Think less librarian and more Incredible Hulk…
I don’t define greatness by how much money or property one dies with.
This differs sharply from most of the culture I grew up in but I’ve been around long enough to watch the rich and poor both die, some on nicer beds than others. Death is inevitable and it still shocks and upsets me when people live their whole lives focused on the wrong thing.
Money is good if it buys you what you want in the end, but money can’t buy you love (I just made that up now and didn’t copy it from a song or anything), money also can’t buy you PURPOSE.
Do you know why you’re here? Like why you’re alive on earth?
I believe with every fibre of my being that I was placed on earth for a purpose. I have a reason to be here.
Do you? Most people have never really thought about it and that bothers me, it’s a sickness in our culture that I’m not ok with anymore. Money or wealth can buy distraction and pleasure, but it can’t buy what you really want (“I don’t want pleasure?” you might say. No, it’s a by-product of other things. Physical pleasure doesn’t satisfy you on the level I’m talking about. It can’t.)
The funny thing is that we don’t discover our purpose the way we would like to most of the time. It’s not a happy realization, it is birthed in pain. Let me explain…
You can watch the news but when a story about that comes on it bothers you. Sometimes we change the channel because we know if we keep watching a report on that kind of injustice we will get very upset. That might actually be the point… maybe you should get upset and stay upset.
Comfort causes us to settle for things that we shouldn’t. We’re lazy and don’t care about people the way we should so we distract ourselves in a vain attempt to numb the pain we should actually be embracing. Our culture is king at it. We make fun of people who are sold out to a cause as if they were the weak ones while we go on living selfish and stoic lives with little meaning. But here’s what I know:
When you settle people suffer.
Every single time you settle people suffer, including yourself. Don’t think your lack of feeling is only your business or only affects you, that is a lie that we buy because we want it to be true while it couldn’t be further from it.
What upsets you in this world? What do you hear or watch that you know would probably make you snap?
Bono that great humanitarian and rock star travelled to Ethiopia with is wife and within hours of seeing the suffering while his senses were rocked by the smells and sounds that come with it, he said he put his hands over his head and say “No no. NO no no no no!”
He snapped and never snapped back. He had a moment that revealed the hollowness of his fame and fortune without purpose and he was wrecked forever. He has spent his life desperately trying to right the wrongs of the poor. He simply could not live one more day in a world where that was the reality! He got upset and stayed upset. That’s the trick.
Think less librarian and more Incredible Hulk.
The greatest men and women the world has ever seen share something with the Hulk. The Hulk’s secret (at least according the The Avengers movie)? “I’m always angry!”
One day a very unlikely man named Gandhi simply had enough of the British oppression.
A young shepherd boy named David looks over the heads of much stronger men of war and sees a giant defying his people and his God. In that moment he knows that the world is too small for the both of them.
Martin Luther King Jr decided that any alternative, any sacrifice would be easier to bear than standing by and having to watch his children inherit the same world he had.
Some people in our church did a Veranda Sale and raised money for micro loans to get three women off the street selling their bodies for food for their children. It’s not right. It upset them. It should upset them.
Does anything upset you?
Jesus Christ did the unthinkable as the Son of God and suffered more humiliation and pain, was brought lower than the lowest of us all to give us a shot at eternity with his father. One day he’d had enough of our suffering and changed the game for us all.
A man named Nehemiah heard the distress of his people eight hundred miles away and sat down and wept.
We would turn away in embarrassment and tell ourselves how strong we are because it didn’t get to us like that, ergo the one who gets upset must be the weak one? When our hearts compound cowardice with pride things get pretty ugly…
Nehemiah was the personal bodyguard of King Artaxerxes of Persia. Let me break it down for you… He was one of the highest level, toughest, smartest, well paid, most trustworthy, amazing men of his day. His brother visits him and in a moment one piece of news so upsets him that he sits down and weeps. He snaps and never snaps back.
Something inside of his head breaks and he sees the comfort and security of his life as something to be despised if he wouldn’t sell it all to do the right thing, and what over a period of four months becomes the only thing that matters to him.
