Crash Into Me...

When I was a sophomore in college, I had an epiphany. I remember exactly where I was standing when it happened. I had gone to the Richland County Public Library to spend some time with God.

I got distracted.

So, I wandered over the window and began to watch the people and cars swarming back and forth three stories below. Now, it's important that you realize; this wasn't an ordinary window. Two of the four outer walls of the library were made entirely of glass. They ran all the way from the street to the roof. So, I got a pretty good view of what was going on below me. As I watched the people from my third story perch, I was struck with an idea that, while simple and fairly obvious, had never occurred to me before:

Everybody down there has problems.

But not just problems. They have successes. Failures. They have things which bring them immense joy. Things and people that they love. They have things which have happened in their past, or are happening in their present, which sadden them to tears. To put it very succinctly:

They each have a life.

I think that, if we're honest with ourselves, most of the time we think of our life as a movie. A movie with us as the star. And as the star, our plotline is central to the story. It IS the story. Everyone else; the "extras", just blend into the background. They aren't like us. Not central to the plot. Not having to deal with their own problems or celebrate their own joys. They're only there to help move our story along.

So I had this epiphany. And I thought about it for the next week or so. When you see a person, you're only seeing a piece of them. Your seeing a representation of the whole of their life experience manifested into the figure before you. Kind of a "tip of the iceberg", if you will.

An iceberg is visible above water. But only a small portion of it. Beneath the surface lies most of its' mass.

In the same way, when we see a person, we see a small piece of them. But, below the surface, lies most of their mass: what makes them who they are.

And, if we could look below the surface, if we could look into the depths and gaze at the hurts, the joys, the triumphs, the heartbreaks; the life, then maybe we could better understand who the person that we're looking at really is.

Which leads me to the present:

I saw the movie "Crash" last week.

If you haven't seen it, I would highly recommend it.

"Crash" is movie which involves multiple story lines delicately woven together to form a story of how we relate to each other. Mainly, how we interpret each other through our own views/beliefs/values concerning race.

As I sat watching this movie, I couldn't help but be transported back to the library. In the movie, all of the characters are presented with a situation involving their interaction with someone of another race. Most of the characters react, or act, in a way that would lead you to believe that they are racist. Or maybe in some cases; an a**hole. (Editor's Note: Some of you may object to my choice of words in the previous sentance. I'm OK with that. Please understand that I do not use profanity in my everyday life, nor do I endorse its' use by others. However, sometimes in life, we must call a spade a spade and use a strong word to describe an equally strong behavior. Watch the movie. You'll understand.) As you continue to watch the movie, small pieces of each character are revealed to give you a little bit of a clue as to why they may have behaved the way that they did.

I wonder why it is that we let our pasts control us? Why do we let our past experience dictate our present reality?

As pieces of each character are slowly revealed, we are allowed to glimpse "beneath the surface" of the person.

This intrigued me. I found myself making excuses for the characters. "Oh, he or she did that because of that. Of course they did that! How else would they behave based on what they've been through!"

Often times, I've said the words, "If only so-and-so knew what I've been through, they'd understand why I am doing this." But, sometimes, that's just not true.

Yes, we are affected by our past. Yes, who we are today is based upon, or rather, determined by, the road we've taken to get there. But that doesn't change this simple truth:

Everyday, when we wake up, we are presented with a choice:

We get a chance to start brand new. We get a chance to change.

Our past cannot be used as an excuse for what we do in the present. Yes, we all operate within a certain context which has been written by our choices, circumstances, consequences, and results. But we cannot allow ourselves to be controlled by them.

"Crash" is a great movie for two reasons:
1) It makes you think about how you see other people.

It forced me to re-examine how it is that I interact with other people by helping me to see that there's more to a person than what i see at first glance...or second glance...or eighty eighth glance. This movie made me want to seek to understand people more. Maybe if I can take the time to glance below the surface, I'll be able to see how it is that someone arrived where they are and how I can REALLY help them where they need it the most.

2) It makes you re-examine yourself.

After the movie was over, and for the next week, I've been looking below my surface and re-examining my journey. I've been recalling my past, and how it is that I got to where I am today. One of the things that I've asked myself is: How much am I letting my past have control over my present and my future?

I have a choice. We all do. No matter what happened yesterday or last year or 10 years ago, we have the choice to let it control us, or start all over.

In a way, I guess that we're all icebergs floating out in the ocean. We see each other as we float by and assume that the little bit of ice that pokes out of the water is all that there is to see. If only we took the time to peak below the surface...of others...and ourselves. We might find that there's more to know, or better yet, to understand, than we ever dreamed...


A Master of Kara-ta-ta-te...

So, my latest obsession is all things Churck Norris. I don't know why, but for some reason, he's all over the internet. In fact, if you want to learn some random facts about him, you can go here. Or, if you'd like to make you own Chuck Norris T-Shirt, you can go here. I think that I'll dedicate my beard to him. So, until he accepts me as his humble apprentice, here's a sweet video for you to enjoy. And, as always, it's educational...


Guilty as Sin...

In the beginning... when I created this blog, I said that it would be a place where I would talk about what's on my mind. I said that I would talk about the things that are rattling around inside my head on their way to settling down at the bottom. So, something just came across my desk a few minutes ago...

Maybe I should start a little earlier. I have, for as long as I remember, lived with what I'm starting to discover is a false belief. I have lived with this belief tucked down into the back recesses of my mind and heart. It's not a belief that pokes its head out every day and becomes apparant in my life, but one that affects me none-the-less. It is a belief that especially shines through whenever I encounter dificulty or hardship in my life. Rather than try to articulate this belief in a way that may seem impressive typed out, I'm just going to phrase it as bluntly as I possibly can:

I have always believed that bad things happen to me because I don't try my best at knowing God.

Whenever bad things happen, I assume (meaning that I begin with the belief) that it is somehow my fault, and, more-than-likely has to do with my relationship with God.

First off, let me say this. This is not a true belief. Bad things do not happen to me, you, or anyone else because we don't measure up to what God expects of us. God loves us exactly as we are and wants us to become more in line with Him, but doesn't punish us just because we make mistakes. If God punished people for making mistakes, there wouldn't be anyone in heaven.

This is a belief that I have wrestled with for quite some time. Sometimes, I am successful at winning the war against it and picking myself up and dusting myself off and walking on. Sometimes, I get caught up in it and succumb to my guilt that I'm just not good enough.

Do you ever feel guilty because you think that you don't measure up to what God wants from you?

Fast forward to a few minutes ago.

One of the other pastors at my church came by my office and dropped off a paper on my desk. "There's a lot of wisdom right in this area", he said as he pointed about halfway down the paper. So, I glanced at it.

It's from a book called The Spirit of the Disciplines by a guy named Dallas Willard.

I've never read anything by this guy, but everyone I know raves about him. After today, I'm going to go and read some of his stuff.

So, on this paper, about halfway down, is this sentance:

"But this world is radically unsuited to the heart of the human person, and the suffering and terror of life will not be removed no matter HOW "spiritual" we become. It is because of this that a healthy faith before God cannot be built and maintained, without heartfelt celebration of his greatness and goodness TO US in the midst of our suffering and terror."

Because I was just given this about 30 minutes ago, I haven't had time to "unpack" this statement and try to understand all of its implications and meanings. But, I've started...

Any thoughts?