Acts 3:6 “Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.”
This past week at Vacation Bible School, I had the opportunity to talk to the children about how God rescues us. We learned that God rescues us when we do wrong, when we are powerless, when we worry, when we struggle, and when we are lonely. While we were teaching children about how God rescues us, word came last week that Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade had both taken their lives. Hearing this news, it would be easy to ask the question: “These people were lonely, powerless and struggled, why didn’t God rescue them?”
A few years ago I was watching a biography on Anthony Bourdain. During his interview, he described that he loved to cook, travel and write. To combine all of his loves he came up with an idea where he would travel the world, meet new people, try new food, and document it. He pitched this idea to the Travel Channel and the show No Reservations was born. As his following grew, he adventured into different programs and in 2013 had an ongoing show on CNN called Parts Unknown. I often watched his show in wondering how does one get a job traveling the world, meeting new people, eating exotic food and getting someone else to pay you to do it? In the interview, Bourdain said he was living his dream.
Despite what we saw on the television, Bourdain struggled with drugs and alcohol abuse as well as battled with depression. He struggled and despite being around people and having millions of fans, he was lonely. He was powerless. God rescues? When someone takes their own life, it is always tragic. There is lots of blame and guilt. We use phrases like, “Well at least they aren't suffering anymore” and “Well now they are in a better place.” Is this God’s idea of rescuing us? In the stories that we told in V.B.S. last week, no one died. No one battled with addiction or mental illness. It was only on the last day that we talked about someone who was physically crippled.
In Act 3 Peter and John come across a man who was crippled from birth. We do not know what his condition was, just that someone took the time to carry him to the Temple gate each day so he could beg for money and at the end of each day he would come and get him. When Peter and John see him, they walk over and speak with him. Expecting money, the beggar looked at the two with anticipation. We are told that Peter looks straight at him, as did John, and said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.” Then we are told that Peter, “Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.” With that, God “rescued” a powerless man.
We often look at this story and miss the fact that God's rescuing hand came through Peter and John. They stopped, noticed this man was hurting, looked him in the eyes and helped him up. They did not just walk by and say, “well God will make it better.” They did not leave the man and head to the comfort of their own houses and tell people about the man, and speak tongue in cheek and say, "we will keep you in our prayers." They took notice of his needs and helped the man, and only then was he healed.
The other side of the coin is that this man’s illness was obvious to everyone. People could see his struggles. In fact, someone brought him there every day, and that same person took him home. Their way of helping was dragging him to the gate and leaving him all day before returning each night. However, most people passed by without ever noticing he even existed, let alone pay attention to the fact that he might have felt lonely, worried, or was struggling.
Often in our lives, we like to function as ducks. On the surface, ducks seem calm and collective, to glide across the water. If you take the time to look below the surface, you see lots of turmoil. Little feet are kicking rapidly to survive. What seems calm, underneath struggles with chaos. When a celebrity loses their life, like Anthony Bourdain, it makes the news. People talk about it, and in a few days, we move on. However, what about those who are not famous, who are not celebrities. The struggle is just as real even if we do not want to admit it.
In light of V.B.S. and the passing of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, there are two things I draw from this passage. First, we have to be willing to give what we have to help those around us, and most of the time it is not money. Often those who struggle the most simply need someone to talk to, someone to care for them, someone to make them feel like they are worthy. The second thing is, we have to be willing to let people help us when we struggle. We live in a day and age of false living. We have 5,000 “friends” on Facebook that we share our lives and photos with but often we never say a word to them. We use money that we do not have so we put it on credit cards, because we can look the part. Struggling with mental illness, but not wanting to admit it because it might make us look weak or needy. The list goes on and on.
God is willing to rescue us, but we have to be willing to admit that we need rescuing. I encourage you this week as you look around at the people in your lives and try to look below the pleasantries of “How are you doing?” “Good. You?” and look below the surface. Like Peter and John, I encourage you to take the time and go beyond what you might see on the outside and go beyond the surface so God’s work of rescuing us can be done.