“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.
That’s the advice the gambler gives the younger man riding a train to nowhere. You have to know when and where to make your entrances in life; and you always want to know where the exit is. Natalie Grant made the news last Sunday evening. It wasn’t her singing that did it, or her explicit Christian testimony. She made the news because she left the Grammys early. There is great speculation as to the tipping point that caused her leave-taking. (Was it the Satanic Dance?) But from the perspective of many of us Christians there were any number of moments that might have shouted EXIT HERE.
Some who are not even particularly religious have expressed disappointment at the extent to which music award events have become about everything except the music. Really, do we need to have a mass wedding ceremony at the Grammys?
I have walked out of an event. It was a comedy club, and in the course of the evening it became known that I was a minister. The humor hadn’t been striking my funny bone. As the evening wore on I went from being uncomfortable to being embarrassed. And my wife got to the point of “I’ve got to get out of here!” So we left. As we exited, the comedian begged us to stay. “Oh Minister,” he cried out, “don’t leave!” I’ve often wondered if he got any laughs at our expense after we were gone. Did we escape a bad scene, or run away from an opportunity?
What did Natalie accomplish by her early exit? Was she right in leaving if, in her opinion, her religious and spiritual sensibilities were compromised by her presence? As she was walking out, the Twitterverse went a’flutter. People made accusations and assumptions. Some people rushed to her defense while others questioned the integrity of her faith.
When we walked out of the comedy club it did not make the papers the next day. Even if Twitter had been around I’m not sure I would have been ‘live-tweeting’ about it. But what Natalie went momentarily viral for, each of us face on a daily basis. Where are we going to be? Where are we going to stay? Is there a place we have to sink our roots into, and remain no matter what?
Nadia Bolz-Weber quotes a friend who commented that church is where we go to practice experiencing God. It’s not the only place to go. God is in the mountains and lakes, the wild places and the serene sunsets. But there is something about intentional Christian Community that is different from the unscripted moments of awe or the easy-to-anticipate dramatic sunset. Personally, I don’t have a problem with Natalie choosing to leave the Grammys Nor would I suggest that anyone who chose to remain was any less or more a “Christian” for it. But I want to challenge whoever is reading this to think about the places you go to, especially the faith community you attend (however you define “faith community”).
Remember when Jesus was teaching about “the bread of life” in John 6? Many chose to leave him because of how difficult this teaching was for them to understand. Turning to the Twelve, Jesus asked them: You don’t want to leave too, do you?
To whom would we go? replied Peter.
I wonder if we haven’t quite figured out yet that any commitment to “go to Jesus” requires a commitment to stay with him. And “going to Jesus” doesn’t work absent the willingness to be with each other.
What are your stories of staying and leaving? And do you ever struggle, wondering if you should walk away, run … or invest (risk) yourself right where you are?
A blessed Thursday.
Kenny Rogers – The Gambler