One of the first things I knew as a kid was that I was supposed to find something.
HOW WE GO TO SLEEP
A lot of people are asleep. I don’t mean right now, I mean all the time.
I first started getting this feeling in college, this urgency of how life could matter, of how much people and their souls mattered. Time became really precious after that, because there was an end to it, and I started feeling this ache to use what I had. I’m not an artist, but I sat down and drew this terrible pair of eyes on a big piece of packing cardboard , and I wrote, “wake up today”, and I jimmied the whole piece of cardboard under the grate in the bunk bed above me. And for four years, my roommates slept on cardboard and I woke up a different way. To these garbage eyeballs and a message to my sleepy, numb soul to be awake that day instead of being asleep. I always wondered if my roommates noticed about the cardboard. If you’re my old roommate and you’re reading this, I’m really sorry about that. It seemed important at the time. Let me buy you a cup of coffee.
The more I wanted to be awake back then, the more I’d look around and realize being awake was like a secret club, like the awake-people would look around a room and actually see each other, and I wanted to be in the club. I became hungry for hard questions. I became hungry for awake people to pour into my soul what God was teaching them while they fought the numbness of living a sleepy life.
I know that we’re all seekers deep-down because of something my friend Ezechielle told me one time during a medical clinic in the Ivory Coast. We sat in the dark one night with our backs up against a cracked mud wall, and she told me about her roots – the traditions of the Baulé tribe. She said that you can tell who comes from her tribe by a slanted scar on the left side of their face. It turns out that it was tradition for someone to cut your face when you turned 13, so that you wore the scars of that tribe. And I just said, “Wow”, because I didn’t have a part of my life to relate to something like that. And she told me, “It is what people without God do”, and that part I understood. I’ve known all sorts of people looking for God, and the things they find to do instead of finding Him. I’ve seen it in them, and I’ve seen it in my self, because seeking is our cry for God, no matter what country or tribe we come from.
YELLING FIRE INTO THE FLOOD
Here’s a really hard thing C.S Lewis wrote one time:
“The use of fashions in thought is to distract men from their real dangers. We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is in the least danger, and fix its approval on the virtue that is nearest the vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them all running around with fire extinguishers whenever there’s a flood; and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gone under.”
This really stung me when I read it, and I'm glad for the sting.
One things’s for sure - ten times out of ten, you will always drown in a flood, no matter how big your fire extinguisher is.
2020 was a hard year, but it wasn't the problem.
The ache you feel in your soul today is not because of 2020. Covid-19 is not the problem, not the real problem anyway. Social media isn’t the problem. Politics isn’t the problem. Unrest, hatred, and economic decay are not the problem. The problem is sin. We live in a broken, sin-cursed world. If we call it something else before we call it sin, we are just wading into a flood with the wrong tools to stay above water. If we’re seeking to belong in a dying world, we'll find hopelessness and the broken pieces of this past year long before we find Christ.
One of the most hopeful things I know of is 1 Corinthians 15, the whole chapter. You should go read it now if you feel like having hope.
I used to think it'd be really neat to go on a talk show and sit in one of those low-backed tweed chairs with an iced coffee and nod very knowingly and say, "Absolutely, absolutely". If I ever got really famous and I were invited to go talk on a talk-show somewhere, and someone asked me about hope, I’d bring up 1 Corinthians 15. At least I'd really like to think I would. Maybe I'd just sit there like a dummy, "Absolutely, absolutely".
Apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians as a letter, and he starts out by asking his readers some really hard questions and answering them with good logic. Near the end of the chapter, he points out to the Corinthian church,
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”
He’s addressing the accusation that Jesus wasn't really raised from the dead. He says, “having Jesus on earth was great, but if He just lived and died, we have no hope, and no reason to keep seeking Him. Actually, we’re more miserable than anyone.”
I always liked that verse, because it reminded me of why I didn’t have to be miserable.
There are a lot of things we’ll look for and not find while we’re alive.
Peace on earth. Feeling all-the-way at home. Being the most important. Being the richest. Being the smartest. Curing all disease. Always feeling happy. Some of these things matter and some of them don’t really matter that much at all. Either way, seeking them more than we seek God will leave us miserable. When you seek Christ, you’ll actually find Him, because His life and love were not isolated to His 33 years on earth.
The thing is, we are supposed to find Him. We are meant to.
Sometimes I think we’re lost on-purpose – it's just I'm not sure we want to be found. Not by God anyway. We sit there like sleeping dummies, clutching our fire-extinguishers and repeating stuff like, "absolutely, absolutely".
Wake up today. We are called to wake up. As children of God , we have the tools to wake up. As children of God, we know better.
I weep for my generation as we watch for flames and drown in a flood. I weep for my generation, as we feel clever and brave and superior in our cynicism. I weep for the cynics. I weep for what we do not realize in our sleep. I weep that we will not be called out by truth. I weep that we seek and do not find.
It's no wonder that 2020 broke so many of us. It's so miserable to think that our souls long for something that Christ promises to fill, and we’re missing it. We aren’t calling the right things sin. We aren’t calling the right things truth. We ran for something besides Christ with fire extinguishers in-hand, and we missed His open arms.
And this is the thing that is just mad, it really is mad. That our lives and longings and hearts are really supposed to be filled. They are! And the sin that has happened and does happen in this sleepy world has instead been allowed to creep into our souls and color our hope. What's happened this year doesn't matter nearly as much as Who we seek. Who we seek is who we become. Who we seek defines us. Who we seek is what we will find, and by that measure it is no wonder we live in a despairing world.
But when we seek truth, when we seek righteousness, when we seek a home with God instead of a home on earth, we will find it. We will find Him.