At the urging of my friend Rhett, I watched the Mat Hoffman documentary film The Birth Of The Big Air with my boys. I love to show my boys stories of people who did what others thought was impossible. I love to encourage them to dream differently and bigger than other people. I want them to be OK if everyone else thinks you’re a bit “extreme” or “radical.”
As I’ve shared before, I grew up identifying with skateboard culture more than anything else. To be honest, we didn’t have a lot of BMX riders where I grew up. But I knew who Mat Hoffman was.
You can certainly accuse me of “Jesus Juking” here if you want to, but I’m being honest when I say that the whole time I was watching this documentary about Hoffman, listening to how crazy everyone thought he was but also how everyone around him and come to just accept that that’s who Mat is, I kept thinking of a quote from Francis Chan’s debut-sational (Do you like how I just made up a word there?) book Crazy Love. In a section describing how much of the “American Church” has become “lukewarm,” Chan insists that:
Lukewarm people are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act. They assume such action is for “extreme” Christians, not average ones. Lukewarm people call “radical” what Jesus expected of all His followers.
Watch the trailer for the movie:
As I’ve shared, I was never great at skateboarding. But I also wasn’t horrible, which meant that I at least was willing to get hurt in order to learn new tricks. It took patience and determination and a certain bit of determination to endure suffering for the goal on the other side. Now, years later, I see how much of that same attitude is at the heart of Christianity. I’m not saying that we all have to be blasting big airs 54 feet off the ground. In fact, most of us should never attempt any such thing.
But think about some of the things that Paul says when describing his own journey of faith. He says that we should rejoice in our sufferings (Romans 5:3). He tells his Philippian readers that suffering has been “granted” to them (Philippians 2:29). In fact, the writer to the Hebrews insists that Jesus went to the Cross “for the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2).
I’m not saying that Christians should pursue suffering or persecution. I am saying that, I am humbled by the intense ferocity of Mat Hoffman’s pursuit of his vision. He was willing to pursue his dream through financial hardships, through injury, through scorn, through disbelief and slander. Yet, how is it that someone can have more passion to go high on a bike than I often have for following Jesus?
If Chan is write and “Lukewarm people call “radical” what Jesus expected of all His followers” (and keeping with the metaphor undergirding this whole piece), then Mat Hoffman is “all followers” of Jesus and we are the “lukewarm.” I look at what Hofman did on a bike and, while I realize it’s possible, I’m pretty sure I won’t be even attempting many of the things he accomplished with ease. But why? It’s not just that I grew up in different circumstances. It’s not just that I grew up skateboarding instead of BMX riding. So did Danny Way, after all. No, I simply don’t have the determination that Hoffman has. I don’t have the resolve. I don’t have the joy and, frankly, I don’t have the guts.
Which means that while part of me “knows” that my supreme pleasure lies in God alone, I let my circumstances on this side of eternity sway, steer and encourage me. In the documentary, there are photos of Hoffman with Evel Knievel. Though I’d love to have been a fly on the wall for those conversations, I can’t imagine hearing Hoffman compare stories with the Apostle Paul (“oh yeah, well I was shipwrecked! I was stoned and left for dead! I was bitten by a deadly snake! . . . ). There’s something about those people. Their passion is contagious. Their willingness to endure suffering for what they love is inspiring. And yet I’m left wondering: why don’t I love Jesus the way Mat Hoffman loves the next big thing on his bike?