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Monday, December 17, 2012

Why So Much Evil?

Last week, of all weeks, I made a presentation to an apologetics class on the Problem of Evil. If God is so good and so powerful, then why is there so much evil? It would be just two days later that the horrific school shooting in Connecticut would occur.

So, while these thoughts were not collected as an answer to the school shooting, they might give us some perspective on evil in general and where God stands in all of this. I'm offering this, not as a response to the tragedy in Newtown, but as some helpful ideas to wrestle with what see going on around us.

William Hasker has said, "For at least a century and a half, the existence and prevalence of evil in the world has been generally recognized as the single most formidable obstacle to theistic belief." In other words, more people might believe in a good and just God if not for all the evil they see going on around them. I give these 5 potential answers for the problem of evil as a way in which we might reconcile the presence of evil with the reality of a loving God.

1. The Experiential Factor
One important question to ask it, "How do I define evil?" We live in a day and age where whatever I experience or believe is the most true thing that exists. This is true also of what we would call evil. We consider evil anything that is bad, harmful, or damaging to others. Yet, what one culture considers evil may be considered normal in another culture a hundred years later. The point is, sometimes, in complaining about evil, we are merely saying that God isn't running the world the way we think He should from our perspective.

Scripture defines evil not as something that is bad or wrong, but as anything that is contrary to the will and nature of God. Take for example Adam and Eve in the garden- eating an apple wasn't bad, hurtful, or damaging, BUT it was contrary to the voice of God.

So, the first possible answer to the problem of evil is to make sure that we define evil appropriately, based on something higher than our own personal experience.  

2.  The Evidence of Creation
 The problem of evil is based on the idea that a good and loving God would make a perfect world. But consider the marks of God’s creation before Adam and Eve sinned. (From Douglas Hall)
-Loneliness- “it is not good for man to be alone.”
-Limits- we are limited in existence, power and intelligence.
-Temptation- an unholy desire to exceed limits and become gods
-Anxiety- in Eve, a fear that she didn’t have everything she needed for life



Couched in every one of these is the prospect for suffering. Suffering which God allowed for.

But we would all agree that these “evils” exist for our own benefit- loneliness that we might draw near to others, limits that we might stay safe and value life, temptation in that we are free to exercise free will, and anxiety which teaches dependence on God.



An all loving and all good God created this way! Struggle is part of creating life- how we learn to become fully human! And in this struggle, there will pain, and perhaps even things we would describe as evil.



The second possible answer to the problem of evil is seeing the evidence of creation.

3. The Existence of Good
 Ho w do you know something is good? No one argues that we should do away with good. No one suggests we should stop being kind, or loving or gracious. But how would we recognize any of these things without the potential for evil?

You have heard how scientifically, “Dark” and “Cold” do not exist.
-        Darkness is only the measure of the absence of light
-        Coldness is only the measure of the absence of heat
-        We know dark and cold experientially but only through these do we also experience the goodness of light and heat.

A third possible answer to the problem of evil is recognizing at as the absence of good. We experience evil, but only because we also know what is good.

4. The Elevation of Free Will
Most of the arguments of evil I hear relate to gratuitous acts of violence or unjust suffering.
“Why did God allow Hitler to live?”
“Why didn’t God stop the drunk driver before he drank?”
“Why didn’t God stop _________________.”
So, in other words, we want God to step in and disrupt human free will when we think its obvious that He should do so. We see certain times and decisions that God should make, and the fact that He doesn’t causes us to doubt his existence.

Have you ever hurt someone? Maybe you shouldn’t have been born! Maybe God should have stopped you.
"But I’ve done lots of good!" we say. "I deserve to live."
So now again, WE are the standard of what God should do.

But God has prized and valued our free will- our ability to choose Him or reject Him, to choose love or to choose hate, to choose peace or to choose evil- so much that He treats us all the same. He soveriegnly chooses to keep his hands off.
  
