Monday, November 10, 2008

A Jungle Doctor

Are you familiar with this quote?

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
(Matthew 16:24b-25, NIV)

You might have heard some of those words before. You may have even read them before.

It's easy for those of us who deal in the currency of Scripture to become numb to them, however. So I was hearing them again with new ears this morning as I read the writing of Dr. Albert Schweitzer.

Born in 1875, Dr. Schweitzer was an organist, an organ-builder, philosopher, and theologian. But he sensed God's calling on his life to do something else.

So he went to medical school. And once completed, he moved to equatorial Africa and became a medical missionary.

Friends objected. Family scoffed. Why would such a gifted, bright individual waste his life in such a ridiculous way?

Dr. Schweitzer writes about his own life to that point:

"It struck me as inconceivable that I should be allowed to live such a happy life while I saw so many people around me struggling with sorrow and suffering. One brilliant summer morning in 1896, as I awoke, the thought came to me that I must not accept this good fortune as a matter of course, but must give something in return. While outside the birds sang and I reflected that until I was thirty, I could consider myself justified in devoting myself to scholarship and the arts, but after that I would devote myself directly to serving humanity. I had already tried many times to find the meaning that lay hidden in the words of Jesus: 'Whoever would save his life shall lose it, and whoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel's shall save it.' Now I had found the answer." (From Out of My Life and Thought, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998)

That one sentence vibrates within me like a semi-truck going down my street rattles the windows in my house. "I must not accept this good fortune as a matter of course, but must give something in return."

It reminds me of why I do what I do. The reason I have agreed to many of my tasks and roles is because I am convinced there is something bigger than me for which to give my life. There is Someone who has generously given me my life and the only reasonable thing I can do is give it back in the way I live it each day. I am convinced Dr. Schweitzer and Jesus are right: such living, such "losing" of your life, is the path to "finding" life that overflows with meaning and joy.

Such a sense of satisfaction and gratitude can affect the way we choose our occupation and the course we choose for our education. It can direct the way we interact with the community. It will shape the organizations for which we volunteer our time. It will color the way we deal with family and other relationships. It will dictate to us how we spend our time, talents, money. Such an attitude begins to create a world in which we want to live. What we have is no longer simply for my enjoyment; it is meant to be shared and given away.

Imagine what our community would look like if we each became determined to "give something in return." It would transform our churches, our schools, our Chambers of Commerce, our shops, our offices, our factories, our homes, our marriages, and our children. My prayer for us is that we would each find such meaning, such a Reason for a sense of living out and giving away our lives.

Grace & peace

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