The Tower of B84

I got off the airport tram at terminal B, following the calm recorded directions on the loudspeakers, and I meandered my way toward Gate B84.

My airport method is simple when it comes to layovers and connecting flights (mostly because I once missed a flight because I was making lazy conversation at Customs): make mad pace to get to your gate and then determine whether you have time to wander.

Last Monday, I made mad pace to get to B84 and then I snuggled in to people watch. Coming, going, waiting, boarding – I sat comfortably underneath the B84 sign until I realized there was an arrow beside it that pointed down a hallway.

Then I scrambled into mad pace mode thinking with the giggles, “I would sit comfortably people watching just outside of earshot of my boarding plane. I would do something like that!”

The hallway opened up into a mess of crowded activity and 5 or 6 attendants with overlapping announcements,

“Flight 10667 to Albuquerque is now boarding, we’d like to board any military and–“
“As a reminder, passengers traveling to Pensacola will need to check your carry on baggage with a pink tag. The flight attendant–”
“We are now boarding zones 1-7 on flight 4584 to Lafayette. Flight 4584 is now boarding in B84C – that’s C as in Cat. Enter through the door marked C and continue–“
“Those passengers with small children on flight 33092 to Grand Rapids are welcome to board at this time out of B84D. That’s D as in Dog.”
“And that’s the last and final call for Flight 10667. Last and final call for Albuquerque.”

Gate B84 in Houston is actually the hub for about 8 gates with planes pointed in all sorts of directions, from Florida to Arkansas, Texas to Michigan, and from Louisiana to Nebraska. Passengers are amassed in the mayhem and these continuous announcements seem aimed at corralling the chaos.

The attendants keep a practiced calm over the loudspeaker and then immediately panicked over their walkie-talkies (which were just as loud), “We’ve got someone here for  Daytona Beach! Have you left? … I sent down two–“

And there was one very little man. I imagine Zaccheus looking exactly like this little man, although I don’t know if this robed figure would have clamored up a sycamore tree to get a good look at Jesus. He walked steadily and slowly right up to the attendant, rolling his small suitcase behind the burnt brown of his robe that touched the floor. I couldn’t hear his words, but the attendant replied, “Oh, Memphis? That’s Door E” and waved her left arm in the general direction of Door E and 4 other doors.

The robed man calmly turned and wheeled his suitcase over to a chair where he seemed to survey the scene.

I should have offered to help, but I couldn’t have known that this very little man would stand in my boarding line for Omaha. I couldn’t have known that the attendant would look at him astonished and say, “Oh, you want the Memphis plane? That plane has already left, but you were here!” She turned to a neighbor attendant, “He was here when it was boarding…” and then turned back to the little man, “You will have to speak to someone upstairs about booking another flight.” And all the time, the very little man maintained his calm, blank stare.

As I walked down the jetway to board my plane, I realized what caused this mess keeping the very little man from Memphis: Babel.

When man became obsessed with self-promotion and protection instead of submitting in obedience to the Lord, confusion and chaos caused a division that cut clear into the 21st century. I don’t know the heart of the little man or the intention of the attendant who failed to communicate his boarding procedure, but I do know our chaos and disorder are a direct result of our proclivity to wander. Systems and structures designed with the greatest efficiency and engineered for the highest efficacy still fall short of the original design.

We still resemble those folks in Genesis 11 who thought they could improve God’s design and what we get is B84 in Houston.

In God’s grace, there’s a redemptive “rest of the story” in the person of Christ that translates truth with divine clarity and invites the chaotic crowd out of confusion.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

we can burn brighter?

There’s a popular song out right now by a band named “fun.” That’s right – the (.) is in their band name. It must be some kind of hipster thing to make the name of your band a whole sentence. I bet somewhere right now there is a new revised urban dictionary being written where one word sentences are all the rage.

