If you’re reading this sentence, it’s because the headline (A.) startled you by its intrusive, personal nature, (B.) irritated you by it’s assumption that God exists, (C.) intrigued you because you never really thought about it, or (D.) touched a pre-existing suspicion or belief that hides in your heart.
Headlines – including the subject lines of emails and the opening sentences of speeches, sermons and radio ads – are vitally important.
David Ogilvy said it best, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
The headline that pulled you into this story is interesting because it:
1. is taboo, (by virtue of introducing the subject of deity.)
2. is a question for which there is no “obvious” answer.
You realize that I just taught you two techniques for creating good opening lines, right? (1.) Tickle a taboo. (2.) Ask a question with no obvious answer.
Here’s another good headline:
Four Out of Five People Think the Fifth is an Idiot
That one is interesting because it:
3. is funny
4. says far more than it says.
5. reminds you of things you already know about foolish statistics, public opinion polls and prejudices disguised as research, “Me and all my friends…”
Fifteen years ago when I first began writing for Radio Ink magazine, Eric Rhoads said, “Make your readers want to cheer your name or make them want to tear you limb from limb, but never let them be bored.”
That’s another useful tidbit:
6. People would rather be angry than bored.
One last thing about headlines:
7. Never promise something in a headline that you don’t deliver in the story. Readers aren’t quick to forgive a bait-and-switch.
So in the spirit of delivering what I promised in the headline, I’ll share with you the following thoughts:
It is easy to believe God loves us. It is somewhat harder to believe that He likes us.
You have certain people in your life that you love because they are “family.” But do you really like them? Even you-know-who? Would you have chosen that person to be your friend – the loved one you’re seeing in your mind right now – if they had not been thrust upon you by the genetic lottery?
Wow. There’s #1 again. Taboo. “Do I really like all the people I love? What a question! How dare you! Have you no sense of propriety?”
Love requires a commitment that runs deeper than your feelings. This irrational, wonderful, life-giving commitment makes it possible for us to love people we don’t really like; people we would never have chosen for rational reasons.
Love isn’t a feeling, it’s something you do. Love is action. Love rolls up its sleeves and wades into messes it did not make. This is how we can love people we don’t like.
But just for the record, God likes you. He actually likes you.
I asked him if he was sure. He said, “Yeah, I’m sure.”
We love babies, don’t we? They cry, scream and demand our attention, wake us when we’re trying to sleep, cry some more, vomit and then mess their pants and make no effort to clean any of it up.
God is easier to understand when you stop thinking of him as a father and begin imagining him as a mom.
The biggest difference between that baby and us is that we usually blame God for the messes we make.
COGNO-ALERT: This week’s rabbit hole is full of side tunnels. You can really get lost in there.