Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Lack of Character Study

Have you ever woken up one day to the feeling that your life was all wrong? That you were somehow in the wrong story; that you needed to pull up from the typewriter of your life, pull the page out, crumple it up, throw it away, and start all over. It's like the epiphany Jerry Maguire had in the beginning of the popular movie when he realized that his priorities were all messed up and if he could do things the way his heart felt he should they would be done way differently. So he wrote his mission statement for a changed life and way of doing things. I had one of those moments when I turned 33.  The age Jesus was when He died and rose again.  The age my father was when he died and rose to be with Him.  I wondered if this might be a defining year in my life.  That in some way a resurrection of sorts would take place as I pick up where I left off with my studies several years ago.  I am confronted every day with reminders of how short life can be, how ephemeral and fleeting our existence is.  I think upon this often as I remember the time I served at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC and my current service at Brooke Army Medical Center.  My job has in large part been to care for the wounded warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as work major local trauma incidents.  Some of the warriors are dealing with the limbs they have lost, some, the horrors they have seen.  I see young men, much younger than I am, pushing themselves in wheelchairs; bereft of legs they possessed only weeks ago.  I wonder what they will do, and how they will survive in their radically changed life.  What would I do in their place?  What is their mission now? What is their story now? And then I ask, what is my purpose in this life? If I could write a mission statement for how I really wanted to do things, what would it be? How would things be different if I stopped listening to the voice in my head saying that these things I dream of just aren't possible? It seems like life is full of questions until we have the courage to answer them. If we stop living in fear and start walking into the dreams that God has placed on our hearts we will find the answers. They may not be the ones we think we want but they will be the ones that change us in an unmistakable way. The mundane existence we mire ourselves in for lack of faith in something magical happening in our lives threatens to slowly choke out any real living we might do. Around the corner there is something magical that just maybe rests on us to choose to believe. The tragedy is that we have lost our imagination in our rise to the seriousness of adulthood. The rite of passage we think is to leave our childhood behind while we lament the fact secretly for the rest of our lives living through our children and grandchildren's ability to see life as fresh, new, and magical everyday. Children hold a faith that is so purely held that it affects those around him or her bringing truth and life. Is living through others lives a drug or addiction? It may be. Hence the rise of the rule of reality TV shows. They are all ways we try and create life and bring vitality to our own empty existence. Are we all just parasites looking for our next fix from people and things around us? Hello, I am Andrew, and I'm a parasite. But my mission statement is to be one no more; to recover my imagination, my childlike faith and walk this world in a pure radical belief that He who has brought me here will get me there and back again. That there is one way, one truth, and one way to get the life I so crave. I will believe that dreams do come true, that the desires of our heart that God has planted within us from before time are meaningful and a calling which we should all listen to if we are to truly walk in freedom from fear; fear of pain, fear of hurt, fear of failure. And I will walk free of this because I realize that this life I talk of was never mine to begin with. I was created for a purpose and a story beyond myself, something much grander than I could even imagine. I have limited myself by chaining my expectations to this earth and all it has to offer. I have become the Bob Marley of my generation dragging the chains of all I have done in this life. Lucky am I that a Savior came and rescued me from the living hell I was trapped in within myself on this earth. Why is it that this world is full of billions of people yet one person can feel so alone sometimes. We do it to ourselves though. Our fear is what forms the bars of our internal prisons. Prisons from which we never let out true selves out to see the light of day because we can't handle the truth. So Western Culture creates the great escape for us. All of life is about escape. Get away from it all the ads say. Follow after the American dream. Spend your life accumulating wealth so you can run away from it all in the end. We have manufactured electronic marvels to plug in our attention 24 hours a day. Video games give us the chance to live an adventure in our living room. We never even have to leave our house to become a conqueror, a king, anything you want. We manufacture reality to satisfy our deepest desires. But pseudo reality can only cover up and never fulfill, you always need more. We run in vain when we try to escape. All things are lost if this is our dream. Maybe we should shut everything off and just listen to ourselves and God for awhile. and just maybe we should walk out our front door and ride off into the sunset of adventure in the real world living life to the fullest by being filled with that which is the greatest. As we walk we begin to see it, then we jog and it becomes clearer, then we begin to run. And we run into the arms of a mighty God, creator of all things, in whom we truly live and have our being; where perfect love casts out all fear and our tears are no more...