When I travel somewhere, one of the things I get most excited about is trying the food that my destination is famous for. I couldn’t wait to try pasta in Italy or créme brulée in France. When in Chicago, I wouldn’t be caught dead at a Pizza Hut. Chicago deep-dish all the way, baby.
But being on the other side of the tourist trade has led to some interesting observations. People sometimes ask me for recommendations on where to eat for “real French food.” I can identify in that, when I’m somewhere, I want to see something unaffected by commercialization, technology, and human traffic. I want to sit at a French café and watch cheery red bicycles drift by with bouquets of poppies in the front basket. I want to see an impeccably dressed woman with a bobbed haircut a la Louise Brooks walking her poodle (which never ever poops on the sidewalk) and carrying a steaming baguette. I want to hear a soundtrack that involves an accordion (and not the drunk guy playing on the metro).
I just want some authenticity in my experience, for goodness sakes.
We have so many images shoved into our faces and so many messages fed to us that it leaves us with a desire for something real. We have been marketed to until we hunger for something, anything, that isn’t being hawked to us. Where is that restaurant that none of the tourists know about? We long to find these important unique experiences because we want something authentic. We want something made in France, not in China. (Unless China is where we are visiting, in which case yes, we must have something made in China.)
If we come away without these experiences, we may find ourselves disappointed or lost.
While itinerating, a pastor that I have great respect for asked me, “Kelly, how do we get young people into the church? What can we do to draw them in?” I didn’t hesitate, because the meeting that morning had already answered his question.
“Pastor,” I said, “my generation has grown up on MTV. You will never impress us with your graphics, your music, or your videos. It may be impressive in the ‘church’ world, but you will never blow our minds with it. But no one will tell us the truth. Everyone is trying to sell us something and we can see through everything because of it. We don’t even care anymore if it hurts our feelings or is hard to hear – we are craving truth. We are craving authenticity, and we are craving the presence of God.”
It’s normal in our human experience to seek out authenticity – something untouched and unaffected by our world. The presence of God is always beautiful, always authentic, always real. May we as the Church rise up to experience this authentic presence of God in our day-to-day lives and may we share the truth of Christ with those around us.