Banks suck, don’t they? This morning I was looking at my account, and I saw that I had been charged $160 in bogus fees, and subsequently had to spend the next hour explaining to various bank employees over the phone why the fees were bogus.
But man, I fought like a hornet, and ultimately I got what I wanted.
Well now, after things have been “set right,” I’m calm, but also a little unsettled. When I found out that I had been wronged by my bank, I responded with quick fervor. No, it felt more like righteous anger. “Put me on the phone with someone who will remove these fees. Now.” I didn’t have to think it over, or plan it out. I called the bank immediately, because, well, my assets were being threatened. Obviously.
But the thing that disturbs me is that I couldn’t tell you of a time in recent memory when I acted nearly that decisively on the behalf of someone else. I certainly don’t believe I was wrong for calling the bank to correct the error; no, but the problem is that I don’t fight like that for other people.
There are perhaps a thousand reasons for this, but at the root of all of them is a simple one; I’m afraid of what it might cost me to care what happens in someone else’s life as much as I care what happens in my own. Because if you really care about someone, then you invest yourself in them. And if you invest your time, and energy in other people, then you will have less time and energy to invest in yourself.
I’m desperate to see my dreams become realities. But even more powerful than my desire to succeed is my terror of failure. Earthquakes of paranoia rumble through my mind telling me that if I am not actively pursing my goals and ambitions every single day that I will eventually wake up a fifty-year-old nobody. That if I ignore the various responsibilities of my life that I will become a train wreck.
And it’s true; people who ignore their dreams for long enough become nothing, and people who ignore their responsibilities become train wrecks. Whether or not we ever express this or admit it, we know this is true; we are creatures that require maintenance. God knows this too. Which I think is why He tells us over and over and over in Scripture not to worry, but to trust Him, and allow Him to take care of us. He actually commands us not to worry.
He also commands us to love others and to be servants. That is precisely what Jesus came here to teach us how to do; love others and serve them. He goes on to say that if we love Him we will obey Him. So as a follower of Jesus, I am left with this rather unnerving question; how do I start loving people more? How do I start serving them?
As I am writing this, something embarrassingly obvious occurs to me; there is an overpass three blocks from my front door where homeless folks hang out. (Live.) Something tells me I should start there. If I’m being honest, I really don’t want to go. Not even a little bit. It’s midnight. I want to go to bed. And yet, I’m quite sure that God is telling me to stop typing, and get off my rear and doing something.
A Brief Follow-Up
I picked up a guy named Dave from under the bridge. We went to McDonald’s and sat outside because the inside-seating was closed. We talked about movies a little, and both of us agreed that “Snakes on a Plane” wasn’t very realistic. Then another homeless guy named Michael showed up, so we swung through the drive-thru again. Michael was a Vietnam vet and didn’t look so great; his hands looked like he had just punched his way out of a coffin and then dug up to the surface. When I was dropping Michael off, he took hold of my shoulder and lowered his head. I think he was praying for me.
I’m not sure what to make of any of this. But I know that God is telling me to stop living in the land of hypotheticals.
By Joel Christie
Joel Christie lives in downtown Orlando, Florida. He is captived by good stories; the Bible, movies, novels, and the flesh and blood stories being told in people’s lives every day. God communicates powerfully through stories.