These are unique days.
Between jet-hopping and mouse-clicking, one can interact with every view and value under the sun. Ancestors who were confined to the the village or the house where they existed from conception to death would be stunned. In fact, it is stunning, even to those of us living in this age. Never in history has the human mind had so much to sift and sort. In past days, the avenues for exploration were so inaccessible to the average person that it was simply expected that one’s worldview would remain largely unchallenged by outside voices because such voices may have been a million miles away, even if they were waiting just over the next hill.
These days are not those days.
Beyond the vastness of ideological terrain to explore, there is also a conviction today that the true failure is to not explore. Closed-mindedness is critiqued; narrowness is just plain nasty. And for today’s experience-hound, travel is the trophy to be hoisted. A worn passport is the diploma of choice for many, and I can personally attest to logging miles as one powerful, albeit luxurious, ingredient toward personal growth.
In my previous post, I alluded to the blog of my friend Nic, who has amassed a shocking number of air miles in his young years. He mentioned travel’s enormous impact on his spiritual journey, and I can hardly agree more.
I recall when I returned from Zambia in 1997. At 20 years old, I was living a dream of visiting Africa. After a month in the countrysides of Zambia and Zimbabwe, I returned home to Canada, a week late for my third-year of college. On the first evening home, I was asked to share about my trip at a church’s Young Adult gathering.
I recall being utterly garbled, hardly able to string two sentences together. So overloaded where my processors by the intensity of that trip, combined with the contrasting deaths of Mother Teresa and Princess Diana that had dominated headlines on our way home, that I could hardly determine which way was up.
This has been travel’s consistent impact upon my life: Disorientation and destablization. At some point, we do reconstruct “life as we know it”, but its design cannot go unaltered. Revision and renovation are forced upon those trained by travel.
Even without leaving home, Steve Jobs felt this truth. The cover of Life magazine (July 12, 1968) featured a disturbing photo of two children from a war-torn region of Nigeria. More than one million people died there during that period, from Civil War or famine. At age 13, Steve found it impossible to reconcile the picture with the lessons drawn from his local Lutheran church. Steve’s biographer, Walter Isaacson, describes what happened next:
“Steve took it to Sunday school and confronted the church’s pastor. ‘If I raise my finger, will God know which one I’m going to raise even before I do it?’
The pastor answered, ‘Yes, God knows everything.’ Jobs then pulled out the Life cover and asked, ‘Well, does God know about this and what’s going to happen to these children?’
The answer he received was less than acceptable, and that conversation marked the last time Steve went to church.
What does a story like that tell us?
It tells us that it is possible for an unusually sharp mind to step back from God as a result of his interpretation of new information.
Before Steve Jobs was born, Bob Pierce was in China on an evangelistic effort with Youth for Christ. Witnessing extreme poverty and overt persecution in the late 1940’s, Pierce felt the same weight that Jobs or any traveller today can feel when confronted with such realities. But where Jobs was driven from faith, Pierce was pressed in farther, in the process, birthing the organizations World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse before his death in 1978.
What does a story like that tell us?
It tells us that it is possible for an unusually sharp mind to step toward God as a result of his interpretation of new information.
And you know what? Either movement can feel like the losing of one’s faith.
More on that in the next post.