I’m a big fan of The Amazing Race (TAR).
For years, I talked about being a contestant on that show. My husband and I considered auditioning together. He’d do all the challenges that involved putting your head under water, and I would do the word-related challenges. Together, we’d travel ’round the world—backpacks bobbing along behind us—and we’d share the adventure of a lifetime. We would work out, religiously, in the months leading up to the taping of the show, and we’d come up with some witty name for our partnership. We wondered how the producers would label us. Would they focus on the fact we’ve been married nearly thirty years? Would we be dubbed the Midwestern transplants? Would they choose to call us ministers? And, how much say would we have in the matter?
This made us think about editing. I tried to imagine what would happen if the producers, working in conjunction with the show’s editors, chose to only show the very worst in H and me. I’d come across as whiny and stubborn. Bossy, even. One of the cameras might catch me rolling my eyes behind H’s back as we hunkered down and belly crawled through a field of llama manure. Or, in my complete and all-consuming exhaustion, they might film me saying something utterly ridiculous and embarrassing; something that reveals my real self—the one I try to hide in the day-to-day.
Then one day, while I was still dreaming about auditioning for TAR, my son got a job working on a different show, one that was somehow connected to The Amazing Race, and we all had to agree we wouldn’t try to be on any shows connected with TAR. Including TAR. Bummer.
I thought about all of this while watching a recent episode of TAR. It was getting down to the wire, and emotions between the teams were running high. Everyone was waving their true colors for all the world to see and one of the racers on one particular team sat down in front of the cameras for one of those interviews they do—sort of to help give context and background (and drama!) for what’s going on. The two racers were talking about their opponents, and one of these two said of the other team, “They’re NLU.”
“NLU?” the teammate asked.
“Yeah. Not like us.”
Yikes! I may have said out loud to the television.
Then, in my head, I started doing the whole pharisee thing. Remember that story? The one where the pharisee and the tax collector went to pray and the pharisee got all high and mighty, saying, “Thank you, God, for not making me like him,” (meaning, of course, like the tax collector). I sat there on my couch, shaking my head at that TAR contestant, chastising her for her unacceptable vileness. I was on a roll, I tell you, and it was not pretty. Not like us? I was saying to the screen. What do you mean? Where do you get off, deciding who’s worthy and who’s not? Not only are you sounding discriminatory, but you’ve actually given your selectivism an acronym! Geez, I thought. I’m so glad I am not like you.
Yep. I was acting just like that pharisee.
Now, let me pause here and let you know, I’d much rather be writing about something different. I am not proud to admit to you my propensity toward these things. I so desire to have reached the end of this journey, received my certificate, and walked across the finish line. But that’s just it. This is a journey, with pit stops and setbacks along the way, right there on the same path as the victories and shining moments.
Just because I talk about breaking down all the walls we’ve built up to keep one another at a distance doesn’t mean I’ve got it figured out. As far as I can tell, God doesn’t really operate that way. He doesn’t wait for us to get it right before he signs us up to be part of the solution. He seems to enjoy the process better that way. And, it’s quite possible, getting us involved before we’ve figured it out is one of the best ways for real transformation to take place, and to take hold for the long term. (It’s probably also a good strategy for keeping us from taking all the credit when it does get figured out).
My tendency to NLU you is not news to me. It’s just that, sometimes, I get comfortable and I need reminding, and sometimes God uses a craftily edited (non)reality show to bring to my attention all the ways I’ve acronym-ized the world, and the beautiful people God put in it.
Well, thank God for grace. First, from Jesus and then, from people just like us, and (especially) from people not at all like us.
Are you an acronym-izer? Do you tend to gravitate toward people who look like you, think like you, believe like you, vote like you? You are not alone. What is one thing you can do today to begin to tear down the walls between you and people who may not be like you?