August 23, 2012
Just a few short miles from the campus of Gordon-Conwell lies a veritable oasis. Its golden arches welcome all visitors into the land of full stomachs and empty calories, of french fries and burgers, of happy meals and one seriously creepy clown. America may run on Dunkin but it needs to run because of…you guessed it…McDonald’s. Oh yes. Mickie-D’s my friends. I’m hungry just thinking about it. Now at this point, you probably have reacted in one of two ways:
To those of you in group 1, I ask you to indulge me for just a few minutes. Group 2 people…Hi, I’m Tim…let’s be best friends. Now, while I would love to discuss the finer points of McDonald’s cuisine, I am actually here in promotion of McDonald’s as an educational facility.
McDonald’s has been an institution of learning for me from an early age. At my 2nd birthday party (which took place at McDonald’s) I learned the value of being assertive after demanding that the employees change the rules of their scheduled game for me and my party guests. It worked and my mom blames this incident for my stubbornness. By middle school, I had learned the need for clear communication and healthy conflict management through various incorrect orders. In high school, I learned the simple truth of the importance of breath mints while failing to convince a high school teacher I did not, in fact, skip out on the cafeteria lunch to grab a double quarter-pounder off campus. Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned through McDonald’s, though, is in regards to relationships.
Meet my roommate Dave. Dave is definitely a fellow McDonald’s enthusiast. His favorite combo is a number 1, but he saves it for special occasions to save money. As his roommate, I have the privilege of knowing and communicating with Dave on a deeper level than your average student at Gordon-Conwell. We definitely share moments of deep conversation. But ya know what? Those moments aren’t manufactured; they are rarely planned. They usually stem from the random moments of life we share together. They are a byproduct of the car rides to church, the “how was your day?” conversations, and the trips to McDonald’s. Think about it. If I came in from class and said to Dave, “Hi Dave. I just got back from class. Please tell me your life story, hurts, hang-ups, desires, dreams, struggles, and secrets so that we can be close friends and share godly man-time/intimacy.” I would be a class-5 Creeper! But if I said “Hey Dave, let’s go grab some McDonald’s…” who knows what conversations would take place. We plan the time to spend together and let the rest stem from it. Our deep conversations branch off from “normal” conversations. Our moments of bonding grow from moments at McDonald’s. We plan for moments of quality time; however, we do not force artificial moments of deeper connection. I call this the McDonald’s Principle of Relational Interaction.
Earlier this summer, I realized I needed to apply the McDonald’s Principle to my relationship with God. I noticed I would get a little frustrated when I spent a few minutes praying and didn’t have a grand emotional catharsis of divine experience. I would be disappointed that I didn’t have anything exciting to discuss in my prayer time. I didn’t have a big crisis. I didn’t have a giant revelation. I heard other people talking about their incredible moments of intimacy with God and I wanted them too. I felt like my quiet time was a little bland, so I tried to force those moments of exceptional intimacy. I focused my mind and attempted to force my emotions into overdrive in hopes of creating what I wanted out of quiet time. I would try to manufacture these epic times of awesome prayer when all I really needed to do was honestly communicate with God and remain open to the intimacy. Ever answer the question, “How was your day?” when talking to God? Don’t you think a loving father would be interested in talking with you about just that? It might not be the most heart-pounding, awe-filled prayer you’ve ever prayed, but it just might lead to more honest communication and the intimacy you desired in the first place.
Relational interactions can’t be uniformly intense gut-wrenching, soul-piercing experiences. Those interactions are incredible and necessary and we must remain open to them, but for me at least, they aren’t the norm. I’ve found that those moments will come over time if I set aside consistent and honest quality time with the Lord. Not every prayer will be earth shattering. Some days are the equivalent to a trip to McDonald’s. And ya know what? I’ve come to love and cherish both types of interactions with my Lord and Heavenly Father.
Tim Norton is a born-and-raised, small-town Southerner with the sweet tea addiction to prove it. He comes to Gordon-Conwell as a Kern Pastor-Scholar and plans to pursue pastoral ministry in the U.S. after graduation. Tim is a big personality with a strange affinity for the color orange. Currently, he attends GENESIS Church, an Acts 29 church plant in Woburn, MA.