A couple of weeks ago I ran my second marathon. It was a much more enjoyable experience than my first one last year. Probably due to not eating chocolate every day, not hoping I could get through it by downing 15 energy gels and not holding my pee in for much longer than is acceptable for the average human bladder while running 26.2 miles.
A couple of weeks before it though I hit the training wall. This is the moment when you are fed up of running for months and months. When you are sick of timing yourself, for running the same routes, for having to run not out of enjoyment but because of some stupid promise you made yourself and then told other people about.
So I tweeted this
“Bloody marathon. I can’t wait to get my life back.”
A tweet born out of frustration and sheer tiredness of thinking about the marathon every day. I was fed up. Normally this would be a pretty negative tweet in any case but this was different, being that I wrote it just 24 hours after the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
At the time I wasn’t even thinking about Boston. I had heard about what happened but then went to bed and got up kind of forgetting that it happened.
It wasn’t until I was out on an 18 mile training run (the likely source of my annoyance that day) when Brittany text and called me about my tweet that the full uncompassionate effect of my tweet would have hit me. Thankfully Brittany had deleted my tweet from twitter and facebook before most of anyone, especially my US friends and family would have had a chance to read it.
There was no malice in my intentions. Boston was literally not even on my mind. It was an innocent mistake. Stupid, not thought through yet innocent.
Sometimes we say stupid things. Sometimes we give those things a larger platform than they would normally get at a party. Sometimes they are intentionally meant to provoke, sometimes we just don’t think.
So when John Piper made his tweets a couple of days quoting Job after the tornado in Oklahoma you can bet I was ready to be gracious and wait for an explanation for them before I became all self righteous and angered by them right?
They pissed me off. I was angered and took a great amount of offense by them. How could he have been so tactless and unloving? How could he not think of the people that had died and the lives that would need to be rebuilt? Or the lives that couldn’t be rebuilt? How could he say something so awful?
The truth is I knew exactly how he could because I had done so a few weeks before.
Other than a couple of things he has written which have been incredibly helpful to me personally and when thinking about God, I am not a big John Piper follower. I have ideas about God that I know he would disagree with profusely, as likewise I him. But we do have one thing in common. We both tweeted incredibly stupid tweets after a major incident which caused many deaths and destroyed lives. The incidents not the tweets that is.
There has been a lot of anger and disappointment due to John Piper’s tweets and rightly so. The fact it is John Piper should not make it all right. The fact he has written stuff that has encouraged and built up millions of Christians does not mean his tweets should be overlooked.
We may both have made irresponsible tweets recently but we also have something hugely different. On Twitter John has a following of just under half a million people. I have just under 200!
Big difference. I received almost no flack while John has had entire blog posts dedicated to it (who has time for that right?! ) while my wife told me I made a stupid mistake but it was ok, it was fixed. Over.
I have strong feelings about his tweets and his ideas and the damage that it could cause none more than the picture it gives of God as sending natural disasters as punishment for sins when instead we miss a chance to show that God is saddened and heartbroken when events like this happen and is with us right bang in the midst of pain and suffering. Not on the outside looking in saying “I told you so”.
But if I am to be angered by such comments from John Piper or Pat Robertson or anyone else who I disagree with then I need to lump myself in with them too. Because even though I don’t want to admit it things I say or do everyday probably hurt people and damage their ideas of God just as much, if not more sometimes.
The truth is most people aren’t as aware of his tweets as we have made out and this will soon pass. God is still God, he won’t change and the world won’t implode because of this. In the same way that Rob Bell’s books won’t cause Christianity to turn in on itself and lead people to Hell or how Mark Driscoll’s comments on women won’t stop many of us being wholeheartedly for women in major leaderships positions in Church.
None of us thankfully have that power. God’s true nature may be expressed beautifully in what all of us say sometimes but he is never defined by what we say. He is much better than our ideas about Him. Our words do have effects but we have a choice to disagree and then focus on what we do believe and give less time to fighting and more to following our hearts.
Otherwise we may actually implode.
Farewell to that!
For more on why we may disagree in the first place about God check out Don Miller’s blog at Storyline