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Bubble Wrapped

dervishWhirling dervish. It’s my nickname at work.

I got it because when it comes to setting up or tearing down a trade show booth, I get focused, frenetic and fierce. People step back to watch me destroy the booth and pack up all its contents in minutes.

But my work style ain’t pretty! And without fail, I always hurt myself.

It’s not just at work either. My kids will regale you with stories of  how often I bang my head, smash my finger, slam my knee or elbow into something–and my resultant fits of dramatically expressed pain. And no, they are NOT laughing “with” me!

It happened again last week as we were finishing up construction of our video set at work. I teach courses nationwide and we’ve decided to professionally record what I do. So I guided the construction of a large, elegant set where we can do four-camera recording of my training classes.

As we were finishing light installation, I smashed my pinky rather painfully in the legs of a light tree. Later that day I was squatting down to pack up some stuff and slammed by tail bone against an immovable crate. My reactions to both were, well, comical scenes from a Simpsons outtake reel.

bubble wrapHaving witnessed these and many other mishaps of my Dervish work style, my associate looked at me and said, “Man, I’m gonna have to encase you in bubble wrap!”

It’s interesting that the name “Whirling Dervish” comes from the tradition of a whirling dance used by extreme Sufi ascetics to reach ecstatic spiritual experiences.

I can tell you this–my dervish fits never contribute to my spiritual growth at all! Well, unless the constantly needed repentance they invoke counts.

As I have laughingly reflected on my clumsy Three Stoogesque work style, the whole idea of being permanently bubble-wrapped is attractive. At many levels.

You see, this world hurts.

Every day, I am confronted with stories of suffering and sagas of pain that wound my heart. I am constantly living with the questions of why this stuff has to be in our world.

At this very moment…

  • People are protesting and rioting over perceived injustices in Ferguson Missouri
  • Nations are trembling at war’s precipice which could set the Middle East on fire
  • Terrorists are torturing and killing innocents simply to further their twisted cause
  • Christians are being martyred by the scores in barbaric persecution in Iraq
  • Children are abused and trafficked solely to enrich those who see them as property
  • Families are losing homes and possessions in unprecedented natural disasters

On and on the list could go. Unfortunately, the more I hear of it the more tempted I am to slip into a bubble-wrap jump suit and insulate myself from the pain.

My daughter sent me a text message this week overwhelmed not only by the degree and intensity of the suffering she currently sees, but by the pressure of a sensitive soul that refuses to isolate from the pain or hide from the realities around her. She was fighting to maintain composure at work and gasping for spiritual air. Her biggest struggle was the sense that there was “nothing she could do” about it all.

It is tempting in those moments to encourage the bubble-wrap solution. The tendency is to do something to take your mind off it–escape, get pre-occupied. Anything but feel it.

But the call of Jesus’ followers is not to insulate or isolate. It is to incarnate.

Jesus invaded our world as it is to demonstrate fully God’s love as it is. He moved into the neighborhood to live out the dream God had when He thought man up in the first place.

Jesus never hid from pain or ran from the suffering in this world that causes people to doubt His Father’s goodness. He squarely faced and then fully entered the agonies of life in a broken world.

He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”–one who knew all too well what makes us weep.

And in the end, He carried our shame and sin and suffering to His cross to forever reverse the finality and ferocity of it all.

So as we face a world “groaning and travailing” let’s refuse the protection of a bubble-wrapped existence. When we feel overwhelmed and helpless, let’s remember this:

  • Prayer is not “nothing”–your prayers matter! There has never been a reversal of any agony in this world that was not precipitated and incubated by intense intercession from those who believe God cares.
  • Little is much–you may not be able to impact world-change, but you can make a real and lasting difference for someone who is walking wounded on this battlefield.
  • Love wins–the smallest light of love shared with a suffering friend or a belligerent enemy is a beacon in the darkness that demonstrates the heart of God.

So to my friend I say this: I’ll take the bumps, bruises and wounds of authentic life over the insulated and numb routine of apathetic living.

No bubble wrap needed.

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