The good news is that the writers’ strike is over.
The bad news is that 24 won’t be returning until January 2009.
I confess: I’m a 24 junkie. I love the heart-pounding action, the heroic--although often ethically compromised--Jack Bauer (and it’s so great that Kiefer Sutherland, an actor I’ve always felt was quite good but often ended up in not-so-good movies, finally got a role he can sink his teeth into), the complicated storytelling (which, admittedly, goes awry from time to time–but I imagine if I were trying to write a show to fit this format, I would lose my creative mojo at some points as well).
I simply like watching that show–and 10 months until Jack Bauer’s next very bad day seems like an eternity.
Now, you might be wondering how I could possibly experience better living through television while watching a show like 24. Let’s face it–it’s entertainment. It’s not going to change my life and it’s not going to necessarily bring me new insights into faith (although, you certainly can see on this show how dark someone’s life can become when God is left out of the picture). But you know what? Sometimes I’m just fried at the end of the day and I’d like nothing more than to spend an hour watching Jack Bauer save the world and yell, "We’re running out of time!"
I have another confession: I’ve struggled with how "right" or "wrong" this is at times. And that is a very good thing, actually–I should evaluate my tv viewing habits and the place they have in my life.
But this also points to something bigger in my life that I’ve struggled with. You see, for many, many, many years, I had placed this artificial divide between my Spiritual Side (going to church, reading the Bible, teaching Sunday school, praying) and Everything Else (working, grocery shopping, going to the movies with friends, cleaning the bathroom, watching television). Problem was, I live a lot (a whole lot) of my life actually doing the Everything Else (you can’t get around it–houses need to be cleaned, groceries need to be bought), and I struggled long and hard with this feeling that my life as a believer was so unspiritual.
A couple of things helped turn it around for me. First, somewhere along the way, I realized that the people in the Bible (both the heroes of the faith and the cautionary tales) had Everything Else sides to their lives–it’s just that the Bible simply didn’t record every minute of these people’s existence. I was so consumed by the very spiritual acts in Scripture (which isn’t a bad thing, by the way) that I somehow forgot Mary would have had to go to market to get food for Joseph and Jesus, Jacob probably spent some time around the supper table laughing and talking with his sons, David had a rather mundane sheep-watching job before becoming king. And all these Everything Else’s didn’t make these people less spiritual–they just made them human. Like me.
Second, something happened in a fast food restaurant several years ago that opened my eyes to the idea that God can use anything–and everything. I was there with a group of friends (all fellow believers) eating food that was bad for us, and we were laughing and talking and just enjoying each other’s company. An older woman who had been eating by herself stopped by our table on her way out and asked, "Can I say something to you all?" Oh, dear, I thought, we were too loud and we’ve given this poor woman a headache. "I just wanted to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed watching you at this table," she said. Well, that was a surprise. "You don’t see people laughing like you all have been laughing enough these days. I can tell you’re good friends. And that just made my day." I can guarantee you my friends and I had not been having any kind of spiritual conversation over our fries, and yet we had put a smile on this woman’s face by just being who we are. I have to think God was pleased by that.
And that’s when I finally understood that my Everything Else side of life can impact people (including myself!) in ways I never imagine. My Everything Else isn’t separate from my Spiritual Side–God can use it all.
Author Rob Bell captures this way of living in three beautiful words: "Everything is spiritual." It has amazed me the freedom, the joy, the contentment, the excitement I’ve experienced in following Jesus when I’ve allowed this idea to permeate the Everything Else side of my life. When I grocery shop, I’m reminded to be kind to the harried and hassled people all around me, including that overworked cashier (I’m fairly certain there is a biblical principle that says, in effect, "Thou shalt not grumble at a cashier when someone with 23 items muscles themselves into the 15-items-or-less express lane in front of thee–it is not the cashier’s fault.").
You know what pops into my head sometimes now when I’m mindlessly watching 24? Pray for Kiefer Sutherland. He’s been arrested more than once for DUI, and I pray God would bring people into his life to speak truth and healing before he hurts himself or someone else.
And have you ever heard the acoustics in your bathroom? Take whatever praise song, hymn, or Switchfoot melody is swimming through your head at the moment and belt it out while you clean. American Idol, eat your heart out.
God can use it all. He wants to use it all.
And that’s very good news.