On September 18, 2007, Carnegie Mellon computer science professor named Randy Pausch gave hislast lecture before of dying pancreatic cancer a year later at the age of 47. His talk was meant to encourage his children to follow and achieve their childhood dreams with patience and persistence. Yet, millions of people have viewed his talk on YouTube, to see a man facing death with contagious energy, clear optimism, and a joyful purpose. One of his wise counsels was about seeing challenges as opportunities: “Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us show how badly we want things.”
I find an interesting parallel in attitude between Randy and Jesus. After coming down the mountain after his Transfiguration, Jesus faced a brick wall with his disciples, who impatiently asked about the prophesized return of Elijah before the “day of the Lord” (Mal 3:23). They apparently have to come believe that such coming of the Messiah would bring them the rewards they (as the Jewish people) had been long promised for their faithfulness. They did understand that the return of Elijah was fulfilled in the mission of John the Baptist. But they failed to understand that suffering must precede the realization of hope. That in the spiritual life, something lesser has to die for something greater to emerge. Like a caterpillar dying to its worm-like life to be transformed into a butterfly. Like a baby leaving the inner world of his or her mother’s womb to become alive in the outer world. Although I try to be patient, I find myself caught up at times expecting instant results and fruits, in prayer as in people. At times, I focus on certainty rather than confidence, needing to know that something will happen and clinging to fear rather than trusting that God knows best and will bring it about in God’s time and God’s way. I am challenged to trust God’s dream more than follow what I think best.
I’m grateful to be reminded by Randy Pausch’s message that brick walls provide an opportunity to strengthen resolve and deepen desire. Randy’s role is more like John the Baptist than Jesus’. He points to way to the One who can help us beyond brick walls. To see brick walls as stepping stones rather than stumbling blocks.
Let us pray for and with the victims of the tragic shooting in Connecticut, that God’s healing love comfort and strengthen all who experience loss and turmoil at this time.
How am I clinging to certainty? Or am I trusting with confidence? Help me, O Lord, to trust in your mysterious ways and that you seek what is best for us.