Earlier this month, I took my mentee, Juvontae, out for lunch and a trip to the International Spy Museum. With bellies full on Shake Shack, we worked our way through the museum and Juvontae quite enjoyed the challenge of trying to crack a 4-digit code by crawling through a maze filled with jumbled letters and numbers to pick out the right ones. Like every good museum, at the end of the exhibits you’re dumped into the gift shop – one last ploy for you to drop a few dollars. Now, I certainly remember how it went when I was a kid: I wanted to browse around and pick out the toy I needed most. Sure, I could use my own spending money if I had to, but I was leaving with something. Mom and dad rarely saw it quite the same way. Regardless of whose money was at stake, my running up to them, toy in hand, was more frequently than not met with “you don’t need that” or “put that back, we’re not buying anything today.” And it was true, I didn’t need that, whatever it was. I probably had something like it at home. Or, it was probably a piece of junk.
Well, Juvontae plowed into that gift shop with the same mentality I had as a kid: I need something from here. I warily indulged the browsing around for a while. And then, he found it. A voice-changing toy megaphone that could make you sound like anything from Donald Duck to the Hulk. I immediately channeled my parents: “what do you need that for? You don’t need that. Come on, we gotta go. My parking meter is running out.” I won that argument, but he wasn’t happy about it. The whole way to the car, I got one-word replies, shifty eyes, and a mopey walk…because he couldn’t buy that megaphone with his own money. I asked him why he wanted it so bad, which led to the response: “because it’s cool.” I replied, “Okay, but are you really worse off now because you don’t have that toy?” He confidently retorted, “yes.” Our conversation actually went pretty deep from there, talking about whether cool things make us cool people – the kind of people that other people like to like. By the time I dropped Juvontae off, I was fairly satisfied, because we had been able to have a really meaningful conversation about how our stuff doesn’t really give us status, or “coolness” – our value is not in things here, but in things above.
Debriefing with Kristy at home about the outing, I said that while I didn’t really get the chance to talk about a few Bible verses with Juvontae over lunch (which I had intended to do), we ended on a really good note and a deep conversation. Kristy probed a bit: “why didn’t you bring up the Bible at lunch?” I replied, “I just couldn’t find the right moment to bring up the topic. Juvontae was talkative about other things the whole time. It was pretty crowded and I kinda felt rushed.”
Hmm…there it is. As it turns out, Juvontae and I had a similar problem that day. Whereas Juvontae was worried about getting that cool toy he wanted (and when he didn’t get it, he felt like he wasn’t cool), I wasn’t willing to be seen as awkward, or boring, or old-fashioned, or uncool in the eyes of a fourth grader for injecting the Bible into our conversation. My excuses were exactly that. Excuses. I was too cool to direct our conversation to the gospel. It wasn’t about lack of opportunity; it was entirely about my pride. The natural brokenness of setting my heart on worthless things as a child translates into the same as an adult…even if the object has changed.
A dose of humility for this prideful heart. It was good for me. The gospel is worth the cost of my coolness.