I heard a speaker telling his story, and he was crying out to God, “God, why didn’t you keep me from this abusive person?” And he heard God say, “You can’t see how much I kept off you.” We only see what God does allow. Does that mean it’s good? No necessarily. 

If anything, gratuitous and unjust displays evil ought to cause us to redouble our efforts to preach the Kingdom and spread the Love of Christ, so that more and more people will freely choose to follow Him and surrender to his rule. Which by the way, how significant is it when we choose to love Him? In light of the freedom God allows for each one of us to choose evil, how awesome is it that we can actually find Him?


The fourth possible answer to the problem of evil is seeing how highly God values our freedom- our freedom to choose Him. God refused to create obedient little robots.

5. The Example of the Cross
 In John 1:18 we read, "No one has ever seen God, but the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.”

Never has God been more clearly revealed than on the cross. If we want to know how God feels about evil, the cross of Jesus is the clearest answer.  He permitted this evil to happen, but He gave his very life to overcome the evil that was at work. Honestly, for me faith falls apart without the cross. But in the cross, I see God's answer to the problem of evil. 

The fifth possible answer to the problem of evil is to point to the cross of Jesus Christ and say, “That’s how God feels about evil.”

May these potential answers help you to process the evil that you encounter on your journey.
And may you know His peace-

Nick

Thursday, December 06, 2012

What to Make of Endings

A few weeks ago, a very good friend of mine came to me and told me that he was leaving the church.  He said that God was stirring new things in his heart, and his season of ministry in Kelso had come to a close. This news, while not completely unexpected, came as a real blow. Over the next few days, I found myself really wrestling with this news, mostly focused on what I had done wrong or could have done differently.

It was during this time that I noticed a book on my shelf; one another friend had passed on to me several months earlier called, Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud. Out of curiousity, I picked up the book and began to read. Never has a book been more perfectly suited to a time of need.

As our whole church family processes this news, I offer some gleanings from this reading, particularly as it has spoken to my own soul about endings in general. Even if you are from beyond the EHA circle, which many of you are, I think these insights will help you face the unexpected shifts and changes that come into every life.



Change is a necessary part of life. Accept it. One of the mistakes we make is to perceive every change, every ending, as negative. In this mindset, we have no choice but to fear transitions and fight them when they happen. But look at the world around you- cycles and season of change dominate every aspect of life. Life is filled with necessary endings. Endings are the reason most of us are not married to our prom date (and I am very glad for that.) Learn to recognize change as a natural, normal part of life.

Figure out why you are opposed endings. Deeper motivations are usually lurking underneath the fears that surface in our life. When a change or an ending causes us to clench up in anxiety or worry, this is a prime opportunity to assess what is really driving us. Often times, motivations like comfort, safety, and a need for control are more at play than we realize. Good-byes are certainly hard, but the  other emotions we feel, in addition to the sorrow, are worth our attention. Figuring out what really going on can be extremely helpful.

The pain of pruning produces the joy of new life. Each year in the late fall, I pull out a big set of brush clippers and make my way around the yard. I chop back the apple trees, lop off rose bush branches, and ready the blueberries for winter. It seems like such a shame to discard so many good, healthy branches. But I know from experience this brings greater life to the plants. While endings are hard, they are very often the catalyst for new growth and change. Though I will greatly miss this friend, I am excited and confident about what God wants to do next. I can't totally see it yet, but I know it will be good.

Enjoy the season you are in. I had the privilege of enjoying seven years of ministry with this friend. It was an enjoyable season. Now, we find ourselves in a season of transition. Transitions, while more uncertain, can also be rich seasons of learning, growing and change. Several months from now, we’ll find ourselves as a church in another season as ministry moves forward. The point is, all of life occurs in season. Sometimes we can be so in love with a season that was, or so anxious for a season that is yet to be, that we forget the call we have to live fully alive in this present season. So while I may not be looking forward to every change, I am looking forward to how this new season will develop my soul, enrich my faith, strengthen old relationships and bring new friendships onto the scene.


What changes, or necessary endings, are you encountering? What are you learning from them about God and about yourself?

