The Restless Ache


Action Figures

There were two things that were important components of my life as a boy growing up in North Central Texas in the 1970’s – G.I. Joe Action Figures (the real size, not the pseudo-figurines of the 80’s) AND a black & white TV that picked up two stations from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area (three if you adjusted the outdoor antenna just right).

As such, playtime with GI Joe was influenced only by my imagination and the availability of fireworks. Poor Joe (or more accurately stated, poor Joes, as there was a high turnover rate) endured explosions, burials, falls from the top of windmills, trips down the swollen flood-waters of Indian Camp Creek in poorly constructed watercraft, and many other misadventures.

Two decades later AND two boys of my own AND color television AND cable with hundreds of channels, I couldn’t wait to buy (and play with) the new GI Joe. Joe was back to normal size (no more of the wannabe, Pseudo Joe of the 80’s), and now he comes with more and better accessories – surf gear, snow skiing gear, scuba gear, parachute, and a spring-loaded projectile launcher that allows Joe to wipe out the enemy forces in one launch!

Or so we were led to believe…

When we played with GI Joe, we discovered that:

  • instead of surfing in the pool, Joe fell over and floated face down in the water like the victim of a mafia hit
  • with no snow in Texas, the skiing gear was a waste. However, if you carefully aligned all of his moving parts, GI Joe would stand there looking like a model for the LL Bean Winter Catalog
  • his scuba gear was more like snorkeling gear. Plastic floats, so Joe, rather than a world-saving action hero, looks more like a cruise ship tourist floating in the Cayman Islands.
  • when dropped from high places, Joe’s parachute cords become hopelessly tangled and Joe floats to the ground in the same way that a brick floats to the ground
  • and the spring-loaded projectile launchers have the same velocity as toothpaste being squeezed out of the tube…

As a class exercise, compare this commercial from the 70’s to one from the 90’s. The video quality is better, the music louder, and the product claims more intense. But really, the marketeers are making something appear to be what it is not…whether in the 1970’s, 1990’s, or today.

This is not a rant about the “good ol’ days” when “men were men and toys were toys”…it’s a rant about marketing…

Quote 1 – “Marketing is making something appear what it is not…”

The marketeers made GI Joe (something) appear what he was not…I’m not certain about this source of this quote BUT after years of experience in business, church, and life, I’m certain of the truth of the quote.

So let the possibility of the truth of that quote float around in your head, and then read this quote from CS Lewis:

Quote 2 – “We are far too easily pleased. We are happy to numb and freeze our restless ache for a better world.”

After years of experience in business, church, and life, I’m certain of the truth of this quote as well…

We have a restless ache, or cravings for identity, belonging, and purpose. And these cravings cause us to search.

And in this search, there is the noise of the marketeers promising to satisfy these cravings and end our search – your identity, belonging, and purpose fulfilled by the things offered…that is, until they come out with something bigger, better, and newer that will satisfy our cravings…

There are things that offer temporary satisfaction to our restless ache and there are things that offer long-term satisfaction to our restless ache.

Now a couple of side notes…

Side Note 1 – the catalyst for these thoughts today was a news story about E-Harmony and a new service offering. For $5,000, you can hire one of their “personal counselors” that will help you “market” your personal appeal online. Let’s quickly review our marketing quote from earlier:

“Marketing is making something appear what it is not…”

In our present context the “something” in the quote that is being marketed is you.

And in a culture of astronomical divorce rates and relational angst, do we really need to pay someone to market/sell/promote us? Maybe just being you, the genuine wonderful and flawed you, AND being truthful about it would be a better long-term plan.

Side Note 2 – these thoughts on marketing inevitably led to thoughts on Church Marketing. How much time/energy/resources are spent on Church Marketing? I know from personal experience that it is significant. Is it effective? Current trends say no, the US church seems to be shrinking in number and influence. How can this be with our state of the art marketing?

Maybe our first quote contains some poisonous truth for us in the church world, “marketing is making something appear what it is not.”

In this context, the “something” that is being marketed is the church. Do we really want it to appear as something it is not in order to “enhance your appeal” or “close the deal”?

The people of God live out their faith and that is promotion/marketing that sticks.

And now for the Grand Conclusion

We do crave identity, belonging, and purpose. And those cravings can be satisfied. And there are plenty of people and institutions that are offering to satisfy these cravings.

The challenge for us, in a culture of fast-talkers, shiny things, and moving images, is to be able to know the difference between the things that offer temporary satisfaction to our cravings and those that offer long-term satisfaction.

And now for our Benediction, a beautiful song about craving…enjoy the cello and xylophone and lyrics!

3 thoughts on “The Restless Ache

  1. This, I think, leads to the question of whether or not there is room for marketing in the Church… And if there isn’t space for it, what do we do with those brothers and sisters who have that sort of gift and want to use it for the Lord via the church?

    1. If the definition of marketing asserted in the article is true, then it is roughly the equivalent of saying you have the gift of adultery and you want to use it in the Lord’s service…

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