Kylie and I have some friends who are really into sports, like me. And it can be annoying to Kylie how much our hang out times center around sports.
We were laughing about this recently and it made me think about what it is I like about sports. I was watching a baseball game in this mindset and had a few ideas pop into my head. But really, it got me thinking about the things Kylie likes that might be comparable to what I like about sports.
The thing is, whether it is sports or movies or fashion or exercise, we all love the things we love for the same reason. They are all metaphors for what we value most.
A World of Metaphors
There is a lot I love about sports – the aspect of a team, the drama and pressure of coming through in the clutch, the thrill of winning a game.
It is all a metaphor for the way I think about life and life’s struggles. It points to my value for truth. Baseball (sports in general) is appealing to me because it is so measurable. Strike. Hit. Home run. It is clear. Life in ministry is not so measurable. And there is something about my longing to know worth that is hinted at when I watch sports.
I really think the same is true no matter what metaphor we choose. Fashion is about feeling good in our own skin (by ironically covering it in décor). Exercise is about treating your body well and being intentional about the lifestyle you live.
They are all metaphors of meaning. Pursuits of purpose.
It is a little annoying to me when we pretend our metaphors are better than others. Not that I am innocent of it. I make fun of fashion to the same degree I get annoyed when people make fun of sports. We like to pretend that our metaphors are better, more meaningful in and of themselves.
Lost in the Metaphor
It is so easy to sink into the rabbit hole and forget what is metaphor and what is reality.
Our metaphors (just like our disciplines) are valuable insofar as they lead us to the truth. If approached wrongly, they can be a kind of quicksand. We think sports (or fashion or whatever) is meaning. We think the thing itself matters eternally rather than mining it for the eternal truths it is pointing toward. We get lost. Confused. Our identity becomes what team wins the World Series or what clothes I am wearing. It is a coup! The metaphor eclipses the truth rather than highlight it.
I was reading in Mark this morning about the Parable of the Sower. Parables are just Jesus metaphors, by the way. And at the end of the parable, when the disciples ask Jesus what it means, he says something very interesting:
“Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?”
Fascinating. If we can’t figure out why we value the things we value, how can we hope to discover and appreciate the value of other things in our world? The things others value that point to the same truths as our own metaphors.
The truth is rampant in our world. It is everywhere. But we are lost in the metaphors. In our own private metaphors. We see them as reality rather than reflections of reality. And it affects our vision. We are looking the wrong way, enticed by the siren song because it sounds so much like glory.
Every metaphor matters. But they only matter if they lead us to important truths. And if you cannot understand the ones you value most, how can you possibly understand the rich and diverse metaphors of God’s great world?