what jay-z and job taught me about loving others


[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6_-OvbMFM8] disclaimer: i am a poser. i came across this video after i bought jay-z’s new book, “decoded.”  and what makes it even worse, i only bought this book because it was featured on oprah’s favorite things episode.  even though i am a poser, and i came across this book in an embarrassing way, i do think that this is one of the most creative, artistic, and compelling books i have read in a long time.  and believe it or not, god has used it to rock my world. :end disclaimer

this christmas season god is using two stories which are different in just about every way to rock my world. one is a story of success, and the other is a story of devastation.  and in both there is a common desire from the storyteller to be known.

this video gives you a great snapshot of the first story.  in jay-z’s book, “decoded,” he brings the reader, and the suburban white boy with zero touch points to the hip hop scene, on a journey behind his image of success and what you know, or think you know about his life.  the reader is treated to a masterful story of a young mc, turned hustler, who develops into a successful rapper.  and through grit, determination, and some near death experiences, a nobody from marcy projects in new york finds himself to the top of the billboard charts and on top of the world.

the story of success. it is quite a treat to be invited into the life of a celebrity like jay-z.  everything about his life is foreign and therefore intriguing to me.  but this book isn’t about showboating his success.  the assumption of the author is that you are well aware of his success.  this book is about walking the reader through the formative history of jay-z.  it is an introduction to the people and experiences that shaped his values and world view.  and as jay-z finds success he finds that people in his life don’t know what to do or how to interact with this this complex person.  is he a low-ball hustler who really belongs in the projects, or is he a high-class music mogul who uses his influence to shape the music and pop culture scene?

the answer in this book is yes.  the people in jay-z’s life now only know him in his current, successful role.  but what it appears that jay-z longs for is to be known as a total person.  a person with a past, a present, and a future.  he worked hard for his success, and because of that success people from his past no longer know how to relate to him.  and with this success, the people in his present, don’t know how to relate to his past.  and this book is jay-z’s way of being known.

the story of devastation. another book that tells the opposite story is found in scripture in the book of job.  job’s story is one of a successful person with plenty of wealth and influence who has it all taken away.  in the same way that jay-z’s community has a hard time relating to his success, job’s community had a hard time relating to his devastation.  job’s friends who knew job at the hight of his success find themselves scratching their heads in an attempt to understand what happened to their friend, what sort of offense did job commit to deserve this sort of devastation.

throughout the book of job, his character never changes.  the core of his being never wavers.  he is the same person, but is living through hell.  his family has been killed, his farm destroyed, and his body is deteriorating.  and in this season of devastation, job is even more wrecked that his friends are rebuking him instead of walking with him through this valley of death.

the purpose of the story is to be known. job’s desire is to be known.  job did not need his friends to put him in a box based on the externals of his life.  his character has been formed and he needed his friends to see him.  to see his past, to understand his present, and to be hopeful for this future.  and i think jay-z’s desire is the same, to be known.  he doesn’t need friends to judge his success or to see him only as someone they can use for their own gain.  he needs people who see his past, so they can understand his present, and to be hopeful for his future.

which brings me to christmas.  for as much as their is total crazy materialistic mayhem during this season, there is also good will toward men.  it is in our dna to be soft hearted toward those “less fortunate,” at least for december.  and i even have on my calendar a couple of special events this christmas season to do just that.  but these stories help me realize that my fellow humans deserve so much more than my charity or judgement, they deserve to be known.  so instead of offering charity to those in need, or hoping my successful friends invite me to their christmas party, i am going to attempt to treat all people as if they have their own compelling story, and are not just as props in mine.

we bump into a wide variety of people and we only get to see a very small slice of their life.  whether we see them during a season of success or a season of devastation, we need to see them.  the more we can know their past, the better we can understand their present, and then maybe even offer hope for their future.

how great it is that we worship a god who is all about knowing us fully.  he knows our past, and understands our present, and, for sure, offers hope for our future.

merry christmas!