Hinges Strain

Like hinges straining from the weight
My heart no longer can keep from singing

Again, some more lyrics have been stuck in my head lately. This time they come from MercyMe’s new album. About a month ago MercyMe came to Penn State and they sang this song and ever since then, I have found myself singing this line over and over. And I got to thinking; I wonder what is causing the weight on my hinges.

Regardless of how hard we try, the weight always manages to sneak into our lives. And I used to think that all of that weight was a bad thing. Maybe the weight is caused from a few difficult courses causing you to struggle in school. Maybe the weight is caused from the death of someone close to you. Maybe the weight is caused from the end of a relationship. Maybe the weight is caused from a health problem. Maybe the weight is caused from a few difficult neighbors that push you to your limits. But what if all of that weight is what causes us to sing.

It’s not really the natural thing to do. A lot of tough things start building up in your life, so what do you do, you turn to God and thank him for all of it.

It was thanksgiving today and what I tend to find myself doing is thanking God for all of the awesome things he has placed in my life recently. I look at all of the good things around me and am so grateful for them because they are what have caused me to get to where I am now. But what about the hard things? They have had an equal role in getting me to this point too.

Maybe this is just me being optimistic, which I’m still not convinced is a bad thing. But think about it…

Like hinges straining from the weight. We are straining to hold ourselves together, as if hanging anything else on that door will cause it to tear off and crumble to pieces. But it’s hard for me to imagine that God is a god who likes to rip doors off of their hinges. He’s not out to see how much weight it takes to rip our hinges out of the wall. But I’d be willing to bet that he also likes to see those hinges being used. Hinges with no door on them, with no weight on them, really don’t serve much of a purpose.

I think when we finally understand that we are meant to praise God for our weight, to thank him for not only the good in our lives, but the tough as well; we will finally begin to understand what it means to sing from our heart. As Rush of Fools writes:

You are infinite worth
When we’ve not the words
Our hearts will sing
We are here on the earth
And somehow we‘re heard
When our hearts sing to You

I think too often I associate blessings with good things, with comfortable things. But it’s the uncomfortable that shapes us, that teaches us.

According to my little sister, one of my annoying habits is that I sing quite poorly in the shower in the morning. Luckily for me, God doesn’t care what it sounds like. I’m not even sure he cares too much about when our voices sing at all. As long as our hearts are singing the same song, God is smiling down on us. Praise and worship take root within our hearts. It doesn’t matter if you’re raising your hands, or singing with your eyes closed. Maybe singing isn’t even your thing. I think God looks a little deeper than what we can see. He’s got a higher priority, a vested interest with our heart. He plants His seeds in our heart. It’s our turn to nurture that seed and use what it grows into for a grander purpose. We all have a different seed and a different end result. But look at nature around us.

Think of how many seeds it has taken to grow what you see around you. Sorry, just one more set of lyrics to include. Eleventyseven has a song that has the following few lines:

I wish that You would tell me how
You know me well and want to be together.
Fallin' short and faded out
but You keep making gardens in this desert.
despite the grace that I dismiss
forgiveness was the catalyst
to penetrate my heart with what is true.

Redeem the years I've thrown away
I'm ready to make good on what I've wasted.
I'm asking You to shape my heart,
I wanna be Your work of art.
'Cuz when You change me and make me more like You

It's beautiful
You can turn mistakes to miracles.
The way that you still love me after all
It's beautiful.

So help me God forbid
I never take for granted
This endless gift You give.

What are we going to do with our seed? What garden are we going to be apart of? You keep making gardens in this desert…


It’s hard for me to understand why some people do the things they do. I look back on the Holocaust in Germany and wonder how so many people could have treated others like they did. I look back on Rwanda and wonder how families could turn on one another and kill their own kin. I look now at Burma and wonder how men can open fire on peaceful monks. Is it not obvious to some that we are all the same?

Most of you are probably familiar with Bono’s song ‘One.’ After watching videos about what is currently happening in Burma, I couldn’t get these lyrics out of my head.

We're one, but we're not the same.
Well, we hurt each other, then we do it again.
You say love is a temple, love a higher law

One love, one blood, one life, you got to do what you should.
One life with each other: sisters, brothers.
One life, but we're not the same.
We get to carry each other, carry each other.
One, one.

We hurt each other, then we do it again. I guess that’s the part that doesn’t sit right with me. We all mess up. We are all judgmental and we all view others through tinted lenses. But how can we continue to make these mistakes. How can a soldier in Burma burn a mother’s home, watch as she and her family retreat into the jungle, and then move on to the next home and do the same thing?

Yet it’s so easy for me to question those half-way around the world that are doing acts that deliberately destroy the notion of ‘one’, but do I take the time to analyze my own life as well? Shooting a monk in prayer or burning village after village is clear to us that something is not right. But how much time do I take to look at my life. What bridges do I burn down? It’s probably not as obvious, but they’re there.

We get to carry each other. God gives us the option of either building up those around us, or tearing them down. It seems like the option we should pick would be so clear. And talking about it is easy. But doing it is hard. You got to do what you should. We should be carrying one another. You should be loving one another. You should be living this life as one.

