Lessons from Talking Vegetables

Note: This is not a book review per se.  It’s more of a “here’s what I learned from this book” sort of post.

A few months ago, I picked up a book called Me, Myself, and Bob, a personal-memoir kind of book written by Phil Vischer, the founder of Veggie Tales.  This book, despite the strange title, has radically affected the way I think about my dreams of being a filmmaker.

A young Bible-college dropout, Vischer founded a company named Big Idea with the vision of becoming the “Christian Disney” of the entertainment industry.  In Me, Myself, and Bob, Phil Vischer tells the story of Big Idea’s meteoric rise and cataclysmic fall, an often humorous, sometimes sad, tale “about dreams, God, and talking vegetables” (from the cover).  Me, Myself, and Bob is an adequate book as memoirs or biographies go, but the lessons that Phil Vischer derives from his story are what really set this book apart.

Phil Vischer had a dream—he wanted to conquer the TV industry for Christ.  So Vischer and a couple animators created a 30 minute show involving talking vegetables entitled Where’s God When I’m S-scared?  Junior Asparagus, Bob the Tomato, and Larry the Cucumber were the stars of the show, and they quickly endeared themselves to younger audiences (myself included).  Even older viewers were drawn to the tongue-in-cheek humor of the show.  The Christian messages, Bible verses, and Bible stories that formed the backbone of Veggie Tales contributed to the popularity of Vischer’s shows in households everywhere.  Vischer was making a huge impact on the world.  He could do no wrong, or so he thought.

Few people know the end of Vischer’s story, however. In 2003, quickly following the release of Big Idea’s first feature-length movie, Big Idea went bankrupt. Dozens of employees were laid-off or fired. “What happened?” many people asked. Well, that is part of what Vischer explains in this book. In short, Vischer acknowledges that he was overambitious and spent too much money (that sounds stupidly obvious, I know; that’s not the way he explains it, but I’m trying to summarize here), feeling sure he would make the losses up with the release of a feature film.

Though Vischer sometimes seems to digress overmuch (he has almost as many parenthetical phrases as I do), the sparkle of wit that pervades Me, Myself, and Bob is half the reason I enjoyed this book.

But more than this, the message of the book is very timely. The final chapters of Me, Myself, and Bob are about dreams—big ideas. And Phil Vischer’s message here flies in the face of many young people today. After all, what do young Christian teens such as myself want more than anything else? To make an impact for Christ, of course! To write a hit song, or make a hit movie that changes the world, or write a bestselling novel that reaches millions. That’s why we gobble up books like Do Hard Things that tell us that we can and should change the world (and I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Do Hard Things either; I have found it really helpful in many ways). But Phil Vischer offers a warning about this kind of thinking—he makes the point that Christians are supposed to be obeying God, not trying to make an impact.

Can’t I do both?—that was my first thought. Can’t I make an enormous impact and serve God at the same time? Well, yes, but not if my main goal is impact and not obedience. Vischer uses his story to show how his vision—his dream—of building a Christian entertainment company came at the cost of straining his relationship with God. He was so worried about making an impact with Big Idea that he didn’t have time to be friendly to people, to study God’s Word, to spend time with God in prayer, to simply obey God. In the end, Phil Vischer realized that God doesn’t care about the impact His people make. Vischer says, “The impact God has planned for us doesn’t occur when we’re pursuing impact. It occurs when we’re pursuing God.” So this book brought me to a startling realization: if pursuing a dream comes at the cost of becoming worn-out spiritually and not becoming more devoted to God, then that dream should probably be given up.

As I said before, Me, Myself, and Bob is only an adequate book as memoirs or biographies go. However, the lessons that Phil Vischer derives from his story are what really set this book apart. Vischer shows how even good things—like desiring to make a positive impact on culture—can be turned into idols when they become more important than obeying God.

-Jack-

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to read Before Dead Men Hiking – Origin Story, which talks about how Joseph and I acquired our interest in filmmaking.

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