The other day I was on the phone with someone I had just met. They had been starting their own non-profit venture, and I was calling for some advice and feedback. Myself, I had been dedicating the last 4 years of my life to some relationship building in Ecuador, and it seemed now it was time for clarifying some identity and officiality, for a launching out. It is called Barriers To Bridges, and I had sent my new friend a link to my website for him to check out.
We both shared some of our stories, and what we had in common, and then afterwards he asked, “So where do you see this going for you?” I had to pause like I always do, as I try to explain something that’s hard for me to express. I said, “Well, I’ve felt called to give myself and all of my resources to this and see where it goes. I really don’t have anything left, but I’m willing to take that risk. I believe God is doing something great, but if it’s a dead-end, then something new will come out of it. But I have no idea where it’s going to end up.”
I’m used to the looks and the comments when I tell people about what I’m doing. I’m used to the distance that religious leaders move away from it. I’m used to business-minded people thinking I’ve lost it because there’s no concrete evidence that the thing will float and my retirement plans are not mapped out. The upwardly mobile ask why in the world I would even want to go to Ecuador, it must be unsafe and unhealthy and un-pick-your-positive-part-the-American-dream. And even if it’s just the crickets I hear when I invite other people to join in, the message is conveyed:
It looks like a big dead-end.
You may remember the story of Noah. One guy gets inspired from God to built an ark, and that’s going to be able to sail across the waters from the coming flood, right? You’re probably imagining a boat-shaped thing with a hull, with portholes and a captain’s bridge, with a keel. That would mean that you’d know where is the front and the back for going forward in the water: it would mean you could pilot it. But see, the ark is not like you see pictured in the kids’ books. It’s not a boat-shaped thing with a hull, with portholes and a captain’s bridge and all that. No, it’s not shaped like a ship at all. In fact, the Hebrew word used in that story is not “ship” or “boat”. It’s another word, a different shape:
That’s it. A box.
And you know what everyone is thinking when they come up to Noah and see he is putting his whole self and everything he has into this one-and-a-half-football-field-long box, that cannot be steered and so you don’t know where it’s ever going to end up, that’s not going to give you any financial security or rate of return on your investment?
They are thinking, that’s a one-and-a-half-football-field-long … coffin.
It looks like a big dead-end.
But we all know the story. As it turns out, the big box is not a dead end. Instead, it turns out to be the best place to be. In fact, it’s the place that saves.
Remember, if you want to follow Jesus, you will be called to give everything of yourself, and it will not take you to where everything is known and secure and comfortable and planned ahead. Jesus does not lead you into a nice retirement plan or popularity or success or power. He does not lead you up the ladder in life. He leads you to the cross, and it sure looks like a big dead end.
But if you sense in your heart you are called, remember Noah’s box. Your destination may seem like a dead end, but it is not. It will be the best place for you to be.
The place that saves.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor 1:18)