What Separates the Humans…

IMG_20170429_071642_459This is a question that has been asked for centuries. Typically, it is ended with “by the rest of the animals”, but I have a different ending to that age-old question. I would ask, What separates the humans from other humans? 

As it turns out, it can be something as little as a nylon strap.

While flying American’s friendly skies recently, I witnessed what has become a common occurrence. If you’ve traveled via means of the airlines at all, you know what I’m talking about.

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The Giant Salamander Dilemma

I often watch nature shows; Nova, Nature, Planet Earth, The Life of Birds, and about a dozen others.  Of course, the best viewing is hosted by David Attenborough, whose voice has become synonymous with nature programming.

The other night I was enjoying a mesmerizing segment on Planet Earth, narrated by Mr. Attenborough. I laughed at a lighthearted story about baby birds and and romping lion cubs when out of nowhere, my friend David turned dark. He started telling a monster story about a bizarre animal that terrified me and at the same time, caused me to pause and reflect on my own life.

Giant SalamanderThe Great Sir Attenborough told of the Giant Salamander of Japan. This monster lives in the icy waters of Japan’s mountains. It hunts by night, eating bugs and crustaceans and fish.  Even on that meager diet, it can grow up to 2 meters in length (that’s more than 6 feet) and can live up to 80 years.

Think about that for a minute.  Eighty Years! This beast does nothing but hang out in freezing water hoping for a pressure change in the water to alert him to a passing fish. Nothing more. That’s his life. He wakes up late in the evening and says goodbye to the Giant Salamander Wife and Kids and makes his way out into the world to do a honest night’s work of grub hunting. And he does that for eight decades. Four-score. 29,219 days. For my Spanish friends, that’s Ochenta! For my Japanese friends that is roughly Hachiju! Any way you count it, it’s old.

1024px-Andrias_japonicus_pairTo put that into perspective, the average life expectancy of an American male is 78.1 years, which means that Mr. Giant Salamander could live longer than me. However, one has to ask the question about quality of life, right? I mean, is Mr. Salamander’s life as fulfilling as my own? After all, my life is full of meaning. Seriously. I wake up in the morning, say goodbye to my wife and kids and trudge to work where I do the job that makes it possible to buy food (grubs) for the table and shelter over our heads (rocks and cold water). I return from work at the end of the day and prepare to do it all over again tomorrow…and I live 1.9 years less than the Giant Salamander of Japan. Crap.

This thought has festered over the past few weeks as I’ve tried to recount my life’s purpose, my ambitions, and goals. Am I really that different from the world’s second largest amphibian? Is there something that distinguishes my much-anticipated and just-shy-of eight decades of life?

In short, what separates us from the Giant Salamander? I’ve known plenty of people who live much like my aquatic, bug eating friend. They move from day-to-day without purpose, without joy, in salamander-like fashion. They live in an icy world, separated from others, scraping to get by; like the Giant Salamander, never a smile on their face. (Have you ever seen a Giant Salamander smile?  I think not.)

How about you? Does your life have meaning beyond the daily grind? What do you do that makes your life meaningful? Is it the work you do? Is it the causes you champion? Is it the hobby you enjoy? The church you attend? The family you raise? What is it that gives your life purpose?

I propose that there are several things that can distinguish us from the Giant Salamander…if we only try.  First, and this is really more of a genetic thing, we have opposable thumbs and breathe air into our lungs rather than absorb it through our skin. But there’s a little more. We have the opportunity, each and every day, to be a part of a greater good. We are offered the gift of living with others, in community. Our ability to love others, and our desire to be loved, gives us purpose, gives us meaning, and ultimately gives us joy. You can have a dozen hobbies and still be alone. You can fight the good fight for a dozen worthy causes but still be empty. I know plenty of people who go to church religiously and are hollow shells and nasty folks.

It isn’t what we do.  It is how we live.  So live your life well. Love those around you. Be lovable. Allow others to love you. Otherwise, we might as well return to our grub hunting.

Stick with Love

20131113_173505“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_love.html#kzGsYWQErGow4riQ.99I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Ephesians 1:15

“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,”

Yes, this is a small section of a bigger part.  Yes, it is leading up to some other insight.  But let’s stop at verse 15 for a moment.  We’ll get to the rest later.

Let’s go back to the past few verses.  Paul begins this verse with the words, “For this reason…”.  He, of course, is referring to the prior verses in which we learn the truth of the Gospel:  When we hear and when we believe we are part of the Kingdom of Heaven and are then marked with a seal (the Holy Spirit) to ensure our portion of the inheritance (our place with God).

Paul is confirming that this earlier section is in fact true for those in Ephesus.  These people had faith in Jesus and something more:  They loved all the saints.  Paul is not referring to the statues you put on your dashboard to keep you safe or the emblems you wear around your neck.  He’s not talking about people from the Catholic faith who performed verified miracles.  Paul is talking about other people who Heard and Believed.

But the part of this verse that really jumps off the page is not that they have faith or that they love other people who have faith…It’s that he has heard about it!

When was the last time someone told you that they knew you believed in Jesus and they could tell because you love others so well?  When was the last time someone encouraged you by mentioning that you were obvious in your faith and love?

Paul is writing a letter but can’t get even past page one before he reports what he has heard:  “You have faith.  You love others.  You, my friends, are marked with that seal and I’ve heard all about it!”

Wouldn’t it be nice is someone wrote a letter like that about us?  I suppose our lives would have to look like we have faith in Jesus and that we love others well.  Yah.  I suppose.