Two weeks ago, I published a book. I would like you to believe that makes me a demigod of some sort, or at least a kind of spiritual sensei who though senile, has a way of making the lotuses teach you things.
Because being published is supposed to do that to you. It’s like having a Driver’s License for being a soul:
COP: “Sir, I’m afraid the government says you don’t exist.”
ME: “Oh DON’T I? HaHA!” (Whips out brand new copy of Faker, available at amazon.com if you order in the next 10 minutes…or anytime after that, really)
COP: “Oh, I’m sorry sir. I didn’t realize you were a published author, I…I…”
ME: “That’s right you didn’t you swine. I have a SOUL, see? I’m on paper! Can’t you understand? I put WORDS together, REAL words, on pages, and they are COHERENT! Can your CANINE friends do that? Go ahead LET THEM TRY!”
COP: “No, no – none of us could, sir. We pay homage to your solution to the existential crisis of life. We’ll just be off doing little people things now, normal people things, things normal people do, wondering whether we exist, whether we have souls, whether the normal, everyday drudgery of life is worth its every eeking second, whether our normal, everyday, boring, pointless, meaningless, ho-hum…”
You get the picture.
But here’s the thing. I published a book, and then I nudged it gently out into cyberspace. I closed my eyes, waiting for Christian Nirvana to hit me like a stack of reformed theology books from heaven, and…
Well, what did you expect? Literally nothing happened. It was less exciting than brushing my teeth (of course, I have some molar caps that can make things PRE-TTY interesting).
It was disappointing to say the least. Yes people were very nice about it. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the lightning bolt from heaven, when suddenly, out of the blue…I’m perfect.
“Well done, Mr. McDonald, here’s your gold-plated copy of Fireproof. YOU DID IT.”
It didn’t happen. It didn’t come. I didn’t get perfect. I stayed the same. I’m still…me.
This week I’ve been reading about two guys who weirdly have a lot in common: Samson and Martin Luther. They both took vows they couldn’t keep. They both had a supernatural ability to crush anyone who opposed them. And they were both, well, pretty much jerks.
Samson actually isn’t that bad compared with Martin Luther. I’ll spare you some of the details, but suffice it to say, if you’re ever searching for that perfect hallmark phrase to capture the moment when you realize your daughter is dating the wrong guy, I’d look to Marty for some doozies. I’m still emotionally crippled from overhearing his description of the adulterous Duke Heinrich (don’t look it up, it’s gross. But okay if you do look it up, look here).
Luther knew it, too. He called himself “a lumberjack”, who had the perpetual reflex to slice down anyone who crossed his path including Catholics, baptists and anyone who didn’t agree with him on communion or the end times or politics or what kind of beer to order on draft or whatever.
And Samson – well, I don’t see the redeeming qualities, exactly. He’s not the kind of guy I’d gel with, to be honest. Samson is the kind of guy who goes to the gym to take selfies in the mirror after he gets his pump on. I’m the kind of guy that wears NPR shirts to the gym.
The point is, Jesus used both of them. Samson made the hall of faith. Luther basically rebuilt it for us.
And it wasn’t because they were perfect.
There’s this thing in scientific circles called The Butterfly Effect (it’s what the REAL Jurassic Park stories – you know, the books – are all about). The idea is that the wind a butterfly’s wing on one side of the world could, theoretically anyway, cause a hurricane on the other side of the world. How?
We don’t know. We have no idea. That’s the point of the Butterfly Effect: we have no idea what our actions mean. It’s impossible to calculate.
Why do I tell you this?
Because you’re waiting for me to tell you why it is God used Samson and Luther and name-your-Christian-celeb. You want the secret, don’t you? You want to know what it takes to go from being one of US to one of THEM, right?
Here it is: I have no clue. I have no clue why Jesus called me to write a book. I don’t know – I know people who are better Christians than I am. Seriously. I know people who actually GET Christianity. They’re humble, they’re open, they’re not messed up.
That’s not me. I’m cranky, and sarcastic, and conceited. I’m not just saying that – ask anybody.
So why me?
Butterfly Effect. Impossible to know. We’ll never know, and I’m okay with that.
But here’s what I do know: it’s not because I’ve achieved a new level of spirituality. It’s not because I’m on a different spiritual plane than you and you and you. It’s because God can do whatever He well pleases.
At the end of his life, just before his heart literally exploded, Luther sat by his bedside, away from his family and home, scribbling a note. He was surveying his life, his teaching, his opponents – everything. He knew it was his last hour.
His followers had accused him of being overbearing at times, even cruel. But they also recognized his genius, and their indebtedness to his faithful, humble work through the scriptures.
Luther knew his shortcomings as well as any. And he also knew that God has used him to move a mountain. In that last hour, as he reflected on it all, he wrote my favorite words from his pen: “Hoc es verum. Wir sind alle Pettler.”
And of course we all know that little phrase, don’t we? No? Okay, here it is:
“This is true. We are all Beggars.”
That’s it. We’re all beggars. There are no spiritual superstars. God brings men low, He builds them up, He does whatever He well pleases.
So let’s not be overly simplistic about things.
People who do great things for God aren’t God’s favorites. They’re just people. And honestly, when you look carefully, you’ll see most of the people God used lived extraordinarily painful lives. While we’re all asking, “Why him?” he or she’s probably asking the same thing: “Why me?”.
So that’s the thing about being published. It doesn’t change anything. It’s not meant to do. Because in the end – you, me, the woman vacuuming the carpet at the church right now, the superstar preacher at the conference – we’re all beggars.
This is true.
Anyone who says otherwise is lying. Or selling something. Or both.