I know who I'm not, but who am I?
Periodically, I find myself wanting to watch a movie. Not just any movie. I'm not really a film buff, and don't watch many. But this is for a specific movie, a relatively old one that I originally thought had a pretty stupid story line. The movie is "The Kid," starring Bruce Willis. It's about a 40-year-old man meeting his 8-year-old self and learning who he really is.
During the course of their joint adventure, the guy discovers he is not the loser he had thought from childhood, and his entire outlook on life is transformed. Suddenly he sees why many negative events happened, and understands that he wasn't really a nobody whose only talent in life was screwing up his life.
I watch "The Kid" for several reasons. First, there's a really sweet, bright red biplane in it. (Perhaps you thought this was about Willis' really sweet assistant, Amy?) Since boyhood, I have loved airplanes. Especially really sweet, bright red biplanes. And second, for much of my life, I had - have? - a deeply rooted suspicion that I was also a loser. That all I knew how to do was stumble through life making a mess.
I originally watched the movie at the suggestion of someone else, and I'm glad I did. I immediately saw a process happening in the guy, something many viewers tell me they never noticed. But God speaks to me through that film, and reassures me, like Bruce Willis' character, that I am not a loser.
So, now that I know what I'm not, another question remains: What am I? It's not sufficient to simply remove a negative. I need something in its place. What am I?
Now, I have a fair understanding of the Bible, and I'm pretty good at telling myself the Biblical statements of who I am: a child of God, brother of Jesus, representative of Jesus, and all that. But there is something deep within me that is not satisfied with that.
On a daily basis, here and now, what is my purpose in living? I am relieved to know that I am not merely a screw-up loser, though that thought still occasionally raises its ugly head. I have been an effective, functioning member of both the society and the church in my lifetime. I have touched some lives, and I have made a few things better.
But if that's all true, and if God loves me and enthusiastically accepts me, why do I sit around, doing little, in empty and frustrating relationships where there should be intimacy, and with little hope of significant change, except perhaps when I die, which doesn't answer the question.
I hate doing nothing. I hate not using the gifts, education, and interests I have been given. I have studied, trained, practiced and been mentored for many years. Decades. I have looked forward to the day when I could most effectively work in the service of God's kingdom. And yet, here I am.
In this struggle, one thought has recently grabbed me. What if God doesn't let me "do" anything? For the rest of my life. What if the rest of my life consists of one thing alone: Knowing and enjoying him?
That's a big what if. One of my favorite verses for years has been Psalm 27:4: One thing have I asked of the Lord, and that only will I seek: That I may dwell all my days in the house of the Lord, to enjoy his beauty, and to inquire in his Temple.
So, what if God made that happen. What if, for the rest of my life, God allowed me to dwell in his presence, enjoying his beauty, and talking with him? And nothing else.
Would that be enough?
Another movie comes to mind: "The Butterfly and the Diving Bell." In this true story, a man's life is reduced to the bare essence of being human. Everything he thought - and we think - was essential to a meaningful life was stripped away. At what level is he still a man, still a human being with a life worth living. The movie raises profound questions.
So what is the life that I consider acceptable, that I would call "the good life"? I have taught and I believe that we are accepted by God solely by his grace. But do I really believe that?
Some years ago, someone complained to me that "Christians talk about how they are 'saved by grace,' but after that, they live completely by works. No grace to it." I had to admit to some truth in his comment. Too many of us, who received God's favor by grace, work frantically to retain that favor.
So, I long to be doing things that advance the kingdom of God. I am by nature a problem solver, a builder, and someone who hates looking at a "non-optimal" situation I can't address. I find doing those things very rewarding.
But what if God closes all those doors, and says, "Just sit at my feet, son, and let's enjoy being together." Would that be enough?
That's a hard question. Heavy stuff for a rainy Sunday morning.