It was the third night of the Creation Festival this past week and I was tired. I had done my best to be cheerful, helpful and generally positive at this week long music festival and outdoor camping event with my boys, but I was not happy. For some reason, I was mad at God for changing the weather forecast at the last minute. Just a few days before the festival, I had checked the 10 day forecast and it said that the weather was going to be beautiful; not too hot, low humidity and no rain. How things change in just a few days. At this point I had suffered through two days of blistering heat and storms were just about to arrive. The night before, I was woken up in the middle of the night by one of the loudest and longest thunderstorms I had ever endured outside (actually it was also the only one I lived through outside in a tent).
The speaker on Friday night was a guy named Nick Vujicic, who is the founder of ministry, called Life without Limbs and was born without arms and legs. Given his physical limitations, I was already prepared to be empathic, but I was not prepared to for what he had to say. He was the most effective speaker that I have heard at three years of attending the Creation Festival. Rather than dwell on his obvious physical challenges, he spent the entire time he spoke dealing with issues that young people (and old ones like me) deal with in our daily lives and confronting our misconceptions about the gospel and God’s power. One of his comments was probably in response to the “Life is Good” t-shirts that seem to be sold everywhere these days. He said, “Life is Hard, but God is good.” Coming from a man with no limbs, I could not disagree, but was astounded at his faith and confidence in God and his sheer contentment with what he deals with on a daily basis.
Nick had really struggled as a young person with how God had allowed him to be born with no legs or arms and actually tried to commit suicide at age 10. His parents were devout Christians and must have wondered how to understand God’s purpose for what many considered a tragedy. One of the turning points for Nick was understanding the concept of God’s will in and through the suffering of people He created. In a dream, God showed Nick a place in Heaven that could house hundreds of thousands of people and told him that if He gave him arms and legs (Nick’s will for his life) that this part of the heavenly city might not be populated at all. Instead, God’s plan for his life has allowed Nick to speak to millions of people and see thousands accept Christ as their personal savior.
Ironically, just as Nick was finishing his altar call, lightning began to strike around the camp grounds and we had to evacuate the field we were sitting in. At this point, I was continuing to be pretty upset with God as I wondered why he allowed this sacred moment to be interrupted and that more storms were on the way. About an hour later I was standing under our group eating tent holding one of the poles so that the entire thing would not lift off the ground and be blown away. For three hours we dealt with lightning, rain and high winds while the concerts were postponed. My contentment meter was pretty low at that moment as I imagined trying to sleep for a few brief hours in the middle of a soggy field.
Later as I settled into my sleeping bag in a dry tent (praise the Lord), I could not help but reflect on how easy it is for me to become dissatisfied. How like Jonah I really am. This same week, people were losing their homes in devastating fires in Colorado and many are suffering around the world with daily challenges that I cannot imagine. All it takes is some bad weather and I am all out sorts with the world. On the final night of the festival, I got to hear the new version of the Newsboys sing some of my favorite worship songs (and the weather was beautiful). As I looked around, I was struck by the immensity of the crowd and how many families were praising God side by side from so many different church backgrounds. For one week, we were able to lay aside our theological disagreements and sing at the top of our lungs to the one who made us in the first place. I could see how sacrificing some creature comforts made our worship experience that much richer and more meaningful. God had our full attention as we stood in the midst of his grandeur and enjoyed the handiwork he had created in the star lit night sky and the lush wooded setting around us. How wonderful our praise will be one day in heaven when their will be no more crying or pain and we will have heavenly bodies with all the arms and legs that we need.