Recently, I’ve started rewatching Netflix’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, a show in which Jerry Seinfeld picks up other comedians and has real conversations with them as they sip coffee and share a meal. I love this show because it’s a perfect opportunity for these performers to not be “on”. They’re able to be themselves and talk about whatever they want. They don’t need to be funny. They don’t need to entertain. They can have the space to just be.
A big component of the show is that Jerry picks out a car specifically for each guest. From the 1956 Corvette he chatted with Jimmy Fallon in, to the ’59 Triumph in which he discussed crumpets with John Oliver, to the 1969 Lamborghini Miura he got pulled over in with Chris Rock—every choice is given a great deal of thought.
In the episode with Chris Rock, Jerry asked what Chris thought of the vehicle and his response was rather underwhelming for my taste. Had I been in that beautiful piece of Italian machinery, I probably would’ve been freaking out, but not Chris Rock. He kept his cool. He wasn’t impressed by the car but commented that he valued the company so much more than the things involved in the experience.
This got me thinking about what we value.
Do we focus more on the people, the experience, or the vehicle that got us there?
Food > Following
In Exodus 16, the Israelites are just starting their 40-year journey and begin complaining about the food options available to them. They state that what they had as slaves in Egypt was preferable to their aimless roaming about the desert. Their doubt in the character of God colored their experience. They cried out for food and followed begrudgingly. When the Lord finally did perform a miracle and provided food for them, some intentionally defied instructions (I probably would’ve been one of them), valuing food as their source instead of the One who rained down food in the first place.
The Israelites focused on the vehicle that was getting them to the Promised Land more than their experience of freedom or their relationship with the Lord. And, if I’m being honest, it’s really easy for me to fall into this trap. I get focused on the shiny thing instead of focusing on the things that truly matter and really last.
Experience > Consistency
Exodus 32 is one of those chapters that I consistently feel convicted by. Moses, the Israelites leader, goes up to the mountain to talk with God, but he takes a long time to come back down. The people get antsy and worried and assume the worst. So they come to Aaron and tell him to make gods for them to worship. They hadn’t developed the staying power to weather those moments of doubt: they wanted the experience, they didn’t care who was the object of their affection.
It’s easy to chase experiences. We go to things like church conferences and feel the spiritual “high” that comes with them and want more and more. It’s not fun to come crashing back down to reality, so we continue to seek more and more of these moments. This desire for experiences probably grew subtly over time, but it eventually led to flat out rebellion. And I’m the same way; I can get so focused on doing things that “feel good” that I miss the Lord.
Relationship > Everything Else
Moses was far from a perfect man and he definitely wasn’t a perfect leader, but he loved the Lord and followed him as best he could. He led the people and showed them how to follow God, moving when the cloud by day or fire by night moved. And these weren’t consistently happy or fun times.
Imagine if you had gotten your tent “just so” and then the Lord began to move. There would be a temptation to stay and keep things as you had arranged them. But they followed. They chose their relationship with God over the comfort of their things.
This group could’ve been on the move for long stretches without a whole lot of good sleep. While there was always provision and they were always cared for, it was likely a grueling experience. But instead of throwing in the towel when it wasn’t fun, they continued to follow. They chose to pursue the God who pursued them even when it didn’t feel great.
It’s so tempting to look to things or experiences for identity or fulfillment or hope or joy. But, at the end of the day, we are in a relationship with the Almighty creator. This means that even if a thing or an experience isn’t all we desire it to be, we can still worship the Lord in the midst. We don’t have to be controlled by the waves of circumstances or the flippancy of our feelings, but can rest confidently in who he is.
We never get things in life 100% right. Somedays we’ll value a shiny thing over our relationship with the Lord or we’ll want to feel good instead of following. Other days it’ll be a mixed bag: we’ll want to follow but will have to actively fight our natural instincts. Other days we’ll just give in to whatever feels right at the moment. But God still loves and pursues us even when our focus is off. He welcomes us back to himself when we’ve strayed and I’m immensely grateful for that.
Do you tend to focus on the vehicle, the experience, or the relationship?
How can you practically pursue your relationship with the Lord today?