You’ve probably heard about Charles Ramsey. A wonderful citizen who was just minding his own business and through an act of heroism will now undoubtedly appear on countless radio interviews and morning shows. He’ll be referenced on Saturday Night Live and late night talk shows. His YouTube clip will eventually be autotuned and remixed and countless articles will be written as this story starts to unfold. Do you know another thing that is likely to happen? “Regular” and ordinary people will start to feel the burden to be the “next Charles Ramsey.”
I know this all too well because in Christianity, especially in the US, people are driven by fame and being recognized, and they feel pressure from all sides to do something great for God. This pressure has a way of making people discontent with the life that God has given them, and motivates them to pursue some greater opportunity to really authenticate their faith. Time and time again, this great pressure has probably been one of the greatest deterrents from people actually doing anything.
One of my guiding philosophies of life is to be driven by need rather than opportunity. To clarify, there is nothing necessarily wrong with making certain decisions based on the best opportunity. I don’t want to place a false dichotomy here as if need and opportunity are in some kind of battle. What I mean is that when faced with a decision to take a great opportunity that may be more beneficial or comfortable for me or to meet a need that God has placed right in front of me, I’ve learned that I tend to navigate through life trying to meet the needs. I may be reacting, but in our culture of fame-chasing, I’ve seen way too many guys (including myself) chasing opportunities to advance their name and platform at the expense of meeting real needs right in front of them. I’m disgusted with myself when I fall into this trap, and looking over my life I’ve realized that I am more confident in God’s leading when I’m meeting needs.
Simply put, the only way that I know how to be led by God (granted there may be other ways, I just haven’t experienced them thus far) is to meet the needs that are right of front of me. I’m a fixer; I’m a helper. I rarely have great vision for the future or the horizon, because I’m constantly focused on compassion for what is right in front of me. I know vision for the horizon is needed; that’s why I surround myself with men of great vision for the horizon. (I’ve learned it’s better to surround myself with someone that is authentically something than to try myself to be something that I am not). Anyways, I find myself being led by God by meeting the needs that are right in front of me. I’ve known Him to be faithful in that way and to lead me right where He would have me. The Bible and my past experience have only reinforced and cemented this philosophy in my life:
That’s how David ended up fighting Goliath (1 Samuel 17) – he stumbled on this fight, and met the need that was right in front of him.
That’s how Paul ended up gaining a platform to lecture at the educational and philosophical center of the day (Acts 17) – he stumbled into this conversation and met the needs that were right in front of him.
That’s how the Good Samaritan etched his way into our vocabulary and became a term that even people who hate the Bible use freely. – he stumbled onto a half dead guy and met the needs that were right in front of him.
And…that’s the way that Charles Ramsey became who he was – he stumbled onto the needs of 3 girls that needed his help.
Our society takes guys that do these things (which are extraordinary) and then praise them (and rightly so). And here’s the problem—not that society praises them, but that we covet that praise and attention so bad that we now begin to attempt to try and gain it. We hope to be the next David, so we go out and feel like the right thing to do is to look for a Goliath. We want to be the next Paul, we want to be the the next Charles Ramsey, we want to be the next [insert your hero here]. And we think the way to get there is to change our activity.
And here is where the pressure starts to build. We can’t help it. We look at all of our neighbors, especially those we used to eat ribs and listen to salsa music with, through new lenses. We daydream of being the guy that was the hero. We feel the there’s a need to run and break down the door of your next door neighbors’ house if you think you hear a faint scream. There’s this pressure to try to become the Good Samaritan by your activity--scouring the road, looking for damsels in distress, etc. We want that affirmation so bad that we end up believing the only way that we get it is just to emulate the activity of our heroes. In doing so; however, we completely miss the point.
Do you know what all of the “heroes” on this list (and probably on your list) have in common? (1) At one point they were just “regular” people. (2) They experienced a “real” burden that they just couldn’t shake or ignore. (3) They responded to that burden with initiative (to actually solve a problem and not to get recognition), and (4) when onlookers saw them, they received praise.
Do you know what’s worthy to be copied? I’ll give you a hint; it’s not their activity. It’s their identity. It’s becoming the type of person that would respond to burdens that are placed right in front of them. The world is messed up as it is, you don’t have to go looking. You don’t have to finagle a plan or a pathway to fame; no need to feel the pressure to start a non-profit (not now at least); no need to feel like you have to earn a title by what you do. All you have to do is to be faithful and respond to the needs that are right there. Trust God to guide you in such a way where you find yourself on the same path with an issue that needs to be addressed, and become the type of person that would address it.
Relax. But not too much. Live life in such a way that you are expecting God to interrupt your “regular” life and take advantage of those opportunities. Trust Him to lead and guide you into the activity. You worry about your identity; you worry about becoming the type of individual that’s gripped with compassion when you walk by the same homeless people every day. Don’t spend time trying to fabricate a burden to prove your loyalty. Be faithful to the needs that are right in front of you.
I guarantee you, the people that you admire would have done it whether or not they knew the cameras would be coming. To be quite frank, some of the things that God brings our way won’t get the recognition that other people get. Some of us will spend our entire lives outside of the limelight and we’ll never do anything “great” (in the eyes of the world) for God. But that’s okay, stay the course. Spend your time learning what would make God say, “Well done.” Aim for that. How the world defines their heroes changes, so if that's your target, you’ll spend your life aiming for a moving target. While God’s standards stay consistent. That standard is something worth giving your life to.
Besides, someone making an autotuned version of your YouTube interview is overrated. I haven’t used my Antoine Dodson app in at least a few weeks.