Ever just had enough and, instead of finding a healthy way to vent the steam, you let something ridiculous and inane have it via social media? I witnessed somebody go through it this week. The post was about people driving slowly, too slowly for the author and their agony, over the Mountain Road. There was, as per the rules of the internet, opinion and outrage on all sides. The nuances of the original argument could be distilled as;
“get out of my way!”
We’ve all been there so go easy on the tutting and eye-rolling.
Chewing on this persons frustration and annoyance, wondering what the ‘real issues’ are fuelling a pointless outburst, trying to work out motive and end goal objectives helped me think about some brittle boundaries of community.
We’re all guilty, I think, of public displays of our needs not being met. Our outbursts might not feel (to us) as petulant or ridiculous as investing precious time in shouting at strangers on the internet, specifically about people driving 49mph over the mountain, but we’ve all got a version of it. Parking spaces. Cost of bread. Dishwasher loading preferences. The young. The old. Football team opposition. That neighbour. Bible translation. Who puts the bin out.
Something insignificant becomes the load-bearing beam we pull out from our lives in the moment pent up frustration can no longer be housed in us. The cat (metaphorically, Kurt Zouma!) gets kicked, the head goes, strangers and loved ones endure the brunt of our emotional deflation and drive down the mountain.
Why do we do it?
For loads of reasons! Some I’m not qualified to expound and others we don’t have time or space for here but one of our dazzlingly repugnant recurring and unredeemed motivators for emotional implosion is ‘Main Character Syndrome’ (MCS).
MCS is living life as if it were a movie and you are the main character.
Everything and everyone revolves around you. The plot is written for your narrative arc. People in your world are simply bit-part actors, a supporting cast, propelling you on your life journey the rest of us have the privilege and honour to watch.
MCS is gross and we all have it.
Real community is real shared space. Places absent of the confirmation of friends or nearness of ideological neighbours. We get stuck in real traffic, other people want things I want and take things I might need. Shared space is massively inconvenient and the pinching and squeezing of inconvenience is, I believe, valuable to us. We need to wait in a queue every now and then, get concertinaed in 40mph frustration, and rub shoulders with real people in real community. For the most part we can all play nicely and get along but the punctuation of frustration reminds us getting our own way all the time isn’t the same thing as seeking the Kingdom of God and it’s influence on earth. Parts of me need to see the Kingdom come because I still can’t point people to Jesus when my path is impeded.
Moaning about time spent on the mountain isn’t new.
Exodus chapter thirty two gives us a golden glimpse of MCS asserting itself among the people of promise. Thirteen chapters earlier Moses has ascended the hill to hear from God and it is taking longer than some of the community would like. Some feel the timeline for what they’d like to see done isn’t being achieved within their timeframe and expectations and so they force the issue.
Tired of waiting and being made to go slow in a moment of instruction, the frustration boils over and a calf is created.
A symbol of their own health, wealth and success is forged to get things moving again. The venting of frustration has found a figurehead to gather around to ensure the people get what they want. An ultimately tragic and painful example of collective MCS.
Frustrated with the amount of time Moses was on the mountain misses the point of his representative expedition. The people were before God but it was perceived as the wrong move, taking too long and inconvenient. We must be careful moralising these occasions but this alpine aberration is worth thinking about. The presence of God isn’t convenient for our smash-and-grab, succeed at any cost, “get out of my way”, 2.4 children-20 days of paid holiday-catchment area, externalised display of health, wealth and success, existence.
We are not the main character. Jesus is.
In the parallels, lessons and foreshadowing pointing us to Jesus, there are differences between cost and sacrifice - the people paid for their golden calf with gold they had, it cost them something of monetary worth but had no eternal value. They sacrificially gave absolutely nothing in an attempt to pay for and force what they wanted. A statue of their own perceived virility and strength giving themselves permission to move at their own pace.
This is not how the Kingdom invades the earth. The King does not meet with His creation because they demand it and are prepared to pay nothing for it.
If God has taken you to the mountain (when God appears, speaks, and instructs you) take your time. History suggests forcing the issue to move at your preferred pace isn’t the Kingdom way.
Jesus is the main character of our story - the camera pans to Him, He gets to monologue, He gets His way, our story ends well when we hide it in His.
Brittle community boundaries begin to bend when they are soaked in grace. Grace is revealed to us in real places walking with real people. We cannot hide away in the isolation of an empire of our own making. We have to be present in the places and spaces that other people occupy to be reminded that I cannot force the Kingdom of God to move in my ways, on my timeline and for my convenience. Called to the mountain I receive the awareness of a way of life being offered to me that changes my role in the story. No longer is the goal my goal and my glory. Even things in my life made of gold and glittering at the foot of the mountain are to be ignored. No more public explosions because frustration has conquered me again. No more private fury because somebody missed their mark in my production. Instead, the relief of ‘thy sweet mountain air’ not because of place or person but in His presence I am new and can live again.