Again: "Distract me from myself"


I recently ran across Paul Bradshaw’s 2006 interview with Rick Warren, the best-selling author of “The Purpose Driven Life” and a pastor at Saddleback Church in Orange County. Typically, I’m very suspicious of the Christian “it” celebrities and their latest-and-greatest books – or, as my dad calls it, “pablum” (fantastic word – if you don’t know it, look it up… and then use it in a sentence). But I have to admit that I have a hard time finding a whole lot of fault with Rick Warren. There is much to respect about the man, including his role as facilitator for last weekend’s interviews with Barack Obama and John McCain.

Much of what Warren said in this interview from 2 years ago jumped out at me. I think you should read it – I think everyone should read it. Here’s an excerpt:

Life is a series of problems: either you are in one now, you’re just coming out of one, or you’re getting ready to go into another one. The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort. God is more interested in making your life holy than he is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that’s not the goal of life: the goal is to grow in character, in Christ-likeness.

I used to think that life was hills and valleys – you go through a dark time, then you got to the mountaintop, back and forth. I don’t believe that anymore. Rather than life being hills and valleys, I believe that it’s kind of like two rails on a railroad track, and at all times you have something good and something bad in your life. No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on. And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.

You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems. If you focus on your problems, you’re going into self-centeredness, which is “my problem, my issues, my pain.”

But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others. (For the entire interview, go here.)

We live in a self-centered culture, and my eyes are being opened more and more every day to my own glaring obsession with myself. I look out for my own well-being, and think about my own needs, and have a journal and a calendar and a prayer life and a thought life and conversations related solely to myself. But if I see the meaning and purpose of life simply “to be happy” or “to enjoy myself,” then I am missing the point.

Life gains significance only when we give ourselves away.

And for a beautiful illustration of this, rent “Bella” and watch it tonight.



  1. Christina on August 20, 2008 at 9:29 AM

    What a great kick in the pants! Thanks!

  2. Greta on August 20, 2008 at 9:38 AM

    Wow– good thoughts, seriously.

    I’ve been trying to convince everyone who mentions “movie” to watch Bella with me since you mentioned how much you loved it. Might have found a willing cohort in Gramps. :)

  3. Mary on August 20, 2008 at 9:47 AM

    Ann – Bella is one of my new favorite movies! The story encompasses such love and compassion, it is so beautiful. I’m so happy you’ve seen it.

    xx on the prowl for the coat….

  4. Shannon on August 20, 2008 at 9:55 AM

    Great post, Annie.

    Bella is an incredible movie. Love love LOVE it.

  5. Rebekah on August 20, 2008 at 11:43 AM

    Bella has got to be one of the BEST movies EVER. it really is a gem among all other movies out there.

  6. Sarah Markley on August 20, 2008 at 4:35 PM

    i am going to watch bella tonight. i’ve been meaning to watch it, and i just found out it is on instant play with netflix…i’ll let you know. =)

    i like what you said about giving ourselves away.

  7. THE PARSONS on August 20, 2008 at 8:58 PM

    I want to see Bella! Maybe we should rent it!

  8. Orderly Conduct on August 20, 2008 at 10:46 PM

    amen, sister. i needed to hear that tonight.

    also, i love Bella… what a beautiful story.


  9. Rebecca on August 21, 2008 at 9:00 AM

    Isn’t “Bella” amazing?! I cry my eyes out every time I watch it. :)

    It’s funny bc I just listened to a sermon the other day about holiness – and holiness essentially being about selflessness. It’s so true. I wish I could expound on that more, but I’d really butcher it then. ;) hehe

    So, tell me again WHY we live so far away from each other???? Pooooooooooo.

  10. jannell on August 21, 2008 at 12:27 PM

    yeah. that movie is amazing. We watched it just as it came out in Colorado Springs last year, and my sister saw the film maker speak at a conference, which was also amazing…

  11. Paul on August 21, 2008 at 1:29 PM

    Okay, Annie, I get it – that your friends are totally into “Bella.” But what I want to say is that your radar for discerning who should be listened to in the Christian environment today is steady and trustworthy. For all his stardom, Rick Warren is a regular person with a faith that matters. As is his incredible wife Kay. The evidence? their hearts for HIV orphans in Africa, and for the entire crisis. I don’t have much use for the shoes thing in your next blog, but I think your heads on straight anyway!

  12. candace on August 21, 2008 at 8:49 PM

    love this. makes me feel good about approaching the issues we face in our careers not as problems, but as just the stuff of life – and a life that we have to trust with god.

    bella is an amazing film about the things of life and a love that is bigger than any ‘romance’ could ever envelope or define… love it!


  13. Anonymous on August 23, 2008 at 9:56 AM

    Rick Warren said: “The reason for this [problems in life] is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort. God is more interested in making your life holy than he is in making your life happy. We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that’s not the goal of life: the goal is to grow in character, in Christ-likeness.”

    OK, Annie, I hate to not write for months and then be the one negative voice, but I think this is important so here goes: what Rick Warren said here is off. I like the rest of what he said, but –

    1) The goal isn’t growing in character, it’s growing in relationship with God. Christlikeness happens as a result. The order of this is so important!

    2) The faulty idea that God’s goal is to improve you is at the heart of much that is bad in Christianity. And it’s so potent because it is a half-truth. Because God DOES care about our happiness, He is at work restoring us to the wholeness that was intended in the beginning. But God’s goal still is to know you and be known!

    3) The Garden of Eden was life as it should be – people in direct relationship with God – and I’m certain that God could have developed our character and kept us holy without struggles.

    4) We have struggles now because our world is fallen. And so, God uses them – but does not cause them – to draw us back into relationship with Him. He also uses kindness, by the way.

    The danger in Rick Warren’s approach is that it can actually become just another form of self-centeredness. Christlikeness as a goal is an idol that we substitute for God, and like other idols it takes our eyes off Him (and puts them on ourselves) and weakens our relationship.

    Having said all that, Annie, I love reading your blog. And you should know that we still talk about you all the time at UPC and hope that you’ll return when the time is right!


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