Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)
There’s no easy way to say this, so I just will: I was a fan of The Backstreet Boys.
I loved everything about them.
The dance moves; the juvenile love songs; the impressive pyrotechnics.
I even liked Howie. (The least recognizable one)
In the moment, I thought there was no way anything could be better. I remember watching their live Disney Channel performance again and again after my grandmother recorded it on VHS for my sister and I. I wanted to experience the greatest band of all time over and over again. I remember thinking, “There is no other band. This is as good as it gets.”
I like to think that my musical palette has evolved since then, and my current reaction to their music, I think, confirms this thought. Each time I hear one of their songs now, I just remind myself, “You were only a boy. Don’t be so hard on yourself. How could you have known this was ridiculous as a six-year-old?”
I want to crawl under the table as each memory, and video record, resurfaces: me dancing my heart out to “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”. It is amazing to me that, as I age, I look back on things I once thought to be so natural, right, and amazing, and I find them…lacking. “What was I thinking?” is a common question.
Listening back, I find the lyrical holes, the lack of creativity and innovation, and I realize that as a six-year-old, I didn’t have the capacity to think about songs the way I do now. I just wasn’t there yet. Now, let me be careful. I don’t bring this up to suggest that you’re terrible for loving The Backstreet Boys; that’s not my point. (Every analogy falls short at some point.)
I bring the example up to show you this: tastes change with maturity. What seems like the right thing during one season of life, can look disappointing in hindsight.
The last six months have been one of the most difficult and sanctifying periods of my life. Sanctification, becoming more and more like Jesus through the power of the Gospel, I have often compared to the process of restoring a home. Jesus takes a particular aspect of our hearts and says, “This doesn’t look like me. Let’s change this crown molding/flooring/furniture over here.” This season has been different though. It’s more like Jesus said, “Let’s knock the second story off of this place.” And it hurt. (It does not save us, it simply makes us more like Christ, for our good and his glory.)
I saw the gaping holes in who I was. The moment I realized that I had spent my whole life wanting to be impressive more than I wanted to know Jesus or be like him, I was brought to another “What was I thinking?” moment.
It all seemed so right at the time, but my heart wasn’t for the renowned of Jesus. It was for the renowned of myself.
Therefore, the roles I played in others’ lives were not about serving them; they were about how playing the particular role made me feel. Selfishness, disguised as good will, fertilized roots of pride and arrogance wrapped firmly around my heart. As soon as the role stopped serving me the way I wanted it to, I became frustrated and resentful.
When the point of your life is to serve yourself, you will not treat others like the are made in the image of God. You will use them. It’s what I did. You’ll find yourself being “shady”, always explaining why you are never the one to blame, even when you are. You make yourself the god of your own universe, though you would never admit to it. Self service turns life into a game, and when your goal is to win, you will leave a trail of bodies behind you. All to come out on top.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” -Jeremiah 17:9
Sometimes you are blinded to your own sinfulness. The human heart is, as Tim Keller puts it, an “idol factory”. You are prone to hide and put things at the center of yourself that were never meant to be central. But in mercy, Christ calls us to something different. There’s a Better Song; a Higher Music. The painful journey into Christian maturity is the only thing that gives us the ears to hear it.
Friend, don’t use people. It is poisonous to your soul, and there’s so much more to be found in Christ.
This is important: if you don’t know Jesus, there’s no way out of the pit of self-serving-arrogance. He solves this brokenness at the cross. Trust Jesus. Do not fear; it is Jesus who changes your tastes.
In this season of repentance, Jesus reminds me that I was never loved because I did the right things. I have been loved by Heaven only because of the finished work of Christ himself. I trust him as he renovates this broken heart. My tastes outgrew The Backstreet Boys, and in a new depth of musical maturity, I have the ear for better songs. I don’t pretend to like John Mayer’s deep tracks anymore; I actually do. And even though I don’t enjoy The Backstreet Boys’ song Quit Playing Games (With My Heart) anymore, in response to Jesus, I want to do exactly that: quit playing games with people’s hearts. My prayer is that you will too.