Son I need to talk to you about something.
Did I see a video of you on Instagram?
Did you take the ALS challenge?
Oh. Yeah. That one.
Why did you do that?
Because I was challenged by my friends and wanted to do it.
Really? Do you know anything about ALS?
Not much other than it is bad news.
So you made a video of you getting drenched in ice water for something you don’t know much about and you don’t know anyone who has it. Did you give any money to the cause?
No. I didn’t know where to give it and I really didn’t have money to give. None of my friends who took the challenge gave money either.
So basically you made a video because your friends and half of our country is into the challenge, but you didn’t really do anything for the cause. Now that the thrill is gone you aren’t thinking of the devastation of ALS on people at all. Doesn’t that seem to be more about you than it does about ALS or someone who has ALS?
I am not mad or disappointed you did it. It did look like fun, but what I want you to understand is that you were chasing an experience without any intention of engaging in the cause that the challenge represented. You can’t have an experience that has meaning for your life if you don’t dive deeper into the subject and consider how you could make a difference. People with ALS and the people behind the challenge are thrilled at the awareness growing about ALS and of course the money raised for research and treatment, but I fear that as soon as this challenge gets past cultural obsession that their cause will return to obscurity and struggle. Attention, education, and funding will always be limited if personal connection is not made. What if you and your friends volunteered to help a family struggling with supporting their loved one with ALS by mowing their grass or helping with grocery shopping instead of making a big splash with a video for a cause you likely will never think of again?
Hum. I didn’t think of that.
Son, let me give you some father-son words to live by: initiation without integration is indifference.
Whoa. It’s the weekend. No algebra for me please dad.
What I mean is that when you seek to experience something you should do so as a way into a life change or personal growth opportunity because initiation is the doorway into a better way of “doing life.” To be initiated without change and/or commitment is to remain unchanged, unaffected and indifferent to the cause you have joined. I am not just talking about the ALS challenge though.
I am not sure I am following you.
Son, when you were baptized in the church it was more than an experience. You were acknowledging a change of life and a change of what/who you were walking towards. Baptism is the initiation into a deeper life of discipleship and mission with/for God. If you are baptized without any change of the way you live, any change in how you plan your life, any change in your values/beliefs/habits, you are basically seeking an experience without integrating the Spirit of God into your past/present/future for help and healing. Essentially you are indifferent to the very thing that baptism represents. To be initiated in baptism is to be integrated in the life of Christ and the life of his body (the church). You can’t have one without the other. You just can’t.
Wow. I never thought of it like that.
The same point could be made about marriage. A wedding doesn’t make a marriage no matter how grand the ceremony and reception. Getting married is more than a challenge or an event. It is integrating your life into the life of another. Pretty pictures and videos are only the reminders of the moment two lives joined together to make one. If that does not happen then your wedding pictures are useless and perhaps painful to look at. Getting married means you have jumped all into live with someone else without reservations and without conditions.
I see what you mean.
I could make similar points about friendship, vocation, even the way you take care of your body and mind. Faith, love, work, friendship, health are the most important things in life and we often don’t move past simple experiences with any of them. Way to often we choose the fun over the fundamental investment necessary to make us whole through our faith, our relationships, our work, our health. It makes for empty people, empty families, empty churches.
I get your point.
Yeah. I do and it is a good one. I don’t want to only have fun videos of events and experiences. I want my life to have meaning and make a mark. I want to invest myself into great causes and use what I have for making the world better. I want more than just a drive by moment that has little meaning and less effect on me. I want more. Making a splash is less important to me than making a difference.
That sounds great and I know that many of your friends think the same way. Now it is a matter of putting those intentions into actions. Son, look way beyond the thrill of an experience in everything in life and you fill the emptiness inside you with real encounters that your soul is looking for. Don’t be distracted by the casual reaction of our culture when it comes to serving others. Be more, love better, and remember longer when taking on challenges that are really important. Christian faith and action can change the world, but they can’t be left as experiences. Faith and action needs to be integrated into the whole structure of your body, mind, and spirit. If that happens, this world will never be the same because you will have faced the challenge with all that God created you to offer and that is exactly what others need – for you to be who God intended for you to be. Don’t seek to be thrilled by the moment. Desire to thrive in the fullness of what God is offering you. Now go for it!
A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth. (Proverbs 17:24)