For some years now I’ve been persistently drawn to the dichotomy and tension between relevance and irrelevance.
About the time we moved to Denver 13 years ago I bought a subscription to a new Christian magazine called Relevant. The magazine brought to the forefront the music, news, and spiritual issues that were the zeitgeist (at least for young Christians) of the new millennium.
It was around this same time that Christians who were going through a metamorphosis of faith began expressing themselves and finding a new sense of community via weblogs.
I credit these emerging mediums and the online community that kept me on the rusty rails of seminary and moving forward in the world of Christian ministry.
The relevance of it all was that it kept some of the loneliness at bay and helped me recognize that I too might have something to say.
That was then… And I’m grateful for the relevance.
Now as I edge ever so slightly toward four decades of life what feels most relevant is the stuff of irrelevance.
A significant aspect of this gravity has had much to do with how I read the Bible these days.
Just this past week in both my personal reading and my prep for various sermons and teaching these are the 3 characters that caught my attention.
- Ananias of Damascus (Acts 9): The guy God asked to help transform Saul into Paul, healing him and providing the next steps.
- An Unnamed Slave Girl (2 Kings 5): trafficked to Syria. Probably between the ages of 7-10, she’s the one that told her master Naaman how his leprosy could be healed.
- Pharaoh’s Daughter (Exodus 2): She has compassion on the baby Moses eventually becoming his adopted mom.
What each of these characters have in common is they essentially become footnotes, marginalized irrelevants, in a larger story containing the more prominent hero. These characters and so many others throughout the stories of scripture drastically re-route the historical narrative and often re-arrange the standard way power is perceived.
Throughout the course of an ordinary day, it's likely that before I leave home my sons have said something important to me. I arrive at work where I'm confronted with 50 tasks and the folks off the street bombard me with their urgencies.
How often do I marginalize these voices on my way to the relevance?
In January of 1986 I was standing in the waiting room of a doctor's office when the television paralyzed us as the space shuttle Challenger exploded into pieces. It's become widely known that the primary cause of that tragedy was overlooking the seemingly irrelevant - an O-ring. A small o-ring seal was compromised and it changed everything.
What a ridiculously extensive list we could make of the small and unnoticeable stuff throughout history that only became a big deal in retrospect.
The stuff of irrelevance.
The places with no wi-fi connection.
The people who won't offer you the praise or returns on your "investments" that you think you want.
The things that bloom and beautify our world that won't make it to instagram.
The missteps and mistakes of our story. The seemingly forgettable moments of agonizing despair and humiliation.
It's impossible to pay attention to everything but what if we practiced a disciplined attention to the stuff of cultural irrelevance?
How might the story - how might our story - change?