Posts tagged passion
[Due to technical difficulties yesterday (namely that I had no access to the back-end of my website) TED Talk Tuesday had to be delayed until Wednesday. However, to thumb my nose at the internet gremlins who attacked me, I refuse to change the name to TED Talk Wednesday. So there!]
When I began watching this talk, I fully expected to hear Lawrence Lessig tell us how our political system is broken. What I didn’t expect to hear was how we could fix it, let alone why we should fix it. Lessig’s story about his lecture at Dartmouth (15:24) and his response about love stirs me to the core – not because of my love for country, but because of his passion and his definition of a love that would do anything and everything.
It is my belief that love changes the world. In Lessig’s area of passion, that may be love of country. In mine, that may be love of God and his people. In yours, it may be love of something else. Whatever it is, love will do anything and everything and, just maybe, can bring hope to a hopeless situation.
The book of Revelation: feared, revered and misunderstood. This book and the book of Genesis are some of the most talked about in all the Bible. In a way, that makes sense. The questions of, “How did it all begin?” and “How will it all end?” are poignant for every age and generation. They speak to things we cannot truly know.
And so, as we come to the end of our Bible, we run head-long into a very poetic, imagery-laden explanation of the end of time. However, before we get to that, Jesus, speaking through John, has some instruction for 7 churches in Asia. While these instructions have been picked apart at the most minute levels, sometimes a basic reading gives us the real meat of what the author is trying to say.
Let’s look at the instructions to each church:
- You are hard workers and you persevere
- You try to stay clean and avoid the traps of false prophets and evil people
- But you’ve lost some passion. You’re doing the right things, but your heart’s not in it.
- You’re poor and you’ve suffered a lot
- You’ll have to suffer more
- Don’t be discouraged. It’s gonna be worth it!
- You’re in a tough place
- Most of you have remained faithful
- But, you tolerate – even condone – some behaviors that you shouldn’t. You need to repent.
- You are doing the stuff – faith, love and deeds
- Hang in there!
- But, you have a poison in your ranks named Jezebel. She is a seductress. She’s going down. Don’t go down with her.
- You look good, talk a good game, but you’re really dead
- You came up with great plans, but didn’t execute well
- But, some of you actually followed through and that has not gone unnoticed.
- I know you’re tired
- I’m going to make things easier for you
- In fact, the ones tormenting you will soon bow down to you
- You guys are kind of milk-toast. Nothing horrible and nothing great
- You flaunt your wealth, but it’s all meaningless
- In reality, you are poor, pitiful and I’m going to spit you out if you can’t turn it around.
Seven churches, seven observations by Jesus himself. These are instructions about passion, courage, holiness, purity, commitment, perseverance and priorities – timeless themes that we find in the Bible from beginning to end. These seven churches aren’t just little groups in Asia. They are us.
Imagine if each of us took to heart these instructions. What if we could all be all of what Jesus commanded these churches to be? As I read today, I recognized how easy it would have been for the original audience to read this writing and be prideful. After all, he wasn’t talking to them…or us…or was he?
Oh man…here comes the kid. Now, understand, I’ve been a “young leader” for most of my years in ministry. I was on staff at a church when I was 20 years old and for the next decade or more, I was on the receiving end of the “you’re too young to understand” gaze. Few people will actually say it, but you can hear it in their tone of voice, see it in their eyes and the condescension is palpable. It is also, at times, deserved.
In the words of Elihu, I see so much of myself. Fifteen or so years ago, I thought I had it figured out, too. I spoke with the kind of authority that Elihu has when he says, “be silent and I will teach you wisdom.” You see, I think Elihu had pure motives. I think he was a good guy. And I think he thought the words he spoke to Job were inspired by God. I also know that I have been guilty of the kind of over-simplification and, frankly, personal accusations that Elihu levels at Job.
