If stories are the soul’s food, heaven will be a feast.
I once stayed at a Catholic convent full of strict, wrinkled nuns in Hyderabad, India.
My American friends and I decided to go out one night for some fun, food and drinks, but as we approached the compound’s main gate, we ran into the mother superior.
As the oldest, coldest, most intimidating of the nuns, she gave us strict orders: “Be back by 9 o’clock or we will lock the gates and release the guard dogs before you return.”
Of course, this made us eager to defy her authority. We scoffed at her orders and ran off to eat spicy tandoori without a care in the world.
Naturally, we returned past curfew and assumed we were ‘in-the-right’ because the nun had encroached on our right to do whatever we wanted whenever we wanted to do it.
Although the guard dogs turned out to be 10-pound puppies, we forever stained our relationship with the convent and called our missions organization into question.
More than a random incident of youthful rebellion, I see this as a reflection of a wider ideology that pervades American culture. We are the land of the free, the home of the brave, a nation founded on revolution and individual autonomy, which brings me to my main point.
The most offensive word to Americans is a simple, two-syllable word that insults our beliefs and violates our value-system.
We inherently believe no one has the right to tell us how to live, where to go or what to do. Even when getting speeding tickets for flying down the freeway at 90 mph, most of us feel violated by police officers’ outrageous obstructions to our daily routines.
The problem is this hostility to submission often leaves us waring for our own selfish gain without considering how our actions affect others. More importantly, this hardens our hearts to the will of God.
Speaking to an atheist who asked about the difference between heaven and hell, Tim Keller said something pretty interesting. “Nobody ever goes to hell unless they want to. People go to hell because they want to be away from a god who will tell them what to do. People in hell would say, ‘It’s pretty miserable here, but I would never want to be in heaven with God where He is telling people what to do.’”
The commandments of God are not rigid rules. Rather, they are signposts pointing toward the path of true joy, peace and meaning.
If we ever hope to experience these things, we have to do the most counter-cultural, rebellious thing imaginable within America: Submit to a truth deeper than ourselves.
If love is a crutch, make me a paralyzed, epileptic leper with a crooked knee.
I’d rather never walk again than walk another step down the winding road of selfish feats.
People ask me why I like the Walking Dead. I tell them it’s the closest thing to reality TV.
Evil isn’t the opposite of good. It’s a sad photoshopped Kinko’s copy of the Sistine Chapel. It’s a pebble a the base of Mt. Everest. It’s a drop of oil in an ocean of ambrosia.
Yet we can’t stop mixing the Sacred with the profane, the pure with the prurient, like using the Holy Grail to drink quarter gallons of gasoline.
I used to think America was a merry-go-round in the middle of the desert, but now I realize we’re one short chapter in a library of empires.
There’s an odd rhythm to the rise and fall, like the sound of gnashing teeth tweeting a 140 beats per minute, but underneath I still hear the echo of a deeper story.
Funny how I’ve traveled Africa but had to walk the streets of D.C. to go on a real safari, brushing shoulders with Lockheed martians and homeless hustlers rushing nowhere quickly.
I want to hold it against them, but then I remember Mother Theresa had her doubts and Neitzsche had his charity, so I have to conclude we all need grace like withering roots thirsty for the same monsoon.
Most of us won’t find our dreams. Yet at the end of time the Father of Lights will gather our flickering pixels and spark the greatest supernova the universe has ever seen.
In that moment, regret will fade and the only memories left will be the sacrifices we poured out.
So if love is a crutch, make me a paralyzed, epileptic leper with a crooked knee.
Nothing numbs boredom like a fancy new purchase.
Today, about 225 million people will swarm malls and retail stores to spend close to $12 billion dollars on iPhones, designer clothes, TV’s and industrial blenders with 15 different settings.
(To put this in perspective, this amount of money would be enough to build about 1.5 million wells to fix water shortages worldwide).
Black Friday has become synonymous with American culture. While I do not believe it is inherently bad to spend lots of money to take advantage of annual sales, I believe this pseudo-holiday has deceived us into thinking more stuff will satisfy us in impossible ways. And each product whispers a different lie.
New technology promises to make life easier.
New clothes promise to boost self-esteem.
New cars promise to give us more adventure.
Yet ultimately, the more we feed our souls with sales racks and shopping bags, the more we starve ourselves of genuine contentment.
