Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I Looked in the Mirror....and Saw Richard Branson!

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

Piers Morgan, Larry King's CNN replacement, interviewed Richard Branson tonight. Branson owns Virgin Air and a bunch of other stuff that mere mortals aren't allowed to own. The way I hear it, only God is richer than Richard Branson. Which is an interesting irony given the story I just heard Mr. Virgin Air tell.

As he told it, he and a friend recently argued about the existence of God while seated at the dinner table of his Necker Island vacation home. He OWNS the ENTIRE island. The house has hosted the likes of Oprah, Lady Di and the Princes, and other ultra rich, famous people.

In case you aren't the newshound I am, let me give you the 411. That same house burned down a few weeks ago. It burned down while a violent rain storm, kicked up by the soon to be Hurricane Irene, was dumping INCHES of rain on the island. The famous actress Kate Winslet carried his mom out of the blaze because the octogenarian couldn’t move faster than a burning tropical hut/dream house. Amazingly, no one was injured.

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Wanna guess what night the fire occurred? Branson and his friend ate and argued about God's existence, went to bed, and woke up with the house in flames that very same night. It was in ashes within 10 minutes despite the fact that Baby Irene was dumping as much water on the place as a battalion of fireman would have used to hose it down.

I'm thinking if I was him, I'd feel like I heard God's answer to the debate. A 10 minute fire on a Robinson Caruso-like island that destroyed my house during a rain storm, without anyone coming to bodily harm, would make me a believer before the first flame died out. Know what he said? He says he still wishes someone could convince him of the existence of God. He WANTS to be convinced. He said so. I could see the intensity of that desire in his eyes right here in my living room.

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Oh my! Poor Mr. Branson and poor me. When I think about my journey over this last few years, I think I look a whole lot more like Mr. Branson than I'd like. As he spoke, I could see what I thought was an almost painful hunger to know the truth. It seemed to me that he is having a real crisis of faith in his...well...lack of faith. He's got all that money, all that stuff, all those beautiful, famous friends....and down deep inside, he is a fraidy cat just like me.

He must be brilliant or at least know how to surround himself with brilliant business people. Yet with all that intellect, he too is flummoxed by the most foundational questions in life. Is there a God? If there is, why did he put me here? What is my ultimate purpose? Who am I in the grand scheme of things? How can I really know if he is there and that he is trustworthy?

I strained toward the television to catch every inflection of his voice and every mannerism. There it was....his inner fraidy cat! He's arm wrestling as furiously as am I; he just hasn't figured out with whom he's wrestling. I'd like to think I'm one step ahead in our mutual process since I've known quite clearly that God was at the other end of my struggles. I didn't have to wonder if he existed or if my wrestling match was worth it.

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One need only look at the complexity of creation to know that each member of nature cries out in testimony to the fact that a Creator God exists. That Creator God uniquely designed each one of us, and every member of the natural world, to fulfill a specific purpose. Nothing else can do what a click beetle, platypus, jellyfish, Venus fly trap, calla lily or mushroom can do. No one else can fill the spot in God's plan for time and eternity that I will fill. There will be only one YOU in all the expanse of time...even if you are an identical twin.

Perhaps I've had a spiritual mid-life crisis of sorts? Perhaps he is having one as well? Here I am wondering who I'm supposed to be when I grow up. I'm especially puzzled about that answer now that it seems God has made it plain he doesn't need me on his cheer leading squad. At the same time, the world's richest man – who can be, buy, or do anything he wants – is crying out to know who he is in the grand scheme of things too. they say: money can't buy everything. If it could, I think he'd have bought his answer by now. It would be a lot easier and less painful than sitting around debating the what if's and what if not's with friends. Quicker too!

I, for one, really know how it feels to have a desperate inner fraidy cat like that! I could have taken the coward's way out and kept on pretending that I had all the answers. I know it would make a lot of folks feel a lot more comfortable around and pleased with me if I just sucked it up and uttered a lot of 'God is Good. All the Time'-s. I just reached a point that I had more questions than answers. A long time ago when I was a kid, some adult told me that when you reach that point in life, you are a bona fide adult. YIPPPEEE. Not.

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Just like I got sick and tired of secret keepers and mask wearers, I got tired of feeling as tho' it was un-Christian to wrestle with my faith and admit that the battle was hot, lonely, and scary. In fact, I imagine my battle is about as ugly as the effort Mr. Branson and his resort guests launched that night during the fire. From where I sit tonight, I'd say my effort is as worthwhile as the one he put forth during the fire to save lives.

Mr. Branson has reported that they will rebuild his island oasis bigger and better than before in time for his daughter's wedding. Again, I think we have something in common. A fire (of sorts) destroyed all I had hoped to be and all that I had worked to become. I am writing my way back to God. In the process, I hope to rebuild my life and myself from the ground up again too.

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I'll pray for Mr. Branson tonight. In fact, as crazy as it sounds, I'll probably remember him in my prayers often. Maybe as often as I remember the troubled couple in the grocery store parking lot. Given the enormity of his recent post card from Heaven, I hope he wakes up and smells the coffee – once the smoke from the resortfire clears his mind, that is!

Love you long and strong. You are fearfully and wonderfully made with a unique purpose that is yours alone to fulfill. Let's conquer those inner fraidy cats together....and do something fearfully wonderful. Ok? See you tomorrow. I'll be here if you will!

Romans 1:20 (International Standard Version)
For since the creation of the world, God's invisible attributes-his eternal power and divine nature-have been understood and observed by what he made, so that people are without excuse.

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1 Corinthians 26-29 (New American Standard)
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no man may boast before God.

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