talking about don't you?

Simply put, there are people who, in their quest to get the sticky oozey gel out of the funny little tube, squeeze it. Regardless of the location on the tube they are squeezing.

Their philosophy is this: "As long as the toothpaste comes out, and I can brush my teeth, it's all good. Doesn't matter where you squeeze the tube."

These people drive the "rollers" absolutely insane. Perhaps you know a roller. Perhaps you are a roller...

Rollers insist that "the way" to do the toothpaste thing is to begin from the bottom. As you use the toothpaste, you need to roll it up from the bottom. Seeing a squeezed tube of toothpaste really kind of messes with rollers. It doesn't fit in their minds. Sometimes this causes agitation, other times it causes silent disgruntlement, but there is always conflict in a roller's life when they come in contact with squeezers.

Why am I bringing this up?

I think that relationship with God is a lot like the relationship of toothpaste to teeth.

We constantly search for the meaning. We crave something that, when applied to our lives will bring us health and take away the ugliness. Much like toothpaste does for the teeth, it freshens breath, breaks up decay, and guards against plaque. Admittedly, when it comes down to dental hygiene, toothpaste is a key player in creating happy mouths.

Don't we want this with God?

Don't we desire something fresh and new within us?

Don't we want to have the junk broken up, and to be protected from the ugliness that could ultimately destroy us?

Well God, and your dentist respectively, desire these things as well.

I remember going to the dentist as a kid, sometimes when he'd clean our mouths it'd go well, that is, provided we had been brushing consistently like he had instructed us to at our last visit. But, there were other times when our visits didn't go so wonderfully. I had a few more of these visits than my sisters, I think.

The times I hadn't been brushing, and the day of the appointment came around, I would brush like a fanatic. As if brushing that day would change a year of being inconsistent. The dentist probably knew exactly what was up. I, however, thought I was super clever and that he didn't suspect a thing... till he had to get out the cleaning scrapers.

I hated those.

They hurt, and as he scraped between and on the teeth, breaking up and removing the deposits, he would gently remind me that I could avoid these things by just taking his advice this time around.

I was always really motivated after that.

Some years I'd do well. Others, not so much...

I think that God is the same way. He wants what is best for our health, but he gives us the choice to do things our way. Eventually we come back to him, and we have to let him clean up all the junk and buildup that we have created in our lives.

Those moments are some of the most painful times in life, yet when we are through we feel renewed. We feel ready to face things again. To pursue things the right way.

I think that religion is a lot like the toothpaste tube, and I will share why I believe it is right now.

In a recent post about doctrines, I noted that the thing that initially set Christianity apart from other religions of the time was the concept that God was beyond human understanding. He wasn't something the Hebrews could make some sort of a statue out of, or carve a likeness of. It was actually forbidden, because it would be such a disservice to this God who is so far beyond human comprehension.

The toothpaste tube is like religion, in the regard that it isn't the point.

Nobody goes to the store, to buy a tube for toothpaste without the toothpaste in it. That would be a pretty odd thing to do wouldn't it?

The actual point is what comes from the tube, and its implications for the overall health of your teeth and mouth.

We see squeezers and rollers around us every single day.

Squeezers tend to understand that the point isn't the tube, but rather the toothpaste. They pursue obtaining the end result in various different ways, different squeezes in different places along the tube.

Rollers don't like this method.

The religion of a roller is static. It's fixed. There is this concept of a "right" way to pursue God, which sounds very nice, if you are a roller, but it really isn't very practical. Not every grows up in sunday school. Not everyone gets confirmed.

Some people grow up in religious homes where sexual abuse was rampant.
Some people have grown up being told by religious people that they are going to hell.

Is it any wonder why they might not want to join a church small group?
Is it any wonder why they may not want to affiliate with a corporate body of Christians?
Is God somehow less interested in these sorts of people, because they won't "do" religion the right roller way?

Rollers have a lot of difficulty relating to people who do not swim through their channels to connect with God.

Sometimes it takes a squeezer to meet this person where they're at.

Someone who can, in that moment, say "I know you've seen it done this way, but there are other ways."
Someone who can identify God in ways that the rigid, rule focused way doesn't.

Some people like the roller way of religion.
There is one way to go about obtaining the end result, that's it. Period.

Perhaps there are merits, but there are also possibilities that can be missed in these moments because, as you know, regardless of how one rolls or squeezes the tube, toothpaste still comes out.

Whether you are a roller or a squeezer, please remember that the tube of religion isn't the point.

The point of it all is a God who wants what is best for those he has created. His is a way the leads to a new, fresh and better life.

A life where the junk is cleared away, and freedom can be found.

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