May your journey be all the better because of what God teaches you through change-

Peace,
Nick








Friday, November 09, 2012

What Kind of Roads Do You Build?

Today, I stood at a unique spot in Sarajevo. As we visited a park on one of the many hills around the city, our host Todd Denius pointed out a road running parallel to the park. You can see this road somewhat in the picture if you look carefully over my shoulder. On my left-hand side (your right) is the Serbian Republic, while on my right-hand side (your left) is the Bosnian Federation. These are roughly the political equivalent of states, but with much greater division and animosity between them. There are many, many people living in these two areas that would never consider crossing the road to the other side. This road is a clear demarcation of one side from the other. For the Bosnians, it was "those guys" on the other side that started the war and put the city under a horrible siege for 3 long years. For the Serbs, they were simply repaying what had been done to them generations earlier.

It occured to me today how often we build roads like these. The "us" versus "them" mentality sneaks into so much of what we do- our political system, how people vote on a bill, the way we defend certain rights, our side of the car, or the bed- we create parallel, dividing lines to keep us separated from those whom we perceive to be our enemies. Though they are often quite close to us, we look across our carefully crafted lines and rehearse the mental mantras we have against them. We stay on our side, they stay on theirs, and everyone can get along.

In contrast to this, I thought today about the kind of roads that Jesus built. During his life, Jesus seemed to build many roads, but these roads never seemed to divide- they intersected. They transected. (Ok, you could argue that Jesus created a divide between himself and religious leaders of his day, but that's another blog for another day.) Jesus created pathways that reconnected the sick and the healthy, Gentile and Jew, rich and poor, down-trodden sinners to a loving God. Everything Jesus did seemed to be an effort to draw people together into a new kind of Kingdom; a kingdom marked by love, forgiveness, truth, and mercy. People didn't have to hide their stuff from him, because he knew about it already and forgave them anyway.

I wonder- what kind of roads are you building in your life? Roads that divide, or roads that connect? Do you find yourself working towards healing, hope and restoration? Or do your actions create sides that draw up battle lines? I'm just wondering today because I think it's our human nature to create "us" versus "them" kind of divides. If this is true, than part of denying myself in order to follow Jesus will mean that I be willing to lay down this kind of construction. Even when I'm angry, even when I want to hate or ignore or turn against- even then I work on paths that reconnect people. That's what Jesus did for me with God, and I'm so glad that He did.

May you be aware of the roads you build today. And when necessary, may you tear down the ones that divide in favor of ones that connect.

Journey in His peace-
Nick

Monday, November 05, 2012

Sarajevo Soon

Hey all-

This week, I head to Sarajevo, Bosnia for a 12-day trip of connecting with believers, preaching in churches, and teaching a class at the Mostar Bible College, the only Christian higher-education option in the country.

Recently, author Philip Yancey toured Bosnia and Croatia as two of his most popular books were translated into those languages. I am re-posting his thoughts and observations for you to consider as our team prepares to leave. May these insights prompt you to pray and intercede for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovnia.

This is from his official site, PhilipYancey.com:

Don’t Cry For Me, Sarajevo

On a book tour last month, as we were driving along the highway from Croatia to Bosnia, traffic came to a sudden stop near the border.  Car doors opened, drivers stepped outside for a smoke, and everyone speculated on what had caused the backup.  An accident?  Road work?  No, as it turned out: personnel were sweeping the adjacent fields for mines left over from the war that ended 17 years ago.  Welcome to the former Yugoslavia.  More than five million mines were planted during that war and they continue to maim or kill unsuspecting farmers, hikers, and children.

