Thursday, January 31, 2013

1 + 1 = 1

It just doesn't always work out well. You take one thing you like and add it to another thing you like; the results can be a whole lot less than satisfying.

For example; I really like fried onions on hamburgers, cheese steaks or with a nice piece of meat. I like my onions sauteed in butter till just golden brown. They add flavor and make the whole experience seem upscale as opposed to just plain, every day and garden variety. I also like cooked peaches. They are great in hot peach pie or cobbler. Cooked in butter, they are so tender and sweet, melting in your mouth with just a hint of sugar and cinnamon added to spice things up. Here 1 + 1 = 2.

Well by now you’re guessing that I did the unimaginable. Yes it’s true; I did make a dish combining both onions and peaches, cooking them together in a frying pan with butter. To say that the culinary results were less than satisfying would be an understatement of epic proportions. To say that it made me gag is historically accurate as I quickly took the limp mass of onions and peaches to the trash. There was no standing on ceremony or playing of “Taps” as they slid out of the pan and into the bottom of the plastic trash bag. There was momentary panic as I realized that the still hot peaches and onions might melt the plastic bag thereby enshrining the epicurean glob on the trash can itself. Thankfully, the NASA designed plastic trash bag maintained it structural integrity as it only melted a bit. In this case, 1 + 1 = -1.

This idea of adding two good things together with less than spectacular results is true in more than just cooking. Take war for example, it just doesn’t always work when you take one thing and add something else to it; the results can be dumb beyond belief. During World War II, the Nazi’s found this out when they created the Mistel, also known as Vati und Sohn (Daddy and Son) by stacking two planes together to create a single “super bomb.” They took a fighter and mounted it on top of a bomber loaded with explosives. Linking the two planes and their controls together, they created a single composite aircraft that was piloted from the fighter. Taking off as a single linked aircraft, the pilot guided the craft towards it target, releasing the bomber to self-detonate on impact. This little known technology was employed in the defense of Normandy on D-Day and some other operations in the European theater.

The idea sounded reasonably good, and there were early indications that this would work.  However,  there was one huge problem that no one foresaw. The combined aircraft was incredibly slow and awkward, making it an easy target for Allied fighters to hunt down and shoot out of the sky. After very limited use towards the end of the war, they were abandoned as a weapon. None of the combined aircraft survived the war; one fighter with its explosive bolts still intact is on display at the Imperial War Museum in London. Here 1 + 1 ≠ 2.

While cooking and war planes give us bad examples of trying to mix things together, so do our lives. We try to continually mix things together that will only wind up causing grief, pain and trouble. It’s like “The Deal” episode from Seinfeld;

Jerry: Because this... [friendship gesturing between them] is very good.

Elaine: [gesturing to the bedroom] And that would be good.

Jerry: That [repeating bedroom gesture] would be good too.

Jerry: See the idea's to combine this [friendship gesturing] and that [gesturing to the bedroom]. But this [friendship gesturing] cannot be disturbed.

Elaine: Yeah, we just want to take this [friendship gesturing] and... add that [gesturing to the bedroom].

Jerry: There you go.

Not only do we muddy the waters of life by mixing things together, we infect our relationship with God in the same way. We take a little bit of this, a little bit of that and mix it with a smidgen of something else only to create a Faith Frankenstein of who God is. We manufacture God with our personal likes, desires and imagination, winding up with a god idol of our own making. We choose who God is, who we are and how to reconnect with him. I have a friend in the Midwest that was raised in a Christian church setting who is mixing all sorts of ideas from around the religious universe. His picture of God is now an old man, benign, powerless, and not at all interested in our lives. Being left to fend spiritually for himself, he seeks out control and knowledge through crystals and personal empowerment through an impersonal power. My friend’s journey and conclusions are not at all unusual. I hear the same voyage of spiritual loneliness, emptiness and abandonment in many.

The really good news is that the complete opposite is true; God wants a deep, face-to-face, transparent personal relationship with us. He is not a far away, unknowable, impersonal power. We see his clear desire and message about this when the Bible describes Jesus as God who personally came here for us [1]. God is not trying to hide out; he’s reaching out to and for us. He’s so desires this kind of relationship that Jesus did whatever was necessary to reunite us, suffering and dying to restore us to God, our meaning and purpose in life and for all eternity

God offers us himself, and that’s where 1 + 1 really does equal 1.

Blessings - Chet

Chet Gladkowski speaks and writes on topics that touch on culture, life and faith through GLAD Associates. This article is taken from a chapter in his upcoming book.

[1]        John 1:1-4 We are writing to you about something which has always existed yet which we ourselves actually saw and heard: something which we had an opportunity to observe closely and even to hold in our hands, and yet, as we know now, was something of the very Word of life himself! For it was life which appeared before us: we saw it, we are eye-witnesses of it, and are now writing to you about it. It was the very life of all ages, the life that has always existed with the Father, which actually became visible in person to us mortal men. We repeat, we really saw and heard what we are now writing to you about. We want you to be with us in this—in this fellowship with the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son. We must write and tell you about it, because the more that fellowship extends the greater the joy it brings to us who are already in it. (JBP)

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