When you hear the word “brilliant,” you may think of IQ scores and framed diplomas, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison. But authors Timothy Willard and Jason Locy give the term a different meaning in their new book, “Home Behind the Sun: Connect with God in the Brilliance of the Everyday.” In it, they claim that God wants us to “be brilliant.”
Here, we discuss what they mean and how this concept affects the way we should live with regard to the internet, celebrity culture, and parenting.
RNS: You argue in this book that God wants us to “be brilliant,” but you aren’t talking about intelligence. Describe what you mean.
TW: To “be brilliant” means to let Christ rule in our lives. For real, not just with lip service in our rhetoric, but actually applying Christian virtues in our interaction. A good application of this is in the way we use the internet. At times being brilliant may mean not saying or posting something that we really desire to. It may mean that our voice doesn’t get heard on an issue that is popular.
When news about Mark Driscoll’s dealings hit the web, people took all kinds of “stances.” But who among us actually possesses the right to speak into Mark’s life? Are we to toss criticism at other leaders in the name of “justice” or “accountability” just because we have access to a blog platform? Being brilliant means, in this case, means dying to our desires and allowing a posture of peace to rule our hearts and blogs.
RNS: Speaking of the internet, you guys make some strong comments about how Christians interact with one another online. Can you talk more about what it looks like to be brilliant in our internet engagement?
JL: When a popular pastor, thought leader, or “celebrity blogger” says something via a book, blog, or conference presentation, it seems that the folks in the audience must make their dissent heard—airing disdain in their own social media fiefdoms for the world to see. Those actions often create little distinction between our Christian discourse and the bickering heads on cable news or cynical celebrity gossip columnists. We watch, we skim, we post, we stir the blogosphere—our new means of burning our so-called heretics.
The internet provides everyone with a voice. The larger the platform, the louder the voice. Too often Christians, in an effort to gain a seat at the cultural table, sacrifice good judgment for a spike on their social media platforms.
Like the ambulance chasing lawyer, the loud voices of the internet wait for a misstep, a mistake, a faulty theology. Then they chase the story looking for profits and a growing platform. The internet creates a distance between the loud voices and those they attack. This, when poorly stewarded, allows us to throw up cheap grace as our license to say what we want, how we want.
RNS: In the book, you address the “brutalization of human kind.” From the fashion industry to national pop media, you describe how these things can cover up the true beauty in our world. Can you speak to that?
JL: Well, we certainly pick on culture a bit, mainly our consumptive mindset and over-sexualization. This critique comes from our point of view as fathers. I have two boys and two girls, and Tim has three girls. We see the effects of a society that operates this way. Navigating the world as an adult is hard enough, navigating it with your kids is almost impossible. That’s where understanding and acknowledging what is going on is helpful. By saying, “Hey, this is what we are seeing and here is why its a problem” we can begin thinking about our role as Christians in society.
By the way, I believe we should have an active role. We can look at the world and see that the hyper-sexualization of women, for example, leads to violence, eating disorders, harassment and other issues. I don’t want my boys to view women that way, and I don’t want my girls viewing themselves through this lens either.
TW: Jason is right in that these views are problematic not only for adults but for kids. Kids these days lose their innocence earlier and earlier. As adults, it seems we no longer have any inkling of innocence. Its no wonder then that we can’t see beauty.
RNS: We’ve all seen a beautiful sunrise, felt the joy that comes with a much-needed chat with a friend, or the exhilaration of finishing that weeks-long project at work. But how do we make sure to see God in these everyday events?
JL: A friend of ours sent us this poem by William Martin:
Do not ask your children to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting tomatoes, apples, and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.
Maybe that’s a good start.
TW: That poem is a wonderful reminder of what it means to see God in the everyday. But it’s only a start. We always look for God in these grand and incredible ways. Like parting water and crumbling city walls and killing giants. And certainly we see him there. But he is a God of infinite wonder, so this places him in the small things too. In the everyday.