"Iron sharpens iron, and one mans sharpens another."
The other night my husband and I were watching TV and a restaurant commercial came on. This company has used sex for several years to sell hamburgers. My husband surprised me by saying rather assertively, "And that is why I never go there!" His statement lead to a fun discussion about commercials.
We both agreed that companies that use sex to sell, aren't very creative. It is the easy go to, and probably works. We both admitted to liking humorous commercials, especially ones that contain spunky people in them. We also acknowledged that sentimental commercials usually keep us engaged and get an, "Awe...." from both of us. On a side note, I especially have a fondness for Hallmark commercials. It isn't because I necessarily like them. I typically think them a bit mushy, but they were the best pregnancy test on the market when I was having my babies. Before I would even know I was pregnant one of those commercials would come on TV and I would dissolve into tears. When the tears came, my husband would turn and look at me with big eyes and I would know, it was time to buy a pregnancy test. Every time it happened I was pregnant
We noticed that over the years we liked commercials that portrayed the life stage we were currently in. As newly weds, commercials that showed engagements, weddings, or honey mooning couples appealed to us. A few years into marriage a coffee company put out a series of commercials about a couple who met over coffee and built a relationship. The series of commercials told the couple's love story over time. We both would stop what we were doing to watch those commercials when new ones came out. As we started having kids, commercials with cute kids in them made us smile. After all who wouldn't be drawn to dancing kids or toddlers toddling in green socks? Then as our kids were leaving home the one commercial we both liked was a coffee commercial. A sister wakes up early to her big brother coming home for Christmas. They enjoy a quiet moment before mom and dad smell the coffee and come running down. Then when our sons went to war, any commercial with military families in it would tug on our hearts. Now it is the grandchildren and puppy commercials drawing our attention.
After the conversation with my husband, I have been thinking about the science commercial making. I am not against commercials. They serve a purpose in our economic world. Some are informative, some remind me I need to write something on the grocery list, and some help me decide to try a new product when I am not happy with one I am using. We also all know that many commercial are very misleading or full of lies.
The people who create commercials will make commercials that appeal to our senses, our emotions, or our desires. As a believer I was struck that the tactics they use are similar to the tactics of the Enemy listed in 1 John 2:16--the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life. It didn't really surprise me in that we are ambassadors living in a world system in which the Enemy is very active. I think we could categorize commercial by these tactics and become wiser consumers.
Recently I saw a commercial that evoked a strong angry response from me and it wasn't even a commercial using sex to sell. It was a car commercial that started out like the sentimental commercials I like. It showed all the cars a couple bought over the years for the different life stages they were in. Towards the end of the commercial the dad handed his car keys over to his daughter and she pulled out of the driveway. The camera then switched over to the dad pulling out of the garage in a little sports car with the commentator saying, "And the car that reminds you of you when you were you."
I admit they initially sucked me in, as we had to change cars several times as our family grew large. I even admit I initially lit up when I saw the sports car. I have wanted a red convertible sports car every since I was fifteen. In my mind, I pictured my hair blowing, the warm sun on my face, loud praise music playing as I sped over mountain curves. But I got married and we chose to put my husband through six years of graduate school. Then came five kids. A sports care wasn't financially feasible on a graduate students salary or very practical for a large family. And the reality is with a mild case of PTSD being in any car, much less a sports car with wind in my face isn't really fun for me. Not ever getting the sports car isn't what made me angry at the commercial; it was the lie that is in embedded in the comment that was made as the man drove off.
For you see, as a math major I could have gone on to graduate school and made quite a bit of money and gotten that little red sports car I thought I wanted at the time. But I chose marriage and marriage didn't make me less me. In fact, marriage brought out the best of me and the worst of me. It brought out in me a heart full of compassion and love for a man who had a very difficult childhood and who was told he wouldn't amount to much. Yet we got through school together and he graduated as Dr. Daddy, partly because I believed in him. When ever we hit rough spots in our marriage I look at his childhood pictures and remind myself that I am married to that cute little guy in coveralls and my pride melts and my love grows.
Being married exposed the ugly selfishness residing in my heart and my tendency to be self-centered. We both had to learn a lot about compromise and learning to set goals together. We had to learn to look at ourselves when conflict arose, because the other wasn't capable of making us angry, it was his selfishness bumping against my selfishness that did that. Nope, neither of us became less of ourselves, we became better selves because of what our relationship exposed and the lessons we learned from that exposure. I learned that a soft answer could truly turn away wrath, that love covered a multitude of sins, that grace is experienced the most in intimate relationships, and that some of the best confrontations are gentle ones. Marriage was that iron sharpening iron that God talks about in His word! I needed it badly!
By the time kids came along, I thought we had grown quite a bit and life would be smooth sailing. I was mistaken. I found having five kids did the same thing marriage did--it brought out the best in me and exposed the worst parts of me. I never felt more like who I was supposed to me than when I was pregnant and carried a moving being inside. I would sit for hours and watch the movements and connect with feet and fists. I have never been able to find words to describe how full of love my heart was and is when it comes to my kids (and my grandkids.) That love gave me what I needed to get up all night with crying kids, wipe snotty noses, clean stinky bottoms, wash away blood from wounds, scrub dirty bathrooms when little guys missed the pot, cook countless dinners, wash sink loads of dishes, wash and fold mountains of laundry, pray over sick children, referee squabbles, listen to endless chatter, hold kids with ear aches and asthma all night, and sit by a hospital bed for two weeks,
But it also brought out the worst in me. The time that a knick knack got broken and brought out my wrath. The times the angry voice came out of my mouth and lectured kids who couldn't even process all those words I thought I needed to say, The times I asked the kids how their day at school went and realized when I pulled into the drive way that I had tuned them out as they told me. The banquets I missed as I isolated myself due in the midst of an eating disorder. Believe me, I could go on and on and on. Having kids didn't make me less me. It exposed the ugly parts of me that needed to be transformed. It exposed the immature parts of me that needed to grow. Being a mom did not make me less of me, it made me more of who God created me to be. Having a sports car earlier in life would not have helped me be more of me. Having sports car now would not make me more me! A sports car could not do for me what being married and having children did. I confess I needed the iron sharpening iron of relationships to grow and become a better me and I needed all the grace I could get in that process.
The line in the commercial bothered me because our society is plagued by broken families. The kinds of statements in that commercial appeal to our pride and resemble the temptation in the garden that implies so subtly that something is missing if we don't have something. In my eyes, there is nothing more manly than a married man loving his wife with his words, his actions, and his sacrifice. There is nothing more manly than a man playing with his children, praying faithfully for them, disciplining them with love, and giving grace when they need it most. There is nothing more manly than a man who is worn out and feeling inadequate who wants to leave, but chooses to stay. And there is nothing more beautiful than a wife who respects her man. There is nothing more beautiful than a mom feeding a baby from her body. There is nothing more beautiful than a mom rocking a sick toddler all night long. There is nothing more beautiful than a mom taking her son on a dinner date. There is nothing more beautiful than a mom dancing with her daughter as if no one is watching. There is nothing more beautiful than a mom graciously cleaning up milk spilt by two brothers proving strength in an arm wrestling match. There is nothing more beautiful than a mom hugging a child who was dumped by the boy or girl who didn't deserve them any way. There is nothing more beautiful than a worn out mom who is tempted to run from the chaos of family, choosing to stay. Nothing! That is the stuff that real men and women are made of. They push through fear and selfishness and embrace the iron sharpening iron process. I am, I have always been, and I will always be fully me!
Take note car company. You might have sucked me in had you not ended the commercial on that note!