Adventures In Christianity: The Emptiness Within
October 2014, I traveled from Camp Leatherneck Afghanistan back to Memphis, Tennessee. My plan was to spend a few weeks at home with family, then make my way to Deland, Florida to finish Bible School. I greatly profited from my time in Afghanistan, a sort of proving ground for me to verify my intent to faithfully live the Christian life. Were this not the case, then was my time to disappear, joining Demas in forsaking the Lord for the world. I chose instead to become addicted to ministry, witnessing to lost and edifying saints along the way. The Lord blessed in this, I met the men that would introduce me to my future place of ministry: Uganda, Africa. I can see the interest in reading of a man from Memphis leaving Florida to work in Afghanistan only to fellowship with Ugandans, but that’s not our topic for this article.
We’ll save this curious series of events for another day, this article will be very different. I intend to tell you about a certain conversation that took place while traveling from Afghanistan to Memphis. We made our way from Camp Leatherneck to Kandahar, then from Kandahar to Dubai where we would stay overnight before catching final flights to the United States. This conversation is significant, it speaks to the vain pursuit of pleasure by the millennial generation around the world. Through the course of our conversation, this idea would be defined, realized and unfortunately unrelenting.
Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Dubai:
As I made my way to the mall to meet the lady who is the subject of this article, I asked my friend Dave to come along. For reasons you will learn of momentarily, I did not believe it appropriate to meet her alone. Indeed, I would have refused the meeting had not someone trustworthy accompanied me, for the Bible says to abstain from all appearance of evil. He agreed though he rolled his eyes at my excitement for the opportunity to tell her about Jesus. I had witnessed often to Dave during our time in Afghanistan, he was respectful but unbelieving. He was by all counts as good a man as this world has to offer, but uncertain of his eternal destiny.
The lady we were going to meet was an old friend of mine. I once lived and worked extensively in Saudi Arabia, to get away from their staunch Islamic culture, I would take short trips to a liberal Islamic culture: Dubai. The two of us spent time around the same crowds and places thereby becoming guilty by association. As friends of friends, we were not particularly close but we occasionally stayed in touch. She was originally from Fiji, a beautiful and intelligent woman that had a demanding presence. She seemed to arrest everyone’s attention when she entered a room. As a self-made woman that appeared to have need of no one, she was blessed with every talent a person could want. Though she was kind in social settings, she was known for her aggressive veracity in business. Her fortitude would be required in an Islamic society where men dominate and women are second class citizens at best.
Cafe Greco, Shadda Tissa, Coffee, and Jesus:
Dave and I, excited to be anywhere but Afghanistan, promptly made our way to a coffee shop in the Dubai Mall. Coffee shops are among the best characteristics of the Middle East. At times I miss Arab style coffee shops where I spent hours sipping espresso and studying my Bible. Cafe Greco on Shadda Tissa (Street Nine) in the Maadi area of Cairo, Egypt was one of my personal favorites. Dave and I waited a goodly amount of time before she showed up, we enjoyed coffee and reminiscing about Afghanistan while anticipating her arrival. As more time passed, we began to think she was not coming. Finally, upon her arrival, we caught up on the past couple of years through small talk. She graciously included Dave in conversation, getting to know him and learning of our time in Afghanistan.
To my excitement (and probably mine alone), the conversation turned to that of her eternal destiny. I explained to them what Jesus had done in my life and I asked what would happen if she were to die this very night. As we discussed the eternal destiny of her soul, she began to respond with grave openness that revealed a troubled heart. The niceties of our conversation quickly passed, the smile she used to hide reality began to fade along with her facade. She explained how empty and lonely she felt inside, to which I replied Jesus is still the answer. To my dismay, she was soon reinspired to kick against the pricks upon mentioning Jesus as the solution.
Happiness comes from within:
She rebutted that she believed happiness comes from within, so I took the liberty to remind her according to her own testimony she was empty within. I was curious to have her explain exactly how emptiness can produce happiness, maybe we could corner this market and become rich. My curiosity was met with silence, she stared upward considering the logical fallacy of her personal philosophy. The awkward silence was cut by a slow smile as she realized she had no response. She quickly attempted to redirect, suggesting a secondary theory; life is about pleasure, to which I asked her how long these pleasures tend to last her? The pleasures of this world are explained biblically, there is pleasure in sin for a season. Silence once again, I admit I took pleasure in the repeated logical check-mates throughout our conversation, for the word of God is quick and powerful.
This time I broke the silence by giving a clear presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. She gave me a fair hearing, listening intently as I explained how that Christ died for her sins. After the three of us spent a goodly amount of time together, alas our conversation came to an end. She said she would think seriously on these things, we shook hands and parted ways. The next morning I boarded a flight at Dubai International and flew back to Memphis, Tennessee. Sometime later I did check up on her, she was still chasing money, happiness, and pleasure; never truly attaining either. She made a decision that night, unfortunately, she did not decide to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Possibly she intended to trust in the Lord at some other time, but when the seed is sown amongst thorns, “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”
The deja vu of conversation:
It seems, over the past few years, this conversation has repeated itself with members of the younger generations. They indulge in one empty pleasure after the other hoping that one of them will provide some sort of fulfillment. The result tends to be vicious circles of emptiness that leave them feeling hopeless. As cynical converts to every wind of this worlds doctrines, they trek through life demanding someone fill their emptiness with lasting fulfillment. They require their feelings to be contented by the sacrifice of others, as though feelings were some infallible guide to life. They overindulge in life’s pleasures, developing terrible habits that are destructive. Diving head first into broken cisterns, that hold no water; with no meaning, no purpose and no accomplishment in life they search endlessly for happiness in emptiness. Reminiscent of a certain prominent theory that teaches everything came from nothing; if they could just find the missing link it would all work.
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” The truth is life comes with meaning and purpose attached, we were created to please our Creator. Any separation from that purpose will produce a constant state of misery. The average life becomes so disconnected from the Bible that great clouds of witnesses are required to get them back to the Lord. Hope, joy, peace, and happiness are the common language of the Christian world but a mere pipe dream in every other religious or philosophical postulate. They start with a corrupt and rotting seed that produces that which withers, yet the Lord extends to whosoever will a seed incorruptible that liveth and abideth ever. I was excited to prove to this young lady God hath confounded the wisdom of this world, I was saddened by her joining with Felix, “when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.”