I first met Heath in 2011 after I released my open Letter of Concern about Louisiana College. He was, and still is, on the Board of Louisiana College. Needless to say, we didn’t always agree when we spoke about the college. But, he was the only member of the board who would talk to me and despite our disagreement he always treated me with respect and concern. It only is because of people like him that I have any hope that Louisiana College will correct its path. He wrote the powerful piece below last summer and I saw it on his Facebook just today. I hope you enjoy the read and appreciate the heart behind it.
The End is Near…for real though
By Heath Veuleman
It’s been a while since I’ve sat down and had a moment of Dougie-Howser-free-flow-of-conciousness, so let’s have at it. A few years back my best friend said, “Hey, let’s start a business.” So we did. Because he was an entrepreneur and I knew a little about healthcare, we founded the company in the healthcare sector. I still mosey around in the healthcare sector of our company. Day in and day out I’m in hospitals and clinics around Louisiana and Texas. Because we have some larger behavioral health hospitals as clients, I get to interact with organizations who take care of people who are at the most vulnerable points in their lives. And because of my work, certainly not because I have any prize to offer, I’m on a couple of boards here and there. One of the boards represents and entity of a religious, evangelical, denomination. As I often do, often times to no fruitful benefit, I begin to let my mind wander. When I think about the patient’s – the people – I interact with at these clinics and hospitals, and how it compares to some of the my other work – like the boards, I begin to have a heartache.
At the end of the day, when my epitaph is being written, I want people to say one thing about me: that guy Heath was crazy, but all he wanted was for everyone to know that God liked them, not just loved them. When I see people who are sick and vulnerable, these people who are weak and tired, at the end of their rope – my heart compels me to sit beside them and, maybe, not even talk, just to be there.
I’m a Christian. I’m a protestant. I’m a Southern Baptist. I’ve grown up around Southern Baptists and serve with Southern Baptists on different boards, and sometimes I get frustrated. Certainly not with Southern Baptists alone, but with denominations, and with people who claim to be Christian, in general. I don’t like the way we treat each other. Not just the day to day Baptist on Baptist violence, but I think the hyperbole you see in the media, the sensationalism you see, hear, and read in the media, the divisiveness in our politics – all of that – is rooted in the way we, Christians, interact with one another.
We slaughter one another with our words and deeds. We purposefully wound people over the most trivial matters. And we wonder why the world is the way it is today? Let me share some insight: the world is not devolving because of homosexuality, or abortion, or socialism. Wait. Reserve your judgment. Keep reading. The world is not devolving today because of curse words and sagging pants and taxes. I promise it’s worth the wait. Stay with me. The world is not devolving today because of immorality in the culture, on the television, or pornography on the internet. It really isn’t. The world is devolving today, the world is at the threshold of hell today, because of Christians. BOOM! There it is. Whatever happened to people who prayed instead of protested? Whatever happened to people who lived the truth that they believed? Whatever happened to people who reached out in consideration, and instead of advice, they just sat down and opened up their arms, and held another human being.
I sit here today and I think, the world doesn’t need another religious diatribe, they don’t need another soteriological explanation of Calvinists. What the world needs is a hug. Yeah, that’s right, I said it – the world needs a hug. The world needs a belt buckle to belt buckle, full frontal, tight squeeze. That’s right. The world doesn’t need fire and brimstone. The world doesn’t need a robe and a gavel. The world does not need another opinion. The world needs the truth! The world needs to see someone that is redemptive and not punitive. The world needs to see Christ! Go ahead, call me a liberal, call me a hippie, call me naive, call me maybe ((no wait, that’s a song)), call me a child… Yeah, call me a child. I like that one particularly. Quite fond of being called a child. I would wear that like a badge of honor. Call me a child. Seems like someone, who was it now, said we should be like children, who was that, I can’t quite place him. I think he was white, had long blonde hair, blue eyes, resurrected himself – oh yeah, Jesus. That’s the guy. Yeah, that’s the ticket. What did he say exactly again?
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me. Don’t stop them, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people that are like these children.” Matthew 19:14
I think the end is near, the end of ourselves. When I see people sick and hurting and then I think back to my last board meeting where people were talking about the dangers of Calvinism, I wonder how we lost our way. Where did we exit? Perhaps our spiritual Tom Tom is not synced with the Holy Spirit, I’m not sure, but I know this – the solution is not more doctrine, the solution is not more ideology, the solution is not more worship services. I think the solution is demonstrating the gospel – by liking people.
I think it’s living 1 Corinthians 13. I think it’s not just talking about patience, but being patient. I think it’s about showing kindness, not talking about it, not marching with a placard with “kindness” written on it, I think it’s about actually, imagine this, being kind. I think it’s not being rude. I think it’s not being envious. I think it’s not being all about our own way ((try that one on for size, seems to correspond with the greatest commandment [again from that Nazarene: Love the Lord with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as you love yourself])). I think it’s about not being irritable or short-tempered, or keeping a record of being wronged. I think it’s about rejoicing whenever the truth wins out. I