I pass the sign every day and never notice it.
But as I walked through my neighborhood late Tuesday night, my eyes were suddenly drawn to the crooked red sign. It grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. This is what I had been struggling for the last week to say.
I’ve been in a funk for days, but I haven’t known exactly what was going on. I’ve felt angry. I’ve felt resentful. I’ve felt something powerful that needed to come out. Whatever it was has been strong enough to make me keep to myself more than usual. I’ve been slow to respond to phone calls and emails and everything else.
Stop! Everything needs to stop!
As I stood there in the street with this bright red sign screaming at me, something suddenly clicked. It wasn’t rational. It was an angry and chaotic desire to raise my voice here on this silent midnight street and demand that the insane world stop what it’s doing. I needed everyone to hear me.
I need this chaos to stop.
I don’t want to be polite and passive about it. I want to let out a primordial scream to get the attention of anyone and everyone. I need to be heard.
In this crazed moment tonight, I feel like one of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible. They weren’t reasonable men. They weren’t trying to make friends. They were seemingly crazy men with crazy messages — telling the people to repent and change their ways — and they didn’t really care whether anybody liked what they had to say or not.
That’s what this feels like.
I feel like one of these men who God had sent into the desert to fast and pray and wander alone — and then who emerges to tell the world what’s wrong and how to be right with God.
But I don’t need to talk about sin or Idol worship or rebuilding the Temple. My message is simpler but ultimately just as profound.
We live in a world which seems more insane each day. I often say bitterly that there’s nothing else to call modern culture other than Clown World. The people who we are told are our leaders are evil men and women. The ideas which increasingly dominate the culture would have seemed completely insane to any decent person just a couple of generations ago. Our values are warped and twisted.
We have lost our way, individually and collectively.
As individuals, we have separated ourselves from one another in ways that matter. There are more of us than ever, but we have never had so many people who are lonely and miserable.
We have more material wealth than any society in human history. We have bigger houses, nicer cars, fancier clothes and more shiny things that we know what to do with. By all the values which our culture teaches, we should be happy and successful and feel valued.
In reality, more people than every are unhappy and lonely. More than ever experience secret shame about feeling worthless — in spite of the success than we were taught would bring us happiness. Our success isn’t bringing joy. Our wealth is making us only fearful of what we have to lose. We are more separate than ever.
And we are unknowingly raising another generation which will be even more unhappy and more confused and more alone.
I need this chaos to stop. I need this insanity to stop. I need the roller coaster to stop — so that those of us who want a different way of life can reject what we have and build lives with different values instead.
The insanity of the news media and politicians has to stop, but that can’t happen as long as you keep watching them and following their every move.
The chaos of social media has to quit capturing our attention and sucking us into living virtual lives that make it harder to live actual lives. We have to quit arguing and trying to force everyone to be just like us. We have to have the grace to allow other people to be wrong — without hating them.
We have to stop living with walls separating us from the people we need to love. We need to tear down the walls we’ve built — culturally and individually — which guard our hearts. We have to stop living behind walls that protect us from being hurt, but which also keep us from being loved.
We have built an ugly modern culture which does not work for most of us — and I want to call those for whom it doesn’t work to a new life. For those who have ears to hear the call, I want to insist that there is hope. I want to show that there is another way to live.
If you want another way, you have to stop.
You have to stop going down the easy path that seems so familiar.
You have to quiet your mind, quiet your heart — and start making the changes that a still small voice tells you that you need.
This isn’t a message just for tonight. It’s not just for tomorrow. It’s a long-term call to change our lives. But nothing is going to change until you at least take the first step.
Get off the roller coaster. Listen to your heart.
A new life — a loving and connected life — waits for you, but nothing happens until you take this first step. Nobody can do it for you.
If your heart knows you need change, you have to choose to stop what you’re doing — and start over.