Do yourself a favour:

Instead of using that spare moment to check your friends’ facebook updates, next time, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKriRkSnXGY and watch British comedian Dave Spikey talk about obituaries. I’ve been a bit fascinated with obituaries lately. I’m not morbidly obsessed with death either. Obituaries are supposed to be about life. About asking what a life was worth. They help you to ask yourself, “If my liver suddenly throws in the towel and surrenders to the relentless onslaught of bit-too-strong-coffee, will my life have been worth anything?”

The most revealing obituaries are written by people who know they can’t really write. The epics written in honor of celebrities and politicians reveal very little except the skill of the journalist paid to write them. No, the shorter rememberings of ordinary people about ordinary people are the ones that really make you think. Disturbingly typical of these was one I read recently in honor of one “Henry ‘Road-Kill Donald”. After the obligatory list of relatives, follows the only thing the author could think of to distinguish this man from the hundred of others who were being remembered that day on that website: “He was a lifelong fan of hill-billy music”.

Seriously.

Reading obituaries like this makes me wonder if these people aspired to anything more when they were children? I work with children every day and I have never met one – not even the poorest orphan – who doesn’t dream of something more. Children understand about dreaming big… about hoping big. And then something happens to us, somewhere between matric maths class and our first last kiss, those dreams die.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” – Proverbs 13:12.

And now for something completely different…

I am a second child. Psychologists identify second children as the ones most likely to suffer from low self esteem. Nice… What’s the point of telling someone likely to have low self esteem that?!! I’m very blessed not to have a low self esteem. Not anymore. Why I don’t have a low self esteem and what that has to do with dreaming big is best explained by reading the life of Jacob.(Genesis 25:19-35:29).

Jacob was a second born son. In the patriarchal-age culture, that made him a second-rate son. His brother Esau was the apple of their father’s eye. He was big and strong and hairy and apparently smelled like “a field that the Lord has blessed” to Daddy (27:27). All of this added up to the characteristic low self-esteem that makes the shrinks smile knowingly. And so we see him struggling his whole life to prove that he was not second best! As a young man, he cheats his brother out of his birthrite. He has to flee his home and lives with his uncle Laban. There, he manages use his uncle’s flocks to build up considerable wealth for himself by some sneaky (and rather miraculous) selective breeding techniques. Whenever Laban changed the rules to keep more of his wealth, Jacob would struggle and scheme until things were in his favor again. Eventually, he grabbed all this wealth and ran away again. His indignant uncle caught up with him again, but after some fast talk, they strike up a deal and part ways. With nowhere else to go, Jacob decides to risk going home again, but not without first setting up a succession of bribe-laden scouting parties. Always the schemer. And then, it happens – one of the most powerful images in the Bible – Jacob wrestles with God. It’s a picture of his whole life. Jacob, wrestles with the Angel of God until morning without success, but refuses to give up. Eventually, God tells him to let go. Jacob’s reply is the summary of his whole life:

“I will not let you go until you bless me!”

I can relate to that. I also grew up second born and feeling (through no fault of my oarents) second rate. I also wrestled with life and with God. Always trying to prove myself and to grasp at bigger dreams. But I was never satisfied and I never felt that my parents or God were satisfied. Then one night I wrestled with God. I was on the point of suicide, but in my desparation I cried out to God asking “When will You be satisfied?!” The still small voice of God, reached out and touched me the way the Angel of God reached out and touched Jacob, and broke us both.

And after the brokenness came the blessing.

We all wrestle with God in our own way. We all want more. And we want to BE more. But until we learn that we don’t need to fight with a God who loves us as we are and dreams bigger dreams for us than we can imagine, we will never be satisfied. Our dreams will be a source of torment instead of a source of Hope.

God love us to hope. As Pastor Len likes to ask, “If faith is being sure of what you hope for (Hebrews 11:1), what are you hoping for?”

And so I read obituaries to remind myself to cherish the dreams that God has given me, and never to let them die. I think it’s an excercise in child-like faith to believe in big dreams in a cynical world, and that’s the only kind of faith that pleases God.

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