When we finally reached the border, the world abruptly changed.  A four-lane superhighway narrowed to a windy, potholed two-lane road.  Road signs now used both the Roman alphabet of Western Europe and the Cyrillic alphabet of the East.  Most obviously, every other house was vacant, its interior gutted by fire bombs, a relic of the Serbs’ ethnic cleansing campaign to force Croats and Bosnians from Serbian areas.
“Who owns these homes now?” I asked my Croatian host.  “Probably the people who were chased away and live somewhere else now.  But would you want to go back and reclaim a home in the same town where your neighbors raped your daughter and slit your wife’s throat?”
In Sarajevo, our destination, East and West meet on the same street.  Standing in the bazaar, if you look one direction you’d swear you were in Austria with its neat buildings, onion-dome churches, and sidewalk cafes; look the other direction and you’d think you were in Istanbul with its tea shops and covered Muslim women browsing in the spice market.  Indeed, not far from here bloody battles stopped Islam from taking over Europe centuries ago, and no one has forgotten.The Balkans dominated the news back in the 1990s.  International leaders stood by wringing their hands while the horrors of World War II seemed to be playing out again on miniature scale.  I could never keep the adversaries straight back then, much less pronounce them, and the villains seemed to change weekly.  Who can make sense of the former Yugoslavia?
Under communism Yugoslavia forced three major groups (as well as other minor tribes) to live together: Croatian Catholics, Orthodox Serbians, and Bosnian Muslims.  Before the 199os war Sarajevo had a large population of each; now the city is 90 percent Muslim, with greatly reduced Orthodox and Catholic populations and only a sprinkling of Protestants (perhaps 800 out of 400,000).
For just shy of four years Serbian soldiers who inherited most of the Yugoslavian army took up positions in the hills that surround Sarajevo and strangled the city in a brutal siege, the longest in modern times.  An average of 329 grenades rained down on the city every day, and on busy days ten times that number.  Snipers cruelly picked off easy targets: a seven-year-old Muslim girl, a 70-year old grandmother, a medical worker administering aid.  At least 11,000 civilians died during the siege, including 1600 children.  Bodies floated down the river that now picturesquely winds through town.  Cemeteries filled up so that the dead had to be buried in a soccer field just down from the site of the 1984 Olympics.
This was modern Europe, where such things were not supposed to happen again, especially not here, the exact site of the assassination of an archduke that triggered World War I.  But it did happen, for 1443 horrific days of bombardment on a city that had no electricity, no heat, gas, or telephone service.  (Imagine the inconveniences of those affected by Superstorm Sandy in the East, for four years, plus relentless bombardment.)  The main source of water was a brewery that generously opened its supplies to those brave enough to dare the snipers who fired down on them at will.
The residents of Sarajevo lived on a diet of beans, macaroni, and rice, humanitarian aid supplied largely by air from the UN and NATO forces who controlled the airport.  It took four months to dig a half-mile tunnel under open fields to the airport, and at night as many as 1000 Sarajevans crowded the tunnel to fetch the heavy loads of rations that kept them alive.  The entrance to the tunnel provided a new target to snipers, who targeted any who braved the run during daylight hours.
Few buildings have been fully repaired even today, 17 years after a cease-fire.  Most bear the scars of bullet holes and shrapnel.  Plaques mark the spots where grenades fell among civilians: 27 died on this corner, 40 in that pedestrian mall, 70 in a nearby food market.  I stayed in a Franciscan monastery, now restored, that had received 42 direct hits from grenades.
n the world exists only one human; everything else is statistics,” said Jorge Luis Borges.  Speaking with a few who had endured the siege, I heard some of their poignant stories:
• “For nine days in a row we ate plain pasta.  We had no spices, no meat, no flavoring.  My mother was so desperate for flavor that she went out and gathered grass to sprinkle in just to add a bit of variety and color.  When we got something different, like rice or powdered milk, we would throw a party.”
