This past weekend our family had dinner at Your Pie, a new pizza joint nearby. It was pretty good, and I would go back if I was in the area, but what struck me was not the food. What makes this place different is that they took pizza, already one of the most customizable foods, and turned it into an “assembly line” restaurant. These places are all the rage these days, and they are everywhere: Subway, Moe’s, Cold Stone, all promising that you can have it “your way.” Obviously, this is a concept people love, but not only have I never really gotten into that style of eating, I think it points to a larger spiritual problem within our culture. I’m going to tell you why, but first, let me tell you about Lou.
In the small town near where I grew up in New York, there was only one place for takeout pizza (and none that would deliver). It was called Lou’s Pizza Hub, and in my teens I worked there for two and a half years. Lou was a big, hairy Italian immigrant who spoke with a thick accent. He also had a rule for his pizza- no more than three toppings. Most of the people who tried to order more than three just went all with it, but every now and then someone got indignant. Lou got indignant right back, because his reason for that rule was that pizza with more than three toppings was not as good. Naturally, the caller would disagree, otherwise they would not have ordered it, but Lou stuck to his guns. In two and a half years, he never caved. He believed that pizza with more than three toppings was not as good, and he would not compromise quality just to make a sale. The people who obeyed him received the best pizza I have tasted in America, but that was the trick- you had to obey, even if you didn’t like it. If you didn’t, you could go somewhere else.
What worries me today is that many, if not most, people are treating their spiritual lives like an assembly line restaurant. We want it our way. We are part of this community sometimes, part of that church at other times, and we never put down roots deep enough to find that one spiritual leader who is going to lead us closer to God.
The decline of authority is, of course, the defining feature of the postmodern shift that has been taking place over the last forty years. We don’t blindly obey our leaders anymore, and I’m not saying we should. However, obedience to people makes it easier to be obedient to God, and that is the path to true freedom and happiness. Spiritual joy doesn’t come from “having it your way,” it comes from having it God’s way. We are best able to discover God’s way when someone lives it out before us, and then pushes us and stretches us to follow. So many people are missing out on finding that special mentoring relationship because they want things “their way.” After all, that’s what it’s all about, right?
Actually, it’s not. Jesus said “Those who try to keep their lives for themselves will lose it, but this who lose their lives for my sake will find it.” Those words run counter to everything we are being taught by our culture, and they are very hard to do. Find someone worth obeying who can show you how. Then obey them, and through them learn how to better obey God. It won’t be what you ordered, but it will be the best pizza of your life.