Last night I saw the film ‘Revolutionary Road’. The film is about a couple called the Wheelers who struggle to deal with life’s contradictions, hopes and failures. In a very real way, they are asking what life is about. In the end, feeling imprisoned by life itself, by the responsibilities and burdens, the wife kills herself and her unborn baby. One quote in the film stood out to me:
“Life here is just empty and hopeless”, the reply went,
“Plenty of people are onto the emptiness but it takes real guts to see the hopelessness”
Now I’m not sure that I would agree entirely about the hopelessness, but I can agree with the sentiment. It takes real guts to examine what life is about, what motivates you, what drives you, what is your life about? All of this can be summed up by the question Why?
Being here in Zambia after our break in the UK has been much harder emotionally then I thought it would be. Why is that? I think that the main reason for this is that the gusto of the move and what we are doing naturally wears off after a while. What am I left with? A sense of normality. I naturally kick against normality,something in my Type A personality always has!
It makes you ask the question, why am I really here? What has really driven me to this point? What keeps me here? You can see the costs of what you are doing, and another part of you thinks, “there better be a good reason for doing this…..” The last few weeks has been a little like a crucible of experience that has tested us, and continues to test us. That crucible is entirely formed from the question, “Why?”. Why here? Why now? Why me? Why? Why? Why?
I think many people ask that question of themselves their whole life long. Why did that happen? Why did I do that?
Trying to find reason and direction in our life is often like trying to find a needle in a haystack. In searching for the answer to our question why, we search deeper within ourselves, becoming more introspective, hanging on to the belief that we have the answer to that question, why. All we find eventually is hopelessness, because we cannot find the answer within us. It simply does not exist there.
I learnt a few years ago, that the answer to the question does not lie within me, but outside of me. I’m here because God wants me here. I’m doing what I am doing because God has assigned that task to me. You see I can answer the why from a different source, God himself. In reality my motivations are sometimes a confused hash of my own self interest and my faith in God, but still I can reach for the answers to the big questions and look at my motivation in that light. I am able to hold onto someone who is beyond me to give my life a trajectory and purpose, even when I can’t always see it myself.
I am also very aware that to even be able to think about such questions is a luxury of my station in life. Many of the people I work with here, the poor in the villages, have never had the opportunity to think about their direction and role in life, they are simply given that role by the situation they find themselves born in to. Part of them finding their future, it to be able to do that.
Many people in my own country hold to thinking that says, “If we direct ourselves we can find meaning and fulfilment” ie, we can do whatever we want and God is not part of our thinking. That only holds true if an answer to life’s greatest mystery can indeed be found within humanity. After thousands of years of human history it obviously has not been found, so the passing of time works against that argument. Every time there is a disaster like in Japan, and people ask the question ‘Why?’ it is obvious that they have still not found an answer, despite their own self assurance that they know what life is about.
People here in the villages don’t even have that luxury, they simply do not know the richness that is available to them in Christ, no-one has ever taught them about it. Some may know Jesus as their Saviour, but what does that mean? Many are imprisoned in a hopeless ignorance, with no-one to teach them. They too cannot find meaning to their lives.
This lack of meaning shows itself in very curious ways here in the bush. Gallion who works for me would not walk home a certain way the other day. She was scared because she had heard that people were hiding on the way who snatch human hearts and organs for witchcraft. That’s terrible and an awful abuse of people, but why is it happening? It is happening because the people snatching the organs feel that the money they are paid is part of the answer to life’s mystery of why. They also believe in the power of witchcraft. The net result of this is that Gallion is scared to walk home and that many people are murdered and never heard of again.
You see the question “why?” is not an irrelevant question in our life today. How you answer the question, “Why?” affects your very outlook, actions and direction in life. Your life will amount to the sum of how accurately you manage to answer the question, because your life over many years will form an answer to the question. Where you treasure is, there your heart will be, and people always follow the desires of their heart.
The point is that you find the reason why. Just like the quote in the film, you have the courage, the guts, to get underneath the bonnet of your own life and work out what it is all about. When Paul talked about ‘Working out your own salvation” in the Bible, I believe that is what he was talking about.
That is Why I am here in Zambia, because doing that with an entire generation of villagers, can have a greater impact than I can ever imagine.