The other day, I went to Wal-Mart to purchase the Matrix DVD. I couldn’t find it, so I had the following conversation with the elderly gentleman running the movie department:
Me: “Do you have the move ‘The Matrix?'”
Wal-Mart Guy: “Is that a new movie or an old movie?”
Me: “It’s old. It’s been on television 900 times and is probably on TBS right now. It’s matrix with an ‘M.'”
Wal-Mart Guy: “Hmm, Matrix. Never heard of it.”
That was no big deal. He was not a fan of the movie. I was completely fine with that conversation except that it forced me to deal with my nemesis, Blockbuster. Why are they my nemesis? I’ll tell you.
When I was a freshman at Samford University, I won a “year of free movie rentals” from Blockbuster. As a fairly not rich college student without a car, that was close to a dream come true. I had this vision of me walking into Smith dorm and just making it rain movies. When I claimed my prize however, I quickly realized that Blockbuster and I have a very different definition of what a year of free movie rentals means. I thought it meant rent as much as you want. Blockbuster thought it meant here’s a coupon for one free movie every month for a year.
That’s when the hatred started and to be honest, it only got worse when they emailed me last year. Their email to me opened by saying, “we hope you’re enjoying your Blockbuster Online Membership!” They then proceeded to tell me why I was about to not enjoy my membership.
Basically, Blockbuster started an online program similar to Netflix. Since Netflix lost a court case and had to admit that they deliberately slow deliveries of your movies down if you rent too often, a process known as “throttling,” I decided to switch to Blockbuster.
The best part was that whenever I brought back an envelope with a DVD in it to the store, Blockbuster would mail it back to their distribution center and give me a free rental on the spot. It was a great deal and was their attempt to win back customers from Netflix. Since they don’t have stores, Netflix can’t compete with this business model. And so I switched to Blockbuster and for $9.99 a month enjoyed unlimited movie rentals. It was awesome.
But now that enough customers had returned to Blockbuster, they’re not concerned about Netflix anymore. That means, programs like unlimited rentals are no longer necessary to generate consumer loyalty. So now, instead of unlimited movie rentals every month, I have the ability to rent 2 per month. My plan went from infinite to 2. I’m not a math whiz, but that’s got to be a 99.999999% reduction in quality of service.
Needless to say, I hate Blockbuster. The interesting thing is that I think a lot of times I assume God is going to treat me just like they did. Right now, on the side, I’m writing some ideas about how nonsensical the story of the prodigal son feels. (He spends all his father’s money on hookers, comes home expecting punishment and instead receives a party.) Our world just doesn’t work the way that story does. When someone gets what they need from you, they tend to change the way they treat you. People are always more interested in your jokes when you’re interviewing them for a job. Car salesman treat you like the most important person on the planet until they close they deal. Advertising agencies win new business with their best creative talent but then often make their B-teams do the client work once the client has signed on so that the best and brightest can focus on finding new business. Blockbuster woos you with unlimited rentals until their main competitor is weakened and you don’t have another option to choose.
I worry that God is the same way sometimes. I know He forgave me and it was a big deal when I came back, but now that He “has me,” it can’t be the same can it? That probably sounds stupid, but I honestly struggle with that. I’ve really enjoyed writing this blog, but sometimes I find myself with an uncomfortable sense of fear. I feel like someone in a horror movie thinking, “this is quiet, too quiet.” It seems to good to be true. I keep waiting to get Rocky Mountain Tick disease or get fired from work unexpectedly.
But I don’t think that’s how God works. At the bare minimum, it’s not how his word reads. Here’s something I have written about in Psalm 126: 1-3:
1 When the LORD brought back the captives to Zion,we were like men who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,our tongues with songs of joy.Then it was said among the nations,“The LORD has done great things for them.”
3 The LORD has done great things for us,and we are filled with joy.
I love those verses, in part because I don’t think there’s enough focus on laughter in Christianity. But more than that, I love that there’s not a “but” in there. It’s not “the Lord has done great things for them, but once He knew He had them He moved on to focusing on finding new people.” It’s not a one time event, joy is a life change. And, in an idea I hope to continue exploring, I have a sneaking suspicion that the welcome home party God throws us in the prodigal story, isn’t the last party. It might not even be the loudest.
Because unlike life and Blockbuster and almost everything else we’ve experienced growing up, I don’t think God’s love has limits.