He leaves his life to build a wall around Jerusalem and save his people.
Would you sell it all and do the right thing?
My first trip to Port-au-Prince Haiti upset me. I remember vividly the sights and smells, the abject poverty. I said to myself “If I lived here with my wife and daughters I would escape and never come back unless God did something in me to change it”. We were going to the mission of a man who grew up as a child slave in Haiti, had been adopted by a Canadian woman, married an American girl, had kids and went back to the country of his birth. He couldn’t stand it anymore.
Before God can do something through you, he has to do something IN you.
It upset me and I stayed upset. The greatest people I know upset me.
I couldn’t have grown up in a better family. Good Christians. Good people.
What you couldn’t see from the highlight reel is that from the time I was a baby until I was five I used to hallucinate terribly in the nighttimes. Hour after hour of incredible night terrors while suffering severe asthma attacks. This went on for years.
If you have come up with a list of solutions for us or judgements against my parents, please leave it by the garbage can? You would be just one more of many who distanced themselves from our suffering with their solutions so they could feel better about themselves.
It was distinctly a spiritual thing in an unspiritual neighbourhood if you would.. My parents didn’t know what to do and neither did anyone else. How do you get help for something even you didn’t believe existed until it actually started happening?
There is just no solution for suffering sometimes. Of course people pay for their mistakes but this wasn’t one of those times. Believe me that everyone would have said that they wanted to help but no one actually did. Sometimes all you can do is listen, sit, and weep with people if you have the guts.
Every time I look back to those days thirty five years later something inside of me snaps. I get upset. I’m certainly not the softest guy you will meet but some things wreck me and I have had to live with the fact that it always will, and always should.
I don’t want to be numb to the suffering of people and if anyone understands what it’s like to live wide open to a spiritual force that wants to kill you but only after it’s driven you completely mad, it would be me. If adults who experience this go insane, what would it do to a young child who has never known any other reality? People don’t recover from that.
I wasn’t lucky like some of you… I didn’t meet God first, I met the devil. When I close my eyes I can still actually see what I saw when I was two and three and four years old. Evil things circling my bed. I don’t need to hear that they weren’t real from someone who has never walked in those shoes.
I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me, it just was what it was. I actually feel like it was a gift now.
The worst things you go through might be the salvation for someone else in the end. In those early years I experienced life in a city without walls just like Nehemiah’s people. Any time everything I loved could be torn away from me and I had no control whatsoever. Madness could descend in moments to a child in a culture that would try to medicate a spiritual problem.
I can’t live life like most people. I’ve spent my whole life trying to figure it out and I think I’ve finally got it. It explains an intensity and focus you don’t see in many and here’s why:
I lived in a confrontation every person will face one day: life outside the protection of the blood of Jesus Christ. The extreme terror in a room with no light and no morning, when dark things come for your soul. It is a day of reckoning where all hope is lost.
As dark as it was you can imagine when Christ saved me how light it seemed! I’m not saying everyone’s life gets better and there’s no more pain (where was he when I suffered you might say?), but at least I’m not pretending to have all the answers. All I know is that he saved me and that is enough!
Let me define reality for you. If there is no connection for you with God in this lifetime through Jesus there will be none in the next. All the distraction in the world can’t make me forget the truth. There is a judgement coming and only you can decide whose side you will be on. Since Adam there have been no innocents because he settled and we suffered. There is a Redeemer of mankind that took the judgement in our place, if you will only live within his walls.
What was taken from me as a child has become the greatest gift I could have asked for: FOCUS.
There is nothing else in this life that matters without Christ.
I’m done playing church. I’m done keeping quiet. I’m done with comfort. I can’t live in a world that misses the point anymore.
What’s your purpose in this life? Do you even know?
Does illiteracy get under your skin? The plight of single mothers? AIDS? Homelessness? Boys and girls growing up without a father figure? People who are only aware of their deep spiritual poverty when it’s too late?
Maybe the first step is to start thinking about the one thing that bothers you the most, and …