Sometimes I think my life is intriguing and dramatic enough (with its atmospheric highs and its hellish lows) to be included in the Bible (I mean, if there was like, a Volume II due out). And so I have been wondering what I think might be conjured up in the minds of others when they think of “Sameer.” Something short, and succinct, but gripping, and defining, and telling. I don’t think it would be a person. It wouldn’t be “Sameer and…God” or “Sameer and…Jesus,” even though my entire life and identity (on my best days) is built around God the Father and God the Son. Maybe because it just sounds a little weird, intangible, and possibly unrelatable for the masses. And I want something that the majority of people can connect with – instead of some super-spiritual, I-don’t-really-get-it type of thing.
And so I’ve been considering the way I have lived my life thus far, both in terms of what I want for myself, and how I want to come across to others. How I want to live for myself simply involves being authentic and genuine, staying close to Him, and believing for the best no matter what (instead of letting fear, or doubt, or mistrust, or cynicism creep in and take over). How I want to come across to others is just…I mean…basically…I just want to convey through my attitude, and lifestyle, and choices, and words that life can be a grand adventure every single day if you pursue and live for God with your whole heart. That’s pretty much it. So….what encapsulates all of this….in some brief, pithy phrase or expression? That’s what I’ve been wondering. And so I was thinking about it two weeks ago as I was trying to fall asleep in a conference hotel room in Portland, Oregon, and this is what came to me: “Sameer and…childlike faith.” And I was like (in my mind), yes. Sweet. I love it. That’s what I want to pop into someone’s mind if they were reading my life story. Or watching it unfold on a movie screen, scene by scene, year by year. Or, listening to me share it with them over <insert your favorite beverage here>.
For some reason, that is so important to me. To get through life the way I want to get through it (since this is my one go-around), I *need* to have childlike faith. When I was a child, every morning was a new opportunity to explore, to learn, to receive good gifts, to experience surprises, to make new friends, to lock eyes with and smile at a cute girl, to run around and expend all of my energy, to test my strength and resolve, to be courageous and bold, to laugh, to share moments with others, and to ENJOY being alive. And we believe ANYTHING is possible, and that world is full of GOOD for us…just waiting to unfold before us. And even when crappy things happen, it doesn’t derail us, we are able to quickly move on and remember that just around the corner, once again, is something GOOD. Maybe even something GREAT.
Honestly, as the years go by it seems like all of this gets stolen from us. I don’t want to dismiss it as something subtle and natural, like the receding of the tide, or the receding of a hairline…rather, I tend to view it as almost insidious. Like an instance of white-collar crime where an executive pilfers a fraction of a cent on every dollar that comes in, it seems imperceptible but then adds up to so much. And I hate it. I absolutely hate it. And I’ve talked about it in previous blogs and essays and speeches, so I don’t want to rehash what I’ve already said. I just want to say that I desperately need to hold onto my faith – my belief that good things are possible with God, that good things are in store for me not just in heaven but here on earth. I need to believe this in order to make it through this life successfully. In the deepest sense of what “successful” might mean, when it comes to what matters in life. Not like, haphazardly. Or floundering. Or stopping and starting and stopping again. Or just getting by until we die.
And so when I struggle…and I do, often…I keep going back to this one core conviction of mine, this one core commitment I have made to myself. “Have childlike faith.” “Be all about childlike faith.” I don’t want to doubt, and I don’t want to question, and I don’t want to picture all of the scenarios where the bottom may fall out. I just want to trust. I want to look at my Father in Heaven even now like I would look at my father here on earth when I was a child when he returned from a business trip, because I knew he had a big bar of Nestle White Chocolate for me and him to share. Because that was our thing, because he loved me, and had good gifts in store for me.
This “Sameer and childlike faith” thing – for me, it’s a truth I can stand on. It is written on my heart. It is an anchor for me when I get all cloudy because of everything swirling around in my head and nothing seemingly working out. I just do all that I can to remember (and it’s very hard sometimes, and so I just have to muster up the strength as if it was the most important thing to do that day) that this is who I am, this is who I want to be, and this is how I want to impact others. This is what I want to know myself for, this is what I want others to know me for, and this is what I want God to be proud of when He looks at me. Somehow, it matters to me. It feels true, and it feels transcendent – like, I am not sure of a lot of things, but I am sure of this. And again, I have to protect it at all costs (by the way, what sort of things, specific to your heart – the most important part of you, that which makes you “you” in the fullest and purest sense, have you been protecting?).
I was talking with my friend Emily last week, and she brought up The Polar Express. And you know how one of Santa’s sleigh bells is a main element in the narrative? And how the story starts off with some haunting words:
“On Christmas Eve, many years ago I lay quietly in my bed. I did not rustle the sheets. I breathed slowly and silently. I was listening for a sound I was afraid I’d never hear. The ringing bells of Santa’s sleigh.”
The boy was nervous that he wouldn’t be able to hear something magical…as if something truly amazing out there would somehow be out of his reach, now and forever. I feel like on some level, all of us fear that. We all sometimes wonder, and even doubt about good things…great things…coming to pass in our life. Coming to pass now, coming to pass in the future. And unfortunately, this wondering and doubting ends up changing us for the worst. It makes us…into adults we told ourselves as children we would never ever want to be. You remember. I sure do.
The story of The Polar Express ends in somewhat of a bittersweet way:
“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell. But as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found, one Christmas, that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I have grown old, the bell still rings for me. As it does for all who truly believe.”
I am happy for the main character, but so very sad for Sarah, and the rest of his friends. But it happens to so many around us. It’s like they get picked off by sniper fire, one by one by one. It is really depressing, but it also makes me want to redouble my efforts to not let it happen to me. I cannot. And I will not. I don’t want to be a casuality of the hard knocks of reality. And I know I have to be intentional about not letting it happen. Because if I just go with the flow, entropy takes over. I mean, look around you. You know that it’s true.
I guess maybe I want you – whoever reads this – to be thinking about what they want to come to the minds of others who read or watch or hear their life story. Again, something short, and concise, but profound, and hard-hitting. “Sameer and childlike faith” – that’s mine. What might be yours? And if you don’t know yet, what do you want it to be? It can be anything, and you can start today and try to live it out for the rest of your life. After all, you used to believe as a child that the best in your life was yet to come. All that has happened since then doesn’t render our God any less capable of making that true. It just doesn’t. With God, all things are, and will always be, possible (Mark 10:27). And, when it comes to you, please, please protect it at all costs. It really is that important.