What does it mean to be alive? Is it just to feel the rush of air in our lungs? Is a man in a coma alive as you and me? Then why do we not join him? Why is simply breathing not enough for us? We sense somehow; we have a purpose, right?
‘When Breath Becomes Air’ is the memoir of a neurosurgeon and writer, Paul Kalanithi. He died of lung cancer. The journey to his death was heartbreaking and widely inspiring. After the diagnosis, the things he found important lost their significance, and he was meaningless. For some months now, that’s what I have been experiencing.
No, I am not sick. The best way I can describe is lingering restlessness. I think I am realizing I really don’t like it here, that I don’t like me here. I would like to forget corona or believe it hasn’t changed me, but it has. I saw most of what I was doing and thinking about as pointless. Somehow planning photo shoots and having witty ideas for social media posts mean so little for me. This void creeps in, even if I seek to muffle it with binge watching Avatar, (the cartoon not the movie, that’s a letdown, Aang isn’t as entertaining) but at every quiet space, the nameless thing returns. C. S. Lewis gives us some insight:
“We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter.
Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing.”The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis
I was on a rock or sand rather and someone pulled it out from under me and I have fallen flat on my face. Slow detachment from my ideals made me sick, like an addict being weaned. Then in the middle, it occurred to me the closeness that I desired can only be found when I see him face to face. I wrote this on April 14, 2020;
Is it enough to desire your face, only to never behold it here?
Is it enough to desire your voice, only to be met by the echo of mine?
Is it enough to desire your embrace when all I feel is the void in the air?
Is it enough to desire your truth when my mind is filled with fear?
Is it enough to desire the fruit only to be left hungry for you?
Is it enough to be thirsty for your presence when my drink is tears? Tell me, is it enough, oh Lord, to just desire you?
But it hasn’t just been Corona that has shifted the sand. Our world is being unhinged, maybe it always has been. Ebola is breaking out in Africa again, the earthquake a few months ago, tsunamis in other places, wars (that was ongoing), pending recessions, censorship of social media platforms by governments- whatever happened to free speech? China’s communist government literally has a platform called The Great Firewall that rules out any anti-government claims and they are not the most sacrificial leaders. Chinese can’t use Google and most parts have blocked Facebook. The US is now working for Twitter to be uncensored, the motives for which I am unsure. Then the boiling pot turned over.
I Can’t Breathe
The video before George Floyd’s death pulled air out of me, I barely finished it. I can’t even express how horrific it all was and the lack of emotion from the police officers was appalling. It frustrates us as blacks. It makes me angry. After over 400 years we presumably still don’t have the acceptance or justice we seek. Hundreds of Floyds happened before, this is the problem. Have we progressed in these postmodern times? I cannot imagine the pain of his family. The future might not make grieving any more possible. He could be my brother, no, he was. We cannot replace him.
He That Is Without Sin Cast The First Stone
However, may we never blind ourselves saying, one injustice is greater than the other. Between 2010 and 2014, on average, 56 million induced (safe and unsafe) abortions occurred worldwide each year. And surprisingly despite the current narrative, it is the number one killer for African Americans. So, not only are some women marching allowed unborn babies to think, ‘I can’t breathe,’ when the ‘surgery’ was taking place, some consenting fathers are there too. Our wombs are tombs yet, we don’t burn down buildings, hold peace protests, neither do we loot at nights and we don’t post in solidarity on social media this globally. Perhaps, it is easier if we step in the neck of our unborn black men and women by using our freedom of ‘choice,’ abusing a ‘right’ that was never ours.
Skeletons In Our Closets
We should take it a little further home; how many raids are reported of how our fellow brothers raids ‘Missah Chin’? Or does ‘Missah Chin’ not deserve justice? We rob and kill them, and harbor this aggression towards them saying, ‘They will soon take over Jamaica.’ Certainly our men that speak with such fervency will do something about it. Yet, the ratio in favor of women in Jamaican University demographics is 70:30 and even fewer start businesses. Do Chinese lives matter?