It seems simple, and part of me wants to look for a deeper meaning behind the song. Where’s the catch? As an engineer I’m taught to question. As a college student I’m expected to think about things on a deeper level. Never be satisfied with your initial view of something, always look from a different angle.

But the more angles I approach it from, the more I find that I’m simply thinking about it too much. ‘One’ is simple. Think of one grain of sand. Think of one blade of grass. Think of one pencil stroke. One star. One smile. One tree. One atom. One guitar. One child. One degree. One sunset. One color. Think of one…

It’s simple.

One love. One blood. One life.

There’s nothing complex about that. As humans, we feel like we need to know more, we need to dive deeper. We need to read more books explaining love before we can feel it. We need to hear more sermons about love before we can act on it. We need to hit play on the song ‘One’ just one more time before we can understand it.

But love is a higher law.

We keep looking for love within our own contexts and laws. Truly we must be able to explain it. If you look up love in the dictionary you’ll find “a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.” This is love according to our law. But love is higher.

What good does it do to define love with words? Define love with life.

Once we understand this, then we will begin to understand ‘one.’ We seem to like making things harder than they should be. It gives us something to do with our time. But think of what we could be doing with that time? I wonder…

Be the difference

This past weekend a good friend of mine passed away. He was a friend to many. Although his official role was to teach us about physics, he taught us so much more. Everyone has that one teacher that has shaped who they have become, has guided them to their present spot, has encouraged them through thick and thin, has loved them as their own child. You tend to put that teacher in a special spot in your past and expect that they will always be there to teach those younger than you. As if they were there when the school was built and will be there until the day it crumbles. Unfortunately that's not how life works.

My friend once wrote me a letter. In it he wrote the following:

"Life is tough. Life is good. Although these sound like contradictory statements, they are not. They are simply two aspects of life. How you decide to handle this apparent dichotomy will determine your outlook in life. In my life, I've found that if I concentrate on how tough life is, the goodness of life seems very small. But if I focus on how good life is, the tough parts of life seem much more manageable."

As a freshman in high school, those words didn't carry the same weight as they do now. Life is tough. Life is good.

When you hear of unexpected deaths, you tend to associate a lot of questioning along with the death. Why would they take them away so soon? They were so young, with so much left to do? However, I'm not asking those questions this time around. My friend had come and done what he was sent to do. God had laid some very specific goals on his heart, and I don't doubt that he didn't finish every one of them. If only I could live like that... Think, to be able to go to bed every night and be more than satisfied with what you have accomplished. To know that you had made a difference in someone's life.

I sometimes wondered how my friend could have a smile on his face every day. He wore a smile painted in sincerity. It was genuine. It was love. It was what we needed as high school freshman.

David Crowder writes in one of his songs:

And I don't know
How to be a love like that.
When all the love in the world
Is right here among us
And hatred too.
And so we must choose
What our hands will do

My friend knew how to be a love like that. It was in his smile, in his open door, in his listening ear.

Over the past few days, the amount of love and gratitude that has been expressed concerning the impact my friend has made on others has been overwhelming. How can one man accomplish so much? I think the difference was that he didn't sit around wondering what he could do in the future to make a difference. He made a difference in the here and now.

"Wherever you are and wherever you go, never forget to make a difference."

Stop planning, start acting. Do something. Be love. Look at those around you. These are the people God has entrusted you with. You are meant to impact them.

My friend knew that.

I'm not upset that God took him away from us. I am happy for him. He spent his whole life reflecting the light that Christ shines on us, and now he gets to spend his days living alongside that light. That's cool. I am so thankful that he was able to impact as many people as he did. We are always wondering how certain things can possibly be a part of God's plan. My friend was able to impact thousands of students' lives. I don't think we all realized though exactly what he was doing. He was humble and simply lived his life out to the best of his ability. Now that he is gone, we all recognize the full extent of what he did. Is it sad that it took his death for us to fully realize this? Yeah. But do you think God thinks it's sad? I don't think so. My friend's sole purpose in life was to make a change. I believe we all have this similar purpose. Sometimes that change happens during our life. Sometimes that change happens after our life. Luckily for my friend, he made a change both during and after his life. That's not something to be sad about.

I doubt my friend is sitting up in heaven and wishing he could have had one more day to finish his job. Rather, he's sitting above us with the same smile that was so familiar to all of us still on his face. Is he looking down on us and watching how the next chapter plays out? I don't think so. The bible never says that those in heaven will pay special attention to this world once they arrive. He's with his Lord and this world was simply a stepping stone to where he is now. Earth is a connection point. Not a final destination. It's like the terminal of an airport. None of us get excited to arrive in terminal C4, we are more concerned with where we are flying to. But the terminal is a necessary part of the trip. This world is a necessary part, but it is simply preparing us for the grand destination. God was ready for my friend to fly on out. I am more than happy for him.

And he did all that he could in that terminal. He made a difference.

Way to go Mr. Way.

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