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It’s all McDonalds  //  Why we need to stop digging around for the last French fry and start seeking things of substance.

It’s all McDonalds
 

The other week my wife and I along with some friends had the opportunity to watch the standup comedian Jim Gaffigan. I’m not sure if you’ve ever caught his material, but for the most part, its down-right hilarious (Hot Pockets!) and at times a bit thought provoking. Halfway through his routine he got on the subject of McDonalds:

“We all know better, right? We’ve read the articles, seen those documentaries. It’s the same message: ‘Look, McDonalds is really bad for you. It’s very high in fat and calories and we don’t even know where the meat comes from!’ and we’re all like ‘that’s disgusting… [pause] I’ll have a Big Mac, a large fries and a two gallon drum of Diet Coke.’

…Cause there’s a McDonalds denial, and we all embrace it. You know? No one’s going in there innocent. We’re walking into a red and yellow building with a giant M over it. ‘What is this, a library? I’ll get some fries while I’m here.’”

Good for at least a chuckle, Gaffigan has a knack for pointing out what’s ridiculous and our comical hypocrisy with it. But as he continued, He briefly touched on something far deeper, and for just a second, it felt as if he was preaching to the packed house:

“I’m sure some of you are like, ‘Sorry, white trashy guy, I don’t eat McDonalds.’ I have friends that brag about not going to McDonalds. ‘Oh I would NEVER go to McDonalds…

Why are people acting like they’re better than McDonalds? You may have never set foot in a McDonalds, but you have your own McDonalds. Maybe instead of buying a Big Mac, you read US Weekly. That’s McDonalds. It’s just served up a little different. Maybe your McDonalds is telling yourself that Starbucks Frappuccino is not a milkshake. Or maybe you watch Glee. It’s all McDonalds.”

It’s all McDonalds. It got me thinking. All of these various guilty pleasures we indulge in and justify aren’t really any better; they’re all McDonalds. What I think Gaffigan is pointing a finger at is our propensity to judge someone else’s bad habits while overlooking our own. Sound familiar? Or at least, we find ourselves excusing our own indulgence because, by comparison, it doesn’t seem nearly as shameful as someone else’s.

Like the guy who late at night secretly drives through the fast food lane alone. Don’t look at me!

Having it My Way

All of this McDonalds talk got me thinking about other areas of my life where I might be living in some kind of fast food denial. For example, there are plenty of things that I call Sabbath that aren’t really Sabbath; plenty of things that I say I do to recharge my batteries, rest, and renew that don’t really do any of those things at all.

It might be crashing on the couch for a couple hours when I get home, sleeping in until noon on my day off, getting lost in a video game, or even indulging in novels about sparkly vampires. (For the record, I don’t.) It might be any of a number of things that feel good going down, but do little to help us recover. It’s all McDonalds.

I think we sometimes find ourselves going to these things because they feel like a welcomed relief from the daily pressures and grind of ministry. When I feel overwhelmed with the church, these fast food alternatives seem appealing. They’re like a medium order of fries and a milkshake – no nutritional value whatsoever, but nonetheless a welcome reprieve.

Seeking Safety

So why do we do it? Why do we find ourselves resting in ways that don’t really provide any meaningful rest? I think one reason is simply this: they feel harmless. They’re disconnected from our ministry and all of the pressures, expectations, and demands that have been draining our energy. They feel safe.

Is it just me or is it weird to think that we might feel the only safe place for us to rest is away from the church, away from the ministry, away from the God-stuff in our lives? Could it be that these safe little distractions feel like a better alternative in the moment, because we’ve conflated doing things for God and being with Him? Could we actually get to the point where in order to take a break from ministry, we feel like we must take a break from God?

“Yeah, yeah, you’re right. A salad would be better for me, but just let me enjoy my Big Mac in peace for a moment!”

Seeking the Sacred

It’s time for a radical reorienting of our taste buds. In many ways, we need to rediscover the transformative presence of God and redeem it from what we’ve let it become. I believe part of the answer is found in rediscovering a sense of the sacred.

When I say “sacred” all kinds of images might come to mind, things perhaps nostalgic or negative, but for the moment all I mean is this: Something sacred is something set apart, unique, other. It’s something protected from being encroached on by anything else.

For many youth workers with whom I talk the problem is all too familiar: Reading God’s word becomes preparing for the next lesson, spending time in silence becomes an opportunity to review my list of things to do, and spending time with others becomes a networking opportunity. We allow all kinds of good ministry things to encroach on the time we’ve set apart to recharge and renew. We let our doing of things invade our being with God. We lose the sense of sacred.

It’s only when we draw clear boundaries around those moments and unapologetically defend them that we’re able to recapture the simplicity of enjoying God and His presence. We may need to defend them from the expectations and demands of others. We may need to defend them from our own tendency to attempt to multitask.

In a quiet moment, determine in your hearts to make this time wholly set-apart and sacred. Nothing else encroaches on this moment. Nothing robs it of its meaning or purpose. Affirm to yourself and God, “I will be still and know that You are God. I will silence myself and listen. I will simply enjoy being in Your presence.” And then, simply rest in the love of God.

One last thing

Rediscovering the sacred will take time. It involves both putting on new practices and habits and laying down old appetites and patterns. Our spiritual palate requires time to shift toward better things. If I can encourage you, don’t expect things to change overnight, but commit yourself to the process that will lead you to more meaningful rest. In the end, not only will your soul be nourished, but your ministry will be renewed.

And don’t forget, it’s probably still okay to enjoy the occasional Happy Meal every now and then.

 

Aaron Brown
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Aaron Brown is an Assistant Professor of Student Ministry at Lancaster Bible College in Lancaster, PA. He attended Biola University and Talbot School of Theology. Before coming to LBC, he was the Sr. High Director at Living Word Community Church in Red Lion, PA. Aaron serves as the Project's editor and web guy.
  1. Jeremiah Dowling02-06-12

    Dude, I this was really challenging. Its funny how sometimes we can draw such profound things from media. This article was very timely for me, as I’ve been trying to wrestle through what it means for me to find those ‘sacred moments.’

    These weeks have been so busy, and I keep doing things in the name of ‘making a difference’, but yet missing out on the difference Christ can make in me. In some sense that is my McDonalds.

    Thanks for the thoughts bro. They were very encouraging!