• “Without heat, we would burn anything at hand in the winter to stay warm.  I had a newborn baby, born in the midst of that hell.  We chopped up heirloom furniture with an ax.  You go numb after a while.  One Christmas a friend brought me a priceless gift: the dirt-covered root system of a tree he had found somewhere.  I cried.  I have never received a Christmas gift that meant so much, and I still have it.  I could not burn it.  I tell you with shame, that gesture moved me more than hearing that thirty more people died.”
• “The worst thing is, you get used to evil.  If we knew in advance how long it would last, we would probably have killed ourselves.  Over time, you stop caring.  You just try to keep living.”
• “I have two brothers.  One joined the Muslim army to fight against the siege.  One escaped and served with the Croatians.  My sister was married to a Serb, who was conscripted to serve with the forces besieging us.  So many marriages were mixed like that—Serb/Croatian, Croatian/Bosnian, Bosnian/Serb—and many of them broke apart.”
• “Why such brutality?  These were our friends, our neighbors, now shooting at us, blowing up our homes.  Hannah Arendt writes about the banality of evil.  The biggest criminals were nice fathers and husbands, people I knew.  They were like the Nazis who would gas Jews in the day and then go home and listen to concerts with their families.”
Croatia was the first region to resist the Serbs, who sought a Greater Serbia comprising most of the former Yugoslavia.  The Croats had no army to speak of, just a few tanks left over from World War II and a handful of planes used for crop-dusting.  Improvising, they learned to drop propane tanks and water heaters out of the crop dusters onto Serbian forces.  To get around an international arms embargo, they released some  Mafia-type gangsters from prison, gave them trucks full of money, and commissioned them to find a black market in weapons.  (As a reward, some of these criminals now hold high government posts.)
Dubrovnic, Srebenica, Vukovar—these names stand out as sites of the worst brutality, crimes that are even now being tried before the International Criminal Court.  More than 100,000 people died in the wars.  In Srebenica Serbs rounded up every male over the age of fifteen, 8000 in all, tied their hands behind their backs, and shot them.  Workers are still digging up the mass graves in an attempt to identify the bodies.
To read the eyewitness reports from the international court in the Hague is to read a litany of horrors: of pregnant women cut open, their unborn babies smashed with rifle butts; of gang rapes of girls as young as nine; of toddlers decapitated, their heads placed in their mothers’ laps.  There is only one explanation for what happened, one Bosnian told me: “God overslept.”
I came across this poster promoting my talk on suffering posted in a Zagreb bar window!
I came to this part of the world because two of my books, Where Is God When It Hurts and What’s So Amazing About Grace, had just been published in the Croatian and Bosnian language.  I had prepared talks on grace, informed in large part by the splendid work of the Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf, a faculty member first at Fuller Seminary and now Yale Divinity School.  With one exception, however, I was asked to speak on suffering, not on grace.  When I asked, “Are you ready for reconciliation,” not one person answered Yes.  The wounds are at once too fresh and too old, for these disputes go back more than seven centuries.  “Every compromise is defeat,” said one Serbian leader.  And another: “Any reconciliation is betrayal.”
To be sure, all sides shared guilt, not just the Serbs. Two Croatian generals were sentenced for their crimes, and mujaheddin fighting with Bosnians and Albanians fighting in Kosovo also committed atrocities. Though the war ended, in part because of NATO bombing and the Dayton Peace Accords, the disputes have not ended. The one nation of Yugoslavia split into seven: Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Slovenia. Serbians ended up with the largest share of territory, but ethnic minorities remain in each country, including a “Serbian Republic” within the borders of Bosnia. Conflict in the Balkans could erupt up again.
