Wednesday, January 31, 2007

One day, one room

Last night, my hubby and I caught this week’s God-talking episode of House, Fox’s medical drama that follows the cases of recent Emmy-winner Hugh Laurie as the eccentric, caustic, damaged but brilliant doctor. The show occasionally dips into the realm of religion and faith, with House always the skeptic (though, at least in my opinion, seems to at some level harbor a glimmer of hope that he might be proven wrong).

Most of the God-talk in this episode, which focused on House’s interaction with a rape victim named Eve, was murky and felt rather token (what I wouldn’t give to see faith portrayed as at least somewhat reasonable rather than just a feeling or need to believe). But there was a moment in the show that I thought captured something to which followers of Jesus can (and should) relate.

That moment came as Eve was chastising House for lying to her about an abusive experience he supposedly endured, which he lied about in order to appear as if he was identifying with her own rape experience. She rightly senses that House has suffered in his own life, and wants him to be honest with her. House, who has a difficult time (to say the least) talking about personal experiences with anyone, isn’t sure how to deal with Eve, and his attempt to placate her isn’t lost on her. When she confronts him, he retorts that his “lie” was true for someone.

“But not in this room,” she says.

House, at a loss to understand why she wants to continue to talk with him and not a rape counselor or another doctor, rants about how there are thousands of people who have suffered horrible things outside her hospital room, and asks her: “Do you base your whole life on somebody you got stuck in a room with?!”

“I’m going to base this moment on who I’m stuck in a room with,” Eve retorts. “That’s what life is. It’s a series of rooms. And who we get stuck in those rooms with adds up to what our lives are.”

And that gives House pause—as it should us.

This image gets at the “loving others” part of Jesus’ grand summary of all commands, to love God and love others. Part of loving others is seeing them as we encounter them. Part of love is paying attention—actually being in the room with whoever we are in the room with.

How do we do this? Not like House, who was trying to be something he wasn’t. The young woman just wanted him to be honest, to take her seriously and to be real.

And that is what Jim Henderson in Evangelism without the Additives gets at so well: “Somehow we must rediscover the power and attractiveness of simply being ourselves,” he writes:

The beauty and truth of this simple, ordinary approach to connect with others is that it doesn’t get hung up on religion and rules and external trappings. There isn’t a right way and a wrong way to listen intently to a friend talk about her hurts and doubts and struggles. It just takes a Christian who is willing to stop long enough to pay attention.

Simply put, people aren’t shopping for religion; they’re looking for something that’s real. Jesus is at the center of reality and has commissioned us to invite others into his reality by living it and loving them. So just be yourself. That’s as good as it’s going to get. And when you do this simple thing, it intrigues people.
This also gets at our motivation for “being in the room.” Are we there to fix people, like House was (dismally) trying to do? Or are we there because we genuinely care and love them? Because they hurt and we want to walk with them? Because we hurt too, and are willing to share our own struggles? If we are really walking with Jesus, then it is through our own struggles and weakness that he will be revealed. If we are really walking with Jesus, then our lives will reveal him as we walk with others.

Jesus doesn’t need a program, plan or agenda to draw people to him. He’ll do it by his Spirit, and because we’re walking with him, we are a part of that. We’re partnering with God in the adventure of Kingdom-coming.

Awhile back, I started being intentional about this—being in the room with whomever I’m with, so to speak. Without an agenda, I try to simply walk, drink coffee, share transparently with and listen carefully and prayerfully to whomever I’m with. Sometimes, I learn lots from these moments—whether I’m with people who are walking with Jesus or not. Sometimes, they tell me they’re learning something too. Sometimes Jesus comes up. Sometimes he doesn’t, but I’m trying to always—always—be ready to talk about him. He’s at the center of my life. I can’t help it. And lately, I realized that this decision to really see people has somehow made my life abundantly denser, richer, fuller and deeper—another of those wonderful effects of walking with Jesus.

This image—our lives being made up of a series of rooms in which we encounter people—should give us pause to ask ourselves, How are we living and interacting in those rooms? Because it is in those rooms that the Kingdom grows and spreads: in our encounters with others.

(Images: from “One Day, One Room” copyrighted by FOX; book cover via Amazon) housectgy

6 comments:

Ginger said...

What a great post. Lots to think about. I, too, have been trying to "be there" in conversations in the last few months. To me, this is a much more authentic way of interaction that any agenda of evangelism or self-serving storytelling.

Thanks. Wish I'd seen the episode you write about.

Lorna said...

brilliant writing Carmen. Thanks :)

Carmen Andres said...

ginger and lorna, thank you so much for taking the time to comment. i'm encouraged by your words and that this resonates with you as well. many blessings.

Beth said...

I had just finished watching my recording of it when I found your entry yesterday. For whatever reason, I'm completely fascinated with House.

I've always asked myself "how does someone who doesn't believe in God getup in the morning?" If one doesn't believe in a higher Purpose and Guiding, then why bother getting out of bed?

And, it's like the House character is the antithesis of everything I value and believe - in a matter of speaking. The show's writers have given this position a voice in House. Now I can hear the reasoning. And, I feel like I now have a glimpse inside some folks' minds and it might just make me a better witness!

LutheranChik said...

One thing I notice in TV programs and films broaching the subject of "God, the universe and everything" is the inherent sexism of the story lines. Men are usually noble, rational skeptics with hearts of gold; it's those emotional little ladies who have the faith and the numinous experiences. Even The Waltons had that subtext of faithful wife/unbelieving spouse. I just get so sick of it.

Deb said...

I did not see this episode - I think I need to watch for the re-run (darn! wish I had tivo!)

Thanks for the reflection on it... BTW - LOVE the Jim Henderson book!!!

:)
d