It's always exciting for me to learn something new, especially when what you learn is something more about who you are as a person.
I was reading the book, "U2 by U2". It's a fascinating, inspirational, and surprisingly moving account of the life of the band that is U2, as written in their own words.
Whether or not you agree with me that U2 is the greatest band in the history of rock and roll (I do realize that taste in music is subjective), you would hopefully agree that no other band has had such an impact on music, culture, politics, art, and faith as they have.
There are several astonishing quotes and stories in this book, but one that spoke to me was a comment made by Bono regarding his fascination with people like Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. He admitted that his attraction to them was largely due to the fact that they were all such men of peace and he knew that deep inside he was a man of violence and anger. He was attracted to these men because they embodied virtues that he himself lacked.
That started me thinking. I have a friend who is always pounding the table about the lack of virtue in modern society. He is quite eloquent in the discussion of character and morality. Yet I've observed that this person is not really the moral giant one might assume he is, based on his passion and his convictions. I realized that, perhaps my friend is so obsessed with the issue of character and morality because deep down inside he realizes that he has a flaw in this area.
As my wife and I were discussing this, she admitted that she finds people who are quiet and patient to be quite fascinating, specifically because she knows that she lacks patience and can sometimes find herself talking very loud without realizing it. She is not a quiet person, although she loves the quiet. I am often asked to switch off the cd player in the car so that she can enjoy a moment of peace.
All this made me realize that I myself have an attraction to people who have a compassionate, servant's heart because I know that inside I can be a desperately selfish and self-centered person.
As an only child, I suppose I didn't have much of a chance of not being self-centered growing up. I enjoyed being an only child, especially because it meant that I got everything I wanted for my birthday and for Christmas. I never had to sacrifice my wants for a sister or a brother. Usually, if I want something, one way or the other, I will find a way to get it.
It's quite interesting to discover that my passion for serving others is rooted in the repulsion I have for my own selfishness. In some paradoxical way, if I weren't so sick of my own selfish heart, I would probably never have developed a heart for others.
My attraction to people with an outward focus is part of the reason I married Wendy. When we were first getting to know each other, in college, there was a time when we walked down to a nursing home to visit some people there. In all honesty, I was only going along because she was going and it gave me the chance to hang out with her.
I remember we walked up to the door of the nursing home and I instinctively rushed past an old woman in a wheel chair who was sitting outside the door, heading straight in to do my good deed for the day. However, when I grabbed the front door and stood there holding it open for Wendy (to show her what a gentleman I could be), I realized that she wasn't there. I turned around and I saw her, down on her knees, looking into this woman's eyes with genuine love and compassion. She smiled at her and gave her a big, warm hug as I stood frozen in place, holding open that door for no one.
In that moment I knew that I loved this girl. I had never witnessed such simple, sincere compassion in my life before. I wanted to know how she could do that. I wanted to know what it would take for my heart to be so changed that I would also love others this way.
Maybe that's why, after all these years of marriage, I am a different person than I was in college. All I know is that my heart for others has been radically changed by my relationship with Wendy. I have also been eager to learn from people like David Ruis, Greg Russinger, Jackie Pullinger, and several others, about what it really means to live a life of love and selfless giving.
I know I still have a long way to go in this area. I am still a student of compassion and a large part of my walk with Jesus is wrapped up in discovering how I can be, like Him, a loving, compassionate person who is more interested in serving than in being served.
I've not yet fully realized my desire to become, like Jesus, the servant of all, but I do know that there is a part of me I wish were not there. I wish I had come "out of the box" as a more giving, sharing, compassionate person.
This is the part of me that I have to work on, and the great thing is, somehow, at the end of my life, by the Grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, I will be like Jesus.
*Note: This article originally appeared on the [Subversive Underground] newsletter.