I've been reading some Donald Miller along with my chapters of Matthew, and it's as though he knew I'd be reading the Beatitudes (Matt. 5) along with his book. The book of which I speak is Searching for God Knows What. I've had it for quite a while, and just recently finally picked it up. I could go on for days about Miller's spot-on writing style--how he so very casually seems to be able to target the holes in my theology and heart and fill them with God's truths. He is an amazing human. More on that in a moment...
But what strikes me today is yet another story of a probable fractured soul who has taken lives as well as his own in a final statement to the world. After a whirlwind Thursday, we did not have time to turn on the TV and get any news yesterday, so when I awoke, I saw another mass-shooting/suicide unfolding before my eyes, this time in Illinois. And so many would dismiss this fellow as just another "crazy." Notwithstanding the possibility of mental illness, I see him as someone who was likely marginalized and disregarded by his peers and/or family. We will probably see his story unfold much in the way of the Christmas mall shooter, Virginia Tech, YWAM/Colorado, and Columbine scenerios. I feel so sorry for these people who obviously have not had a community who listen to them, support them, and provide direction for them. They feel the need to make a final statement and to get an audience at any cost.
Miller unpacks a "lifeboat" theory in his book...a loose analogy of our living our lives as though we're in a lifeboat with a few too many people to make the lifeboat effective...so someone has to go or be sacrificed in order to keep the whole boat afloat and rescue the remaining ones. We all live in such a way as to secure our "worthiness" to survive. The smart act smarter, the lovely display their beauty, the holy judge and look down upon the less righteous (irony intended), etc. We group ourselves in ways to secure a slightly higher spot in the pecking order. We all have someone that we perceived as less-fill-in-the-blank than we are, and so we feel secure in our position. Or, if we are not getting enough affirmation, we find ways to prove our worth through performance/achievement, beauty creams (or worst-case scenerio plastic surgery that pulls our wrinkles behind our hairlines and draws the skin up from the toes, plumpers that make the smile look forced and the eyes surprised--SCARY!), or we buy things that make us look/feel successful--gadgets, toys, and the like. Of course, I could expound upon this idea ad infinitum, but you get the drift. We are all in a self-worth race and are desperate to prove that we are not the loser, the one who gets thrown over the side and left for the sharks.
My Pastor often refers to God's Kingdom as "a Kingdom upside-down." That is, completely opposite of the earthly kingdoms we understand. It's true...everything about capitalism and every other -ism flies in the face of Scripture. Miller asserts that indeed this is true in the lifeboat. We are all looking around the boat, desperate to prove our own case, when the Scriptural method of finding our self-worth is to let the Creator TELL us who we are. Not who we are in comparison to others, but who we are TO HIM. What HE has created us to accomplish, whom HE has called us to serve. By listening to HIS voice, following HIS word, and reveling in HIS affirmation, we are then able to repair a fractured society instead of participating in the fractured-ness.
Jesus never hung out in the lifeboat. He didn't hang out with the up-and-comers, the religious folks, the beautiful people. He hung out with the marginalized, the sinners, the tax-collectors, the prostitutes...because He didn't have anything to lose. He listened to his Father. His Father told him who He was and what He had to accomplish. He didn't play games for political power, though he certainly could have. He didn't use the crowds of people who followed him around to get rich, though he could have. He was simple and loving. He reminded us that the meek inherit the earth, that the poor in spirit will see the Kingdom of God, that those who mourn will be comforted. He tells us to hunger and thirst for God alone. None of those kinds of people last very long in the lifeboat. Those are the people who are not listened to in our society, whose isolation feeds mental illness, who are not being reached by the light of Christ, by the church--communities that are supposed to be healing and reaching out to the marginalized. We are missing something with our version of Christianity. I think we are missing the real boat in our attempt to cling to the only boat that feels familiar. Even though on that "life"boat (misnomer) we will all eventually sink.