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lost in Translation

Stranger Than Fiction - I've Devised A Test
Tags: Stranger Than Fiction - I've Devised A Test
I started my blog with the video above to illustrate the fact that I think we are all a lot like Will Ferrell's character Harold Crick. We are trying to find out what kind of story we are in. We all are currently in some kind of story. It could be a Romance, or a tragedy at this moment. The stories change from day to day and moment to moment. It seems that though we walk the same path everyday we never walk it quite the same. Something is always changing.  Because we are mired in the middle of our story we are muddled about it.  Have you ever felt this way? That we are stuck in a story and there is seemingly no way out. We've played out all the options in the Choose-My-Own-Adventure and none of them end up satisfying. If all we have is individual stories then what makes one more desirable than another? And for that matter, can I change my story if I desire to do so? And what is so important about my story anyway that I would even blog about it. I mean, really, am I so self obsessed that I need other people to validate my life in cyberspace because I'm not getting it in the real world? I tell myself I am writing this just for me, but really what is the purpose if it doesn't speak into other's lives? What am I to do? Well, just as Harold did, I think I have to figure out what kind of story I am in before I can know what to do.
      The first step towards finding out what story I'm in I think is the realization that it is not so much my story as it is the story of mankind, the story of the universe, the story of the God who made it all. In this day and age a lot of the Western mindset is that we are all little planets which the sun, moon, and stars revolve around. We have built up a backwards world, topsy turvy, in order to feed our own insatiable lusts for glory. How small the world becomes when it is all of me, another dash of me, a sprinkle of me; mix it all into a me mud pie of self indulgence we gorge upon eventually causing us to vomit ourselves all over everyone around us. Is this to be our legacy. It seems to me if we have to let everyone around us constantly know we exist because most of us including myself don't do anything really lasting eternally speaking, then when we are gone we won't exist at all because there won't be anybody to speak our praises of the nothingness we have done.  Fear and focus on the here and now have sidelined so much of what I had hoped to do by this time in my life. It is not to late, never to late to carpe diem. Maybe it is time to dig up the talents we have buried and multiply them for the greater glory, knowing that what lays in store is far better than what we have now.
     Am I dreaming, is it possible to transcend the bounds of a self-centered world? Or is that thought just a fairy tale? Though my masculinity might be called into question for saying it I have always liked fairy tales. If I had to be part of any tale it would be a fairy tale. They are so magical and mystical. And who doesn't like magic? I find myself wanting to live in one. I think I might like to be an Elf. They seem so wise and they have mad skills with weapons. I could even have a liger for a pet in my own fairy tale, and eat green eggs and ham.  So, besides the fact that they are fun and creative why are fairy tales so great? J.R.R. Tolkien once said that the most distinguishing mark of a fairy tale was "eucatastrophe." It simply means: A sudden unexpected turn towards the good. We see this when Belle kisses the Beast and transforms him, when Aslan is resurrected after his brutal death on the stone table, and most famously when Jesus appears to the disciples after his crucifixion. Yes, even the Gospel is a fairy story. These stories speak to us because they point to something beyond ourselves, something we can hope in and take meaning from, something that tells us that even though things seem beyond help good will always win. We need this hope to get us through the middle of this life, to the end, and back again. Just like Frodo and Sam; we cannot succeed if we do not see that we are a part of something more than just our own story. So I end this first blog with Frodo and Sam trying to find the strength to go on in their story when things seem darkest. The answer it seems is not me, but a good beyond myself worth fighting for.