I came across their song, “We Are Young” during one of my radio “seek” adventures. I haven’t yet programmed the presets in my car, so I just press the seek button until it lands on something interesting. NPR, classical, TobyMac, talk radio and Kelly Clarkson’s latest girl power anthem get equal airplay on my short commutes. When I landed on this song, I’ll admit I liked the beat (and the Queen-esque feel of the whole album). It’s hard not to if you have a sunroof and it’s 72 degrees in late February.

Then I listened to the underbelly of what all the hipsters are calling an “epic” sound:

Tonight
We are young
Let’s set this world on fire
We can burn brighter
Than the sun

Wow. My culture is making strong claims with this anthem and all the 35-year-old radio DJ had to say is, “Hey, gotta love this one. I just heard it last week and, man, I’ve got it on replay.”

I stopped bobbing my head and started asking questions. This is not some adolescent kid shaking his fist at the air – not some collegiate rabble-rouser stumbling in and out of bars spitting speculation. This is our Tower of Babel.

English: Tower of Babel

In Genesis 9, God told Noah to disperse after the flood – to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. The people decided it would be better to cluster together – to make a name for themselves by building a tower to the heavens and building a city around them for protection. John Piper (in his sermon “The Pride of Babel and the Praise of Christ”) preached that, at the Tower of Babel, “The two sins are the love of praise (so you crave to make a name for yourself) and the love of security (so you build a city and don’t take the risks of filling the earth).” With the flood still fresh in their memory, did the people really think they were powerful enough to reach heaven and strong enough to remain disobedient to the Lord?

Apparently, yes. The people decided they were both powerful and strong enough to complete the task and live prosperous in disobedience. They tried to outdo the God who had delivered them from sure death and preserved them for life.

As I listened to this band break “new ground” on the radio, I heard an old, familiar story. I heard a story where WE are the center, where WE decide our fate, where WE can build our own destiny, and where WE can make ourselves immortal. Call it “youth” or “foolish,” but don’t call it a joke.

I wonder if there were people in the days of the Tower of Babel who shut themselves in their homes, silently disapproving of the monstrous building project. I wonder if they thought it was a fleeting fad that would pass when the builders grew older.

Does my generation really believe we are powerful enough to set the world on fire?
Does my generation really believe that we are big enough to shine brighter than the sun?

Even taken metaphorically, these claims are concerning. Everyone can tap a toe to the anthem (about losing your troubles at the bar and promising to carry drunk friends home) that makes you think you are capable of anything – for no other reason than “we are young.” I’m not sure how the logic works out – something like this, perhaps?

-We are young.
-Young people have cultural authority (to set the world on fire).
-Authority governs earth/sun/moon.
-Young people can supersede sunshine.

Hm. Lots of holes, it seems. The stranger thing might be that the song weaves destruction in with delight. I’m pretty sure we all still think burning alive is one of the worst ways to die. So, they can’t be serious about setting the world on fire and burning brighter than the sun. Yet, they choose this clearly destructive imagery to represent the ultimate thrill – the greatest delight. The whole thing is about bumbling barroom mistakes, but the song repeatedly declares (like Charlie Sheen and Courtney Robertson) that it’s all canceled out because in the end, we’re “winning.” Even as we all light up in a burning ball of gas, the thrill of burning brighter than the sun is somehow worth it.

Left to our own devices and given the right amount of authority, I don’t doubt we’d light a match to the world – crazy as it sounds. I am so grateful we aren’t walking around with that kind of power. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of this generation as well. He is so gracious to call us to salvation in His Son, Jesus Christ, and rescue us from self-destruction.

.

Sorry to dump this on you all. My grandpa recently reminded me that I should stick to simple things on this blog. I can already tell you what he’ll say in response to this one, “Agh! I didn’t understand one word of it.” Well, maybe tomorrow I’ll write about how I forgot to close my sunroof overnight and drove on damp seats in the morning.

I simply want to encourage us all to think critically about what our culture claims about who we are and why we are here because it is shaping our generation (whether or not we’ve got our hands covering our eyes).

let LOVE fly like cRaZy