“Wow. Look at this! This is an aspen. You can tell it’s an aspen because of the way it is.” The Neature Guy, Episode One.
If you recognize the really neat quote above, then you are familiar with Lenny Pepperbottom and his series of silly (and very funny) videos on YouTube. It’s a silly statement, but like all silly statements, sometimes within them you can uncover truth. You can determine what a tree is by the “way it is”: it’s appearance, habitat, type of leaves and bark, etc.
You can also tell about a person because of they way he or she is. (I’m not referring here to taking a posture of criticism or judgment.) Does the person live vibrantly, with a sense of expectancy and hope? Or does the individual trudge through life, barely existing, waiting for a joy that never really appears?
History has long been made by men and women who live with passion, and courage, and hope, regardless of circumstances and irrespective of their abilities and talents. These are heroes who have prevailed in the midst of dreadful calamities, or who have overcome severe personal disabilities, or have chosen to discard lives of privilege to serve others selflessly. We honor such people for their extraordinary accomplishments and their indomitable spirit. We wish we could be like them.
Of course, I am ordinary. You are too. But we all desire to be heroes, which is why our culture has diluted the concept, the word itself, so that every small act of kindness or performance of civic duty is now referred to as “heroic.” We are heroes if we volunteer to feed people at a homeless shelter once a month or we pay our taxes on time. These are good things to do, but I don’t think it feeds the longing for the heroic that stirs within each of us.
I have good news for us. We belong to the Hero of heroes, and in his eyes we, too, are heroes. You belong to Jesus. So do I. Maybe that sounds crazy, because you don’t see him as anything other than a Jewish teacher who lived millennia ago. But it doesn’t change the truth that God the Son, the Word, is the Creator of everything that exists; nothing was made that he did not make. That means you, me, squirrels, elephants, blue whales, oak trees, the Himalayan mountain range, the earth, the sun, quasars, black holes, super spiral galaxies, superstrings, Higgs boson particles. Go up and out, further and bigger and deeper into infinity; or down and in, burrowing into the tiniest infinity; God is there beyond it all: reaching far beyond the most infinite expanse; existing in detail below the most infinitely tiny quantum vibration.
This great personal God created you, and he created you for wonder. You were created to be a wonder. You have a purpose. You are not an accident.
We hear that often in our culture nowadays. It is common parlance in all sorts of “reality” shows and therapeutic sound bites and feel-good social media posts. “This is what I was born to do,” we hear people declare, whether the “this” is singing or acting or playing baseball or forming corporations or flying jets or mud wrestling. Something within all of us speaks to us from the deep places: “There is more.”
Why the relentless drive? And why do we think we were “made” for anything, “born” for any particular purpose? The drive to excel, to exceed our limitations, to throw ourselves headlong into a great and noble adventure that takes out outside and beyond ourselves, is a part of our human condition.
I find no explanation of that, except that God made men and women in his image, and placed eternity and a realization of that great and noble identity within each of us.
Much about our present world condition argue against this. That doesn’t make it less true. I won’t argue that it is hard for many of us to believe there is something significant about each of us. It doesn’t appear to be true. But deep inside, each of us knows it is true.
And, just like the aspen tree in the silly video I quoted, you can tell you are made for something more, something wonderful, because of the way you are. What do you dream of? When do you truly come alive? How do you see yourself living for something greater and grander than some mundane day-to-day existence? Perhaps those dreams and ideas are markers placed into your very soul by a loving Father who desires for you to flourish and know his goodness and lovingkindness as you reach higher in passion and zeal to accomplish more than you ever dared to dream.
When you are alive and flourishing under the mighty hand of God, led by his good and gracious Spirit, you are living authentically and have more to give than you thought possible. When you live this way, you will not be dismayed by setbacks nor seduced by successes. You will not cease advancing in the face of turmoil or shrink back to find tranquility. The adventure before you beckons, and you do not fear the unknown or long for the soft couch of the familiar. Frederick Buechner wrote: “Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC)
Reach out to Jesus and discover who you are. We will look at you and say “I can tell you are a child of God because of the way you are.”