In 1977, a seminary student named Don Stephens was invited to a meeting in Calcutta with Mother Teresa. Given the gravity of the event, Stephens carefully wrote out his questions for her on a note card and placed it in his pocket.
When it came his time to speak, Mother Teresa kindly but directly told him to put the note card down because she had some questions. According to Stephens, what she asked him changed his life.
1. What’s your purpose?
2. What is your greatest pain?
3. What are you going to do about it?
Out of the pain Stephens described to Mother, Mercy Ships* was born. Thirty five years later, it operates the largest, non-governmental hospital ship in the world, and is busy building a second. Working with a $54 million budget, the non-profit organization has visited 578 different ports, providing surgical, ophthalmic, medical and dental care to the world’s poorest people.
One guy. Three questions. Millions of lives.
So, what are you doing with your life?
And I say that carefully, because stories like this used to frustrate me. I too wanted to build something with my life, something significant, but I couldn’t figure out how. My problem, as it turns out, was a simple one:
I had fired my architect.
Because I was mad at the Christians who carry signs and smear gay people on Facebook, I refused to even consider the gospel of Jesus Christ as infrastructure for my life. So, I erected a bunch of buildings on my own. With a few breathtaking exceptions, those structures were up to code and functional; however they were kind of lame and uninspired. I wanted Frank Lloyd Wright and I got mini-storage.
What I think Mother Teresa, Don Stephens and thousands of Mercy Shippers understand is this:
It is a tremendous privilege to collaborate on your life with the creator of the universe; to coax something magnificent from the ether and watch it consume thousands of people like fire, conscripting them into the army Jesus had planned all along,
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:1-3
Whether you know it or not, God’s hovering over you too, right now, brimming with thoughts and plans for your life, with an imagination too wild for you to grasp. However, your humble assent and obedience are required, and nobody can tell you just how it will go.
If you struggle to believe that, I understand but what do you have to lose by trying? Why not let God define who you are and what you’re doing here? (Right, First City Church?)
So go ahead and bring him the tatters of your faith. Bring him your doubts about creation, religion, gay marriage and abortion. Bring your sad heart and your dirty face and lay all of it at his feet. Then pick up the gospel of John.
I promise he will lay you waste and love you whole at the exact same time.
And that’s when the building begins.
*As I’m sure you know, the views expressed herein are my own and not that of Mercy Ships.