Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Man Who Couldn't Stop...

There was a man who was driven by something deep inside him. It kept him moving forward, it kept him alive in the midst of terror and storms and long stretches of loneliness. His story is an inspiration to all those who must endure unwanted hardships, who must bear the burden of suffering over vast stretches of time. Over the years this man's story has been a key to digging deep and taking that next right step. Maybe you need to get to know a man who couldn't stop.

The story of Louis Zamperini and the story of Paul of Tarsus - they are both stories of men who couldn't stop. To read more about Louis, you can read a review in TIME magazine (11/22/10, pg 106) of a new biography called Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, reviewed by Lev Grossman. There's a great Wikipedia article, as well as an interesting overview of his life called Lucky Louie. Mr. Zamperini also has his own biography out called Devil at My Heels. Read about Louis Zamperini - you'll learn that he was a gifted runner, an Olympian, a trouble-maker as a kid who'd box the bullies until they whimpered. He was an Army pilot taken POW on the Marshall Islands after floating in the Pacific for 47 days.  After surviving the sea and the torture, he returned some years later to share a message of forgiveness.

Soon after Louis was released from his captors, he was quoted saying: "If I knew I had to go through those experiences again, I'd kill myself." Eventually Mr. Zamperini found redemption from his terrors, finding healing through the message of Jesus. Louis would return to Japan to speak about the forgiveness of Jesus. He would travel for many years as an inspirational speaker, letting others find hope through his hardships.

When we read about the Apostle Paul in Acts 28, he's just crawled to shore from a shipwreck. It's raining, yet the locals have built a huge fire to warm up the survivors. In the spirit of being helpful, Paul grabs some brush to throw on the flames, only to get bitten by a viper. The shocked natives assume that Paul is a murderer finally getting justice. Everyone's watching, waiting for him to crumple to the ground, writhing to his death.

He doesn't show any effects of the viper bite, they then assume he is a god. Paul is quick to denounce this deduction - he knows the truth, and the core of his message is about the One and Only God. This God has put the Same Spirit of Jesus on him, driving him forward to share a message of forgiveness in Christ. No snakes, no shipwrecks, no stonings, no imprisonments, are going to stop Paul from fulfilling his task. He is a man who couldn't stop.

What about you? What stops you?

You may not face the trials of Louis Zamperini on the ocean or in a POW cell, and you may not face the troubles of St. Paul in shipwrecks and shackles on the ankle. And yet the hardships you must endure are still hard... and you are tempted to give up on doing the next right thing. The trials and troubles you face may not always be in your home or your own heart - they may be the burdens your friends carry. And as a Christian we are called to carry the burdens of one another.

As a Christian, you are called to be like Christ, to fulfill the tasks God has chosen for you. God only asks you to do difficult tasks - ones' that require trust and courage and faith and endurance. They may start off small, but the further on you go, the bigger the challenges and obstacles. To carry the burdens of one another - this is your task, this is your calling. Are you the man who gives up? The woman who gives up? Or are you the one who couldn't stop...couldn't stop loving, couldn't stop forgiving, couldn't stop carrying the burdens of one another.

Christ taught us to pray: Our Father...your kingdom come..your will be done on earth. Louis spent the next part of his life living out this prayer. As did Paul. And so can you, with the Same Spirit of Jesus. The one who couldn't stop...

No comments: