What reasons exist behind the way you’re living your life right now? Are you driven by a paycheck? By a striving for ambition and accolades that perhaps always seem just out of reach? While you may not love the line of work you’re in (most don’t), is your perspective drawn down by the weight of what you consider an undesirable role? For most people, the answer is yes. It is for that reason that we call can sing along with “Everybody’s working for the weekend!” when it comes on the radio, and we can’t help but crank the volume up just a bit.
We all want to be compelled by something greater than the hum-drum of daily life. We all want there to be a supply of “fuel” in the tank of our spirit; something deeper, higher, and greater than what we see in the mirror. In fact, when that sense of compulsion feigns, we are left with a bleakness, a hopelessness, and a weight within that we can’t seem to lift.
I’ve been working with teens in some capacity for nearly 20 years now. And every so often I am reminded that few and far between are those that are taught and understand how to live a life that is not only compelled, but is itself compelling to others.
At the risk of stating the obvious, it is clear to me that the life that is uncompelled is the life that is self-centered and consumeristic. It is the life that is constantly looking for what it can get from you, from me, from others, from any/all situations it is in, from the world, from life. It’s constant cry is “feed me, I’m still hungry.” And in this self-absorbed state, it lives day after day missing countless opportunities to look beyond itself for what can truly satisfy.
As time has marched on, we have become more and more a people who are self-catering. We are hedonistic, pleasure-driven, and entitled to nothing less in our own estimation. What this has done to today’s teens is to set the perfect climate for them to be down-cast, lost, purposeless, and desperate; all while perpetuating the guise of being happy, free, fun, and satisfied. It’s as if the mirror tells them one thing, but the image just beyond the mirror tells them the opposite. No wonder they’re conflicted, reeking of entitlement, confused, and searching for love, hope, and meaning wherever they can find it, no matter the cost.
But as someone who is not only a “youth pastor”, but a human being who follows Jesus and loves all teens everywhere, I find myself with a deep ache inside to communicate a way of life that will not be dismissive of the inner ills they feel, but instead will face them head-on in a confrontational way; a way that sees the futility of the self-absorbed life and chooses instead the self-denying life.
As much as I’d like to, there’s simply no way to speak about self-denial in a way that is comfortable or even non-controversial. I’d suppose that some might read these words and think this or that about how naive I am, or simplistic, or just dead-wrong. But this is the nature of the life Jesus invites us to: it’s gloriously uncomfortable. And in it any human can find the deepest, most compelling life to live.
Last night, I volunteered at an event called “Bless Richmond”. And as I type the word “event”, I whisper a prayer that it would not merely be an “event”, but an ignition point, an awakening, and a compelling call to thousands–no–tens of thousands of followers of Jesus (present and future) in the Richmond, VA area (or wherever you live) to move beyond living because of their ability to breathe to living because of uncontained passion for Jesus, the greatest self-denier, the justice-giver, the spotless lamb, the Savior of the world, the Son of God.
Philosophers will call us ignorant.
Educators will call us unenlightened.
Atheists will call us weak.
Cynics will call us idealistic.
Religious rule-followers will call us irreverant.
Historians will call us predictable.
The media will call us do-gooder weirdos.
And they’ll all be right.
God calls us beloved.
God calls us His children.
God calls us ambassadors.
God calls us a royal priesthood.
God calls us agents of His grace.
God call us conduits of His love.
God calls us announcers of His redemptive hope.
There is no greater calling, there is no greater life, and there is nothing more compelling than that.