The thing that makes these kinds of arguments so interesting is that they are delivered with passion (the vigor of youth, I suppose) and they are littered with truth. So much of what Elihu says is spot on. Where he gets off track is in his assessment of Job. He speaks the absolute truth about the ways of God (that which he knows) but stumbles onto shaky ground when speaking about Job (that which he doesn’t know.)
If anything, I’ve found that the older I get, the less I’m convinced I know. However, those few things I do know, I can speak with conviction. I think the kind of wisdom that comes with age and experience is the wisdom of knowing what not to say and when not to speak. If only Elihu had spoken about the truths of God, perhaps his words would have rung true. As it is, I’m afraid he did his part to set back the cause of young leaders everywhere. Like a sloppy youth pastor or a drummer that can’t keep time, he perpetuated the stereotype and, unfortunately for all of us, his words were written down and kept in the most important collection of literature in history.
Love does funny things to people. Even the biggest, meanest, hardest guy can turn to mush when he falls in love. Just look at David. This guy is fierce. He has made a name as a conquering warrior and has surrounded himself with other highly capable fighters. On top of that, he has established himself as a strong and steady leader – one to be respected and revered. He is an alpha-male of the highest order.
And yet, what happens to David when and his men return the ark to Israel? He starts signing and dancing and writing poetry! Now, to be sure, David probably did all of those things before this moment, but this was a public display – something unbecoming of a king in the eyes of some. The fierce warrior had turned to mush! David was in love.
But David’s love and devotion weren’t directed toward a woman, but instead, they were directed at his God. David loved God with the kind of passion that most of us reserve for someone of the opposite sex. He danced for God and wrote poems and songs for him. He had a depth of relationship with God that would allow him to ask difficult questions and receive difficult answers. But this wasn’t an abandonment of David’s “true self,” it was an embrace of his whole self.
David was a complex person and someone that I can really identify with. I’m a guy who enjoys a good football game and a good broadway musical. I get equally excited about a technological expo and a visit to the Grand Canyon. I find energy in creative writing and in working through Excel spreadsheets. I am multidimensional, and David lets me know that that’s OK.
When David exhibits his brand unbridled passion for God, it should serve as a reminder to us all that our deepest, strongest love and our greatest expressions of it should be reserved not for our spouse, our job or our favorite sports team, but for the God who made it all and rules over it all. Our God is worth getting giddy about. Our God love for him should turn us to mush. I don’t have to turn in my man card in order to love my God, but I may have to change my definition (or the definition given to me) of what a true man should be.
Reading through the chapters in the book of Numbers today, one thing kept jumping out to me: the sheer number of animals and grain required as sacrifices. In a society where animals were an indicator – both in perception and reality – of one’s wealth and standing in the community, God was requiring so many of them to be sacrificed.
It’s worth asking the question; why did God need all those animals? Wouldn’t the people have a better use for them? And why the large numbers required for certain sacrifices? Of course, no one can really be sure about why God chose the requirements that he did, but the fact that these questions were in my head led me to one possible conclusion:
God required people to give up that which they thought they needed in order to prove that he was what they couldn’t live without.
You see, it’s hard to really believe that God is the provider until you’ve given up your provision and watched him return it to you. It’s hard to believe that God is in control until you’ve given up control and watched him orchestrate your life. It’s hard to believe that God cares about you, your family, your job, your friends, your hobbies, your passions, your hopes, dreams and aspirations until you give them up. You give them up and see what God does.
In my life, I have had to lay down a lot of things in order for God to prove himself faithful. Most of those were things that he would ultimately place back in my hands. Some, however, were lost forever…replaced with something better. The life that God has provided for me is very different than the one I could have provided for myself. At times, I wonder about that other life and yet, I know this one is better.
For his sake, I have to lay down all of the things I hold dear, to loosen my grip on what I hold tightly and to patiently and persistently choose to follow him and walk closely with him. The outcome, of course, proves beneficial for me, too. I get to live a life of purpose. I get to be instrumental in God’s work in the world. What better life could I ask for? What better life could I offer myself?