Miranda and I read this book – well, Miranda read it out loud as I drove to Ft. Worth this past weekend. It was a great way to pass the time and was a really good story.
Mike Yankoski was regular middle-class college student. He was sitting in church one day and the sermon made him start questioning whether his faith was real or not. He wondered if he’d still have such a “strong faith” if he didn’t have his Christian bubble of friends, a roof over his head, christian music, or anything else. He decided to live on the streets as a homeless man for five months to test his own faith. This book tells the story of he and Sam (Mike’s friend) as they live in 6 different cities in the United States over 5 months time. How do they get food? Where would they sleep? Would it be more difficult to believe in God with everything stripped away? Would they believe at all? It’s all in there! Good stuff! Check it out yourself.
One of the classic questions used by youth ministers in “get to know you”-type games is this: If you were an animal, what animal would you be and why? My standard answer to that question comes from an experience I had in a park one day. I was feeding the ducks out on a dock in a park when I was in college, and there were two swans out quite a distance from the dock. I didn’t want them to miss out, so I threw the bread as far as I could out near them. One of the swans would pick up the piece of bread and then drop it in front of the other one, then he would eat it. Eventually I was able to get them near the dock, and each time I threw the bread the swan would take it to the other one to eat. I soon realized that one of them was blind. The one who could see was bringing the food to him.
So what animal would I be? I’d be a swan – I just don’t know wether I’d want to be the one who provided for his friend, or the blind one who was able to trust that God would provide for him. It’s my prayer that I can live my life in both ways – trusting God to provide and serving the people around me.
I’ve been thinking alot about “comfort” lately. I’m not real sure why, but here are some of my thoughts:
Matt Redman wrote a song quite a few years ago with one line that really stuck out to me – “I’ve crafted myself a more comfortable cross.” When I first heard the song I thought about this guy I had seen when I was in college. He was one of those crazy preachers who traveled around yelling at people. He was yelling at all of us students between classes and asking if we were “saved.” etc. I think he meant well, but he wasn’t getting very far with most of the students. Anyway, he was carrying a cross and said he was traveling across the United States with his message. But here’s the interesting part: the cross he was carrying had wheels on it. Did Jesus’ cross have wheels? Were they there to help make the journey? I mean, you can’t really put wheels on your cross if you’re trying to be like Jesus – can you? Anyway, it was just like Matt Redman sung – a “more comfortable cross.”
I worked with a speaker named Jeremy Kingsley a few years ago. He had a strange practice I remembered as I’ve been thinking about comfort too. When the youth that I work with would go on trips, they’d always yell “shotgun!” to get the front seat. You know the game. Right?? Jeremy would yell before they even thought of it “I get back seat!!” Strange, huh?? But cool!! Jeremy is that kind of guy. He’s great at taking the normal things we do and making you think about them differently. Anyway, as he worked towards “discomfort,” he served the Lord and our youth.
I wonder how I have made my cross more comfortable? It’s true – I’m comfortable in the ways that I serve. We Christians are uncomfortable whenever we get out of of normal routines. We have our own Christian subculture that we’ve created so we can be comfortable all the time. I mean we have Christian music, Christian toys, Christian clothes, even Christian candy. I guess it’s important not to eat any of that secular candy. (By the way – Christian is a label that can only be used on people)
Anyway, where would Jesus be in all this? I’m pretty sure He got accused of hanging out with the sinners and the prostitutes. He even had fun and turned water to wine at a wedding. Why am I uncomfortable in these party situations? If Jesus was comfortable there, why am I on my guard when someone starts drinking around me or says a cuss word?
What if the cross I carried wasn’t supposed to be comfortable? What if I worked at being uncomfortable? What if I tried to hang out with people who make me uncomfortable? When it comes to money and what I give to the church, if I was uncomfortable, I’d probably be giving more to the Lord. If I wasn’t so concerned about my own comfort all the time, I bet I’d be a better husband and I’d do more things for my beautiful bride. If I worked to be uncomfortable, I’d probably do a lot more physical labor and help out my friends with things they needed done. If I worked to be uncomfortable, with the way I eat, I’d probably lose weight. If I was uncomfortable with the sin in my life, maybe I’d repent and be more spiritually healthy. If I was uncomfortable in the ways I serve the Lord, maybe I’d find myself serving in places I never imagined. (By the way, watch the movie “The Second Chance” someday.) Maybe I’d live in another town or country. Maybe I’d have a different job. Maybe I’d buy more things to give away and fewer things for myself. How much does my own “comfort” really drive my life? Probably more than I’d like to admit.
Anyway, you get the point. “Comfort” might just be right where Satan wants us. It’s when we’re uncomfortable, that we learn to lean on and trust in the Lord.
Prayer: Lord, I hesitate to even pray this prayer, ’cause I know it’s gonna mean changes for me, but I wanna be the man You’ve called me to be. So help me to step into uncomfortable situations more often. Help me to give myself away more often and teach me to seek comfort for others over comfort for myself. Lord, I don’t want to be comfortable in this world (well, admittedly, part of me does) because it’s not my home. I’m an alien here. As Andrew Peterson sings, my home is the “Far Country.”