09 September 2005

Life According to Oprah


After dropping Katrina off at preschool this morning, I came home and ironed while watching Oprah. (How stereotypical can I be?) Anyway, the show was about people taking risks to live their dreams. Phil Keoghan, who has a book and a reality TV show called "No Opportunity Wasted," was a guest, and he introduced several stories of people from his show. One lady was a small-town radio DJ who auditioned for a guest spot at a top New York radio station. (And made it, of course--what self-respecting radio station would turn down anyone with a modicum of talent who brings along cameras from a nationally syndicated TV show?)

So Oprah and Phil talked about taking risks, working hard, making the most of your life, doing what it takes to follow your dreams. All very inspiring and rah-rah. And as I stood there and ironed, I started thinking, "what are my dreams? Now that Katrina is getting older, what do I want to do with my life?"

After the show, I sat down and read the devotional in The Upper Room for today. The Scripture reading was Mark 8:34-38, beginning "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it."

The world according to Oprah, and American culture in general, is that true living is doing what it takes to make you happy, or successful...whatever your dream is. But true living, according to Jesus, is denying yourself, focusing on following Jesus, giving your life to God.

I never really noticed the sharp contrast before. These words of Jesus call us to a radically different mindset than that of the inspiring stories of people achieving their dreams. But, really, I think there's nothing wrong with goals, aspirations, dreams. In many cases, I believe God gifted us with them.

Perhaps what's different is the focus, the attitude, the willingness to delay or give up our dreams if God or life circumstances ask us to do so. Am I willing to follow Jesus, no matter where it takes me? And not just in the big picture, "yeah, I'm a Christian, I gave my life to Christ." For believers in the affluent, tolerant Western world, it's relatively easy to feel like the deal is done with a bit of church attendance, a little devotional reading and prayer, and then go on with the rest of our day. But these words tell me there's more to this Christian thing than that.

You know, like actually following Jesus.

Just don't ask me how that works. I'm still trying to figure it out.

4 comments:

Wendy said...

But don't you think that God can plant a dream in our hearts? I mean, really, do you think the "affluent, tolerant Western world" gave me the desire to work with very low-functioning, odiferous, often homeless, mentally ill people? I don't think that you necessarily have to feel a stab of self-sacrifice to make God happy.

Jennifer said...

Well, sure. That why I said that God often gifts us with dreams. It's more the focus...are we focusing on how to make ourselves happy? Or on how to serve God/others? I'm not talking about a martyr attitude: oh, woe is me, the cross I have to bear. Jesus never laid a "cross" on anyone. He invites us to a different way of living and thinking.

And Wendy, you have made many sacrifices for your work. Money and status, for example. Possibly peace of mind, at times. I don't know that you really think of that as being self-sacrificing, because I would venture a guess that what you get out of it often makes up for what you give up. (Not always, I'm sure :) )

I think that when you are truly called to do something, the self-actualization part comes naturally. My bone of contention comes from putting that "self" part up front.

As always when I write this type of thing, I'm talking to and about myself and my own attitudes ... about what I'm learning or need to learn.

Jennifer said...

Well, sure. That why I said that God often gifts us with dreams. It's more the focus...are we focusing on how to make ourselves happy? Or on how to serve God/others? I'm not talking about a martyr attitude: oh, woe is me, the cross I have to bear. Jesus never laid a "cross" on anyone. He invites us to a different way of living and thinking.

And Wendy, you have made many sacrifices for your work. Money and status, for example. Possibly peace of mind, at times. I don't know that you really think of that as being self-sacrificing, because I would venture a guess that what you get out of it often makes up for what you give up. (Not always, I'm sure :) )

I think that when you are truly called to do something, the self-actualization part comes naturally. My bone of contention comes from putting that "self" part up front.

As always when I write this type of thing, I'm talking to and about myself and my own attitudes ... about what I'm learning or need to learn.

Wendy said...

What???? I've given up money and status????? You mean other people make more than me? Why hasn't anyone told me that?!? Now I'm bummed... ;) But as for status? That's the great part of living in my head. In there, my status is quite lofty, not at all compromised.