Today Syria dominates the news, with a reprise of the kinds of atrocities I heard about firsthand.  It happened in Rwanda, of course, and continues today in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Nigeria.  I could not help thinking of Gandhi’s remark that if you take the principle “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” to its logical conclusion, eventually the whole world will go blind and toothless.  I have never visited a place in such need of grace and forgiveness, and yet so resistant to it.
One afternoon in Sarajevo we were escorted by a cheerful Franciscan monk named Ivo Markovic.  He took us first to the Jewish cemetery on a hill high above the city, one of the main lookout posts for Serbian snipers.  Every grave had been marred in some way, pockmarked by bullets, gravestones overturned.  I had read of Markovic in Miroslav Volf’s book Free of Charge.  In his village, Muslim Bosnians were the villains, massacring 21 men including nine members of his family—all senior citizens, his 71-year-old father the youngest of them.
The Franciscans lost most of their church members as Catholics moved out of Sarajevo. Yet the monastery stayed behind, leading the frail peace movement and distributing food and practical help. After the war stopped, Father Markovic visited his home village. I will let Volf tell the story:
Occupying the house in which his brother used to live was a fierce Muslim woman. He (Markovic) was warned not to go there because she brandished a rifle to protect her new home. He went anyway. As he approached the house she was waiting for him, cigarette in her mouth and rifle cocked. She barked: “Go away or I’ll shoot you.” “No, you won’t shoot me,” said Father Markovic in a gentle but firm voice, “you’ll make a cup of coffee for me.” She stared at him for a while, then slowly put the rifle down and went to the kitchen. Taking the last bit of coffee she had, she mixed in some already used grounds to make enough coffee for two cups. And they, deadly enemies, began to talk as they partook in the ancient ritual of hospitality: drinking coffee together. She told him of her loneliness, of the home she had lost, of the son who never returned from the battlefield. When Father Markovic returned a month later she told him: “I rejoice at seeing you as much as if my son had returned home.”
Did they talk about forgiveness? I don’t know. And in a sense, it doesn’t matter. He, the victim, came to her asking for her hospitality in his brother’s home, which she unrightfully possessed. And she responded. Though she greeted him with a rifle, she gave him a gift and came to rejoice at his presence. The humble, tenuous beginnings of a journey toward embrace were enacted through a ritual of coffee drinking. If the journey continues, it will lead through the difficult terrain of forgiveness.
ur last day in Croatia we toured an odd tourist site that has gained acclaim for its originality. It mainly displays items donated by lovers who have broken up. Some are nostalgic: a wedding dress, the chiffon top worn the night he told her it’s over, the sticky roller he used to remove her cat’s hair. Others are bitter: an ax used to chop up her music collection, a framed photo shattered into pieces, the side mirror of his car that she broke off when she found it parked in front of a rival’s apartment. A few items refer to other kinds of broken relationships, such as the a Newsweek cover featuring Barack Obama with the note, “I really wanted it to work out.”
The Museum of Broken Relationships, it’s called, and I can’t think of a more appropriate symbol for that part of the world. A visit to the Balkans gives a stark picture of what can happen among human beings apart from grace. As I wrote in What’s So Amazing About Grace?
If you ask a bomb-throwing teenager in Northern Ireland or a machete-wielding soldier in Rwanda or a sniper in the former Yugoslavia why they are killing, they may not even know. Ireland is still seeking revenge for atrocities Oliver Cromwell committed in the seventeenth century; Rwanda and Burundi are carrying on tribal wars that extend long past anyone’s memory; Yugoslavia is avenging memories from World War II and trying to prevent a replay of what happened six centuries ago. Ungrace plays like the background static of life for families, nations, and institutions. It is, sadly, our natural human state.
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Thanks for praying. Journey in His grace-
Nick

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Chasing Alberto

At the end of this week, I will be running a in a local 10k. When the event started a few decades back, world-renowned runner and coach Alberto Salazar came up to the race and set the course record with a still impressive sub-30 minute mark. While I plan to run hard and finish well, I know that even at my very best I will be lucky to come within 10 minutes of his accomplishment. That's humbling. On the other hand, I can also safely assume that my finish will be at least 10 minutes ahead of others on that day. We'll all toe the line together, but some will be slurping Gatorade and greeting their families at the finish while others slug through miles 4, 5 and 6.

There is a principle here. On the road of life, there will always be people ahead of us, and there will also be people behind. No matter what arena of life we look at, some are running a quicker pace than we are, while others appear to be lagging behind. The important factor, I believe, is the mindset that we all take towards these other groups.

The prevailing mindset of culture seems to be to look on those who are ahead of us with contempt. They are seen as the competition, and their success is to be viewed with a jealous, disbelieving glance. We find reasons to discredit their accomplishments and explain away why they seem to be achieving more than we are. For those who are behind us, we are taught in many ways by our culture to look back on them with arrogance, grateful that we are not stuck in the same mire that seems to be entrapping them. We count our lucky stars and look down on those who can't keep the pace.

The problem with this state of mind is that we are left very isolated and alone. Jealous of those in front and disdaining of those behind, we are left to relate only with those who seem to be on par with us. Yet if we adopt this way of viewing life, that pool of people will be ever-decreasing.

I believe we are called to live with a different view. Jesus once said that we should rejoice with those who rejoice, and that we should mourn with those who mourn. The Bible calls us to pray for those who are in authority over us and be glad when they are successful. We are invited to carry one another's burdens and encourage those who have fallen. From this perspective, we grow with and learn from those who are ahead. We allow their example to inspire us and to lead us to a better future. We also look back on those who struggle and enter into their world. We become their partners and offer them the strength and courage they need to succeed.

In order to live in this mindset, we have to decide that the size of our heart is more important than our place in the pack. We embrace those who are ahead and those who are behind as fellow companions that God has put on this journey with us. And when we do, we find that we all have much more in common than we expected.

You see, here's an incredible thought from the running world. Though Alberto Salazar can run much faster than I can, my guess is that he and I exert the same effort. We both give our all, while one is blessed with greater skill and more disciplined training, leading to faster results. (That's Alberto, by the way) At our core, though, we are both just men who love to run.

So how do you view those who are ahead of you and those who lag behind? Have you inadvertently ended up in a lonely place, unable to partner with those who are either too far ahead or too far behind? Or could you begin today to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep? Because if you do, you will never be alone.

While Alberto's record is safe from me for another year, I'm sure I will still think about his effort from that day long gone and be inspired to give my best. And hopefully I'll get to cheer on some stragglers towards the back of the pack, because in the end our goal is the same: to finish well.

May you run this race with a multitude of companions-

Nick

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Self-Made Man Myth

This past weekend, I had the awesome of privilege of hanging out with a fine group of guys at the annul Pure Desire Men's Leadership Conference. I was impressed at the level of depth and transparency I saw going on around me as guys shared their stories with one another. This is so rare in our culture today!

These guys were living examples of how the cultural ideal of a "self-made" man is a myth that needs to be exposed. Some time ago, I wrote a short piece about this and thought I would put it out there again for your thoughts and encouragement. Here it is:



As "real men", we don’t need help, right? Ha! Think about this. The conditions of the universe had to be perfect, out of astronomical odds, for any of us to be here. The air we breath, the ground we build on and the temperature of our planet is uniquely designed to sustain life. What is more, two human beings you had never met or heard of came together and created you. Your mother carried you in her womb for 9 months, and a team of doctors and nurses carefully ushered you into life. At that moment you had been entirely dependent on someone else for everything in your life.

And then we grow up and leave others behind, right? Hardly! Every day you consume food that has been either carefully cultivated from the earth, or that required the DEATH of another being so you could eat. You get in a vehicle made by hundreds of people and robots in a factory in Detroit or Ohio, while driving on pavement installed by a dedicated construction crew. You wear clothes stitched by factory workers in China and sip coffee carefully grown by farmers in Costa Rica. You work at a job that in some way, shape or form is entirely dependent on others consuming whatever product you produce, even if you “run” the company, Without customers, there is no company. At the end of the day, you go home and engage in some sort of entertainment on devices built by others, shows acted by others, or sports performed by others.

In every area of our life, we are dependent on a network of others. So help is our way of life. From this perspective, is it so hard to see that God is underneath it all? And the help we MOST need is His. You see, I believe it would be foolish to rely on the help of so many others in our life but somehow think we don’t need the help of the One who created it all and loves us more than anyone ever can. Real men know this: that no on is self-made, only God-made. We can either embrace this truth and discover the grand life He has for us, or ignore it and be the weaker for it.

May you know that One today,

Nick