I once heard about a young woman who won the lottery and bought everything she had ever wanted. She ordered clothes from French fashion houses, traveled on Caribbean vacations and threw parties of Biblical proportions. She even reinvented her body with breast enhancements and a couple rounds of liposuction. After a few years however, this rampant spending spiraled into a heap of debt, a violent cocaine addiction and two suicide attempts.
This girl survived and later got a job as a maid, but when asked if she would spend the money differently if she could do it over, she replied, “I’d rip the ticket up and flush it down the toilet.”
No fancy purchase can change your heart. If you feel anxious, stressed, unvalued and bored before you buy a bunch of new stuff, you can certainly put a band-aid on those struggles by spending a couple hundred dollars, but the feelings will creep back within a couple weeks.
We were all meant to desire newness. Yet this is only found in the new life given from God above. We just have to have faith to receive it and thankfulness to sustain it.
So whether or not you decide to fight the crowds today to save 25 percent on a new espresso machine, you don’t have to buy into the lies.
More than likely, you already have more than you could ever desire– you just have to open your eyes to see it.
The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
Check out my new article on RELEVANT Magazine today:
- Only when you let go of expectations do you start to feel thankful for surprises.
- Joy comes down to perspective. If you focus on what you don’t have, you’ll never find it.
- Character is way more important than success.
- Hell is unrestrained addiction to anything that isn’t God.
- More communication = Less violence, bitterness, anger, hostility.
- Humility comes when you forget about yourself.
- Everyone who hates Justin Bieber is insecure.
- You can’t legislate an issue of the heart.
- God is truth; truth is love.
I once got lost in a dark alley in Kampala, Uganda.
Having recently arrived at a hostel with my friends after traveling for 26-hours, I could not sit still. I decided to do what I always do– run without any sense of time or direction.
I slipped on my shoes and left in a flash without telling anyone. This normally makes me feel whimsical and free, but on this night, my runner’s high quickly faded to a sense of childish panic.
Somewhere between Sigur Ros and the greatest hits of Ottis Redding (don’t judge the playlist), darkness replaced daylight, blurring the narrow streets that would guide me back to the hostel.
It took five minutes for my macho adrenaline to subside before I could admit the truth: I was lost.
I looked around the narrow alley where I stood. Roaring motorcycles zipped by. Caustic smoke filled the air. I could hear passersby whispering mysterious sounds in Swahili, like,“Mzungu, Je, wewe waliopotea?”
After searching for 30 minutes to no avail, I had to humble myself and find help. I eavesdropped on the conversations of people in the streets, waiting to hear some English words as a sign I could ask for directions.
Finally, I heard it in the distance. “Yes, I agree…” A middle-aged Ugandan man with a big stomach and a bigger gold chain was speaking English. I walked over and asked if he knew how to get to the local backpackers’ hostel.
“Yes, but you will not find it in the dark. Get on my motorcycle. I will take you there,” he said.
Can I really take the risk? This guy looked like an African drug lord, but without any other options, I hopped on the back of his moto and hoped for the best.
We treaded down unfamiliar roads beneath dim orange streetlights. The ride seemed to take too long. Soon, we pulled up to a shady house where six jacked guys sat in the dark on the front porch.
This is the end. They will demand I give them money. Why did I get on the motorcycle?!
As these worried thoughts raced through my mind, my motorcycle friend interrupted and asked the men, “Jambo, Do you know how to get the the backpackers hostel?” The men answered in Swahili and we sped off again.
Within five minutes, we reached the hostel– I couldn’t believe it. I tried to pay my friend gas money but he would not accept it. He said he simply wanted to help.
“If you are in my country, you are my guest,” he insisted. I couldn’t fully express my gratitude.
Trust is a dangerous business. If you open up, someone could reject you. If you start a relationship, it could end. If you hop on a stranger’s motorcycle in Kampala, Uganda… well, you get the point. But cynicism and doubt only lead to loneliness and fear.
On the other hand, trust opens the door to peace, joy and a genuine relationship. If you take a step of faith and accept the risk, you might just find the life you were meant to live.
Just listened to this gem again. One of the best spoken-word pieces on worship I’ve ever heard. By my man Michael Perez.
If you only love when it’s comfortable, romantic, gratifying and noticed, you don’t really love.