The blacks suffered more injustice in history you may say. So, we only fight for injustices that are more frequent? Martin Luther king said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere or is it only for black lives? Are we really pursuing equality or elitism? Why are we also not protesting over the death of Susan Bogle, a disabled woman was killed last week in August Town during a gun exchange between soldiers and a civilian? Or Noel Chambers, who died in prison after spending 40 years in a correctional facility uncharged? Please fam, let us not allow media to fan the flames of the evil in our hearts.
‘We Can’t Breathe.’
These are the words of global protesters. I agree with them. How can we with everything that has been happening? It’s not just the death of Floyd that has stopped our air supply, it’s our blatant disregard for God as humans. How can we expect a world that would rather teach children about gender fluidity, spread distrust for truth, spread relativism, facilitating individualistic focus, be more concerned with our pleasure than morality and expect a society filled with love and devoid of prejudices? How can we expect a broken world to unite? What kind of justice do we seek when a man isn’t inherently just or good? Despite our best human efforts, racist whites won’t suddenly grow a deep enduring love for blacks and a recent law can’t make them either. Only one person can do that.
What would Jesus Do?
Jesus was born in a Roman territory. Rome worshipped their Caesar as a god, and his reply? The interpretation of a coin. To contrary dogmas, chiefly among his people, he taught parables. Hardly a battle cry, or was it? Teachings that spoke of seeds, the broken, the annoying widow, lost money, an injured stranger, mesmerized his listeners. He went to weddings, act as the master of ceremonies for dinners, washed feet and spent his time with the poor. It’s either Jesus was an idler or everything he did was somehow part of a plan.
Ravi Zacharias said, in all of history there’s only one place that evil, love, forgiveness, and justice are all accounted for, the Cross. The only one who deserved justice submitted to injustice. Why? So, he could account for Floyd’s death, Susan, Noel and the list of every other individual who died along with their murderers. We lead men to him and we won’t have to fight for equality. Protest and post, but reconsider your why, is this from the deepest of my desires to show the harsh world the light of Christ? Or is this borne out of sorrow, anger and the urge to take vengeance out of the hand of God? Do we trust that He is just?
The Jews didn’t accept him because he should free them from their temporal slavery. What they didn’t know was he choose to rescue them from a deadlier bondage. And it wasn’t just them, but the entire world. What if in these times we are missing the bigger picture? The glimpse Paul saw. A sight so splendid and transcendent that even in shackles, he declared he was free.
This World Isn’t It
Maybe that’s why my soul is restless. Perhaps I haven’t known the real Christ. Perhaps I am contented with my idea of him. Because I want the knee of my own carnal desires to smother the life out of my spiritual man. Because I want to silence my conscience. I have fallen into the sea of my own devilish passions, pursuing my own ideas, unconsciously yielding to the mantra of living ‘my’ truth. I gasp, clawing for air. What about God’s truth? Or is that not critical to me anymore?
God forbid, a mere desire should delight me. I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection. Surely the tombs in my heart are stink with evil deeds. I demanded to feel some sort of fulfillment here, at least the quenching he promised. I have found tasting living waters doesn’t contain the thirst. It increases it and propels you to become like the persons Paul said would see God. The ones who drool at the thought of his appearing, (my version). God would become evil if he allowed us complete comfort here when glorification awaits us. We would be rocked to complacency as we now are, lacking world-changing convictions.
This world isn’t it. This life is a vapor, a flower that blooms in the morning and whither in the evening. So, we don’t belong here. What do we do with the time we have left? Hide away in a cave like Elijah?
2 Corinthians 5: 14-15, 18
15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.
20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
Controls there denotes, urges us on, the love of Christ becomes our motivation. Because Christ died for us, we now live for him. How can we show Christ to a deaf world? We offer them light. The most wonderful thing, how Jesus shines ‘through’ us, is tailored to extreme specificity. Moses had a rod, Joseph had organizational skills, Esther had persuasive speech, Peter knew how to catch fish, Rahab had a home, David, an instrument, Solomon loved being in his head, Noah was a carpenter, Mary had a womb, Samuel an ear, Jeremiah, a mouth. What do you have? Better yet, what were you given? There’s is a reason we are alive now. There’s a reason we aren’t in comas. Let’s do something with this breath.
The message below speaks to how a handful of men revolutionized the earth that mirrors ours today. I am encouraged by it, I hope you are too. Remember, you are precious.