Vibrating. That’s the test.
Do you vibrate before, during and after you preach the gospel from the pulpit or the street corner? When you visit a criminal? When you haul a load of coats down to the homeless below the bridge? When you teach a Bible study? When you lead a group of teenagers on a short-term mission trip to an Indian reservation? When you relocate your family to a foreign country? When you mentor young men and women? When you study your Bible? When you write a book about the Messiah?
Do you vibrate? Let me explain what I mean.
Three years ago I took a trip to New Orleans. It was Mardi Gras season, and I was with about 250 other men. Our purpose was to share the gospel with the revelers of Mardi Gras. Pass out tracts. Preach from the street. Talk one-on-one with drunk unbelievers.
And to top it all off we dragged a giant cross down the middle of Bourbon street at night on Fat Tuesday–easily the busiest time of the week.
I wasn’t prepared for that trip. I thought I was. But I wasn’t.
I dreaded going but figured this was how a lot of these life-time Mardi Gras evangelists felt on their first trip. In fact a good friend said it wasn’t until about his third time down that he actually enjoyed going.
To make a long story short it was a miserable trip. I was humbled and humiliated by God. Exposed as a fraud. I was a chicken, and God used that experience to show me.
I am grateful for the lesson.
But I’ve never been back. And don’t plan on going back. Sure, I’ll keep my mind open to the possibility in the future. I totally get the concept of never saying “never” and of God changing our hearts.
But after about three years of flip-flopping on the issue, I’ve finally decided I need to draw a line in the sand and say, “I’m not going again. Ever. Here’s why.”
When I went to Mardi Gras I was fortunate to be paired with a very good friend. He was a veteran of these trips, wise and hungry to be on the streets of New Orleans.
Afterwards he was naturally bummed that I didn’t enjoy the trip, and so has invited and encouraged me to go back each year.
He’s not the only one who’s asked me to go back. Many of the men in our church are veterans of this ministry. Each year they ask me the same question, “Are you going to Mardi Gras?” Each year I give them some version of “You know what…I’m thinking about it.”
Of course Mardi Gras comes and goes without me.
Then I got thinking.
I started asking friends who went to Mardi Gras if they enjoyed it. Most answered with a resounding “Yes!” Then I would ask if they would go back. Again, a resounding “Yes.”
And that’s when I noticed they were vibrating.
The Vibrating Clown
There’s something you have to know about my friend who I was paired up with at Mardi Gras. He’s pretty serious. Can come across as hard-nosed. And so you would never suspect he would ever put on a clown suit.
But there he was–in his clown suit–vibrating. Sharing the gospel with anyone who moved. I often looked for his “Off” button. I realized he kept it hidden in a secret place only he could access.
Everyday morning and night we would take the ferry to New Orleans and pass out tracts or street preach. I dragged myself onto the ferry. Dragged myself off the ferry. Dragged myself around the streets of New Orleans. And then back onto the ferry.
After about three days of this I was done. I had two more days left.
But my friend–the one who vibrated–loved the ferry ride because he had a captive audience. Those trapped on the ferry. And he ALWAYS took full advantage of that opportunity.
And this was true for all the veterans. They vibrate before, during and after the trip to Mardi Gras.
Me, I felt like I was being led to my execution.
The Death Knell
There is one more piece to this story. A recent experience that brought me to this conclusion of vibrating.
Not too long ago my friend invited me to teach a Bible study class for some youth with him. He said we would share the responsibility of teaching. I pounced on the opportunity without thinking twice…
And loved the experience each and every Sunday until…
Until he said that we were going to take the kids out on the streets to share the gospel. I gulped and assured myself I could do this.
The day we were to take the kids out to the streets came–and I prayed for rain.
Thunderstorms. Hail. Tsunami. Anything.
Alas, nothing. Just a cool and sunny day–perfect weather for sharing the gospel on the streets.
Besides, it was the kids who were doing the actual sharing–not me. I just had to watch and make sure they were safe. How hard could that be?
After about an hour of this we headed back to the bus and I wiped my brow with relief.
During the bus ride back to church my friend asked if the kids had fun. Yes. Would they like to come back next Sunday? Yes!
I swear I heard a death knell ring out for me.
The next Sunday was another beautiful day despite my earnest pleas on the carpet–and we went to the streets. This one was rougher than the last week, and so about half way through the hour I bought everyone ice cream.
Forgive me, God.
When it was time to go home, we got on the bus and my friend repeated his questions again.
Yes they loved it. Yes they wanted to come back.
The only thing that kept me from raising my head and asking to be excused forever was the fact that the following week was the last Sunday we were meeting. There surely would be an end to this madness.
The following Sunday I didn’t bother to pray for rain and just thought I’d find an excuse for not going. There were some real contenders, but in the end I thought it would not be right for me to skip the last time we were meeting.
I’d truly grown to love these youth, so I didn’t want to miss that last time together.
And that was one of the longest hours of my life.
My pain was punched home by one of the girls who said, as she boarded the bus, “I wish we could do this forever!”
And yes, she was vibrating. Me, I slumped in my chair and let the
coffin bus take us away.
My God-Given Purpose
Soon after that this idea about vibrating crystallized. It happened the other night as my friend and I were talking. We had gotten on the topic of Mardi Gras, and he again lamented that I had such a bad time.
I said don’t feel bad. Then I spilled out everything I just wrote out above.
Naturally, after presenting my case for being excused from every future Mardi Gras trip because I didn’t vibrate before, during or after the trip my friend addressed the elephant in the room.
“So, what makes you vibrate?”
The answer was easy. Reading, writing and teaching the Word of God. And that’s when I started to shake.
I knew that answer a year ago before my year of falling apart. But I’d lost that insight in the pursuit and obsession of freelance work. And I am convinced that God let me fall apart to bring my attention back to his God-given purpose for my life.
I cry with joy at that insight. Vibrate with energy at the privilege.
Give me the solitude to mine the endless riches that are found in the Word of God. Give me the laptop so that I may exalt the Word of God who became flesh. And give me the lectern so that I may help others understand the Wisdom that is God.
What Makes You Vibrate?
Don’t get me wrong. This does not excuse me from evangelism. From serving the poor. Visiting the sick. Or any other ministry of mercy.
It is healthy to stretch ourselves and serve alongside other members of the body–especially those who are strong in purposes where we are weak.
God will use all of us.
But we must find our God-given purposes and invest those in the kingdom. To do otherwise is to deprive our God of what is rightly his. To those who have been faithful over a little, God will set you over much.
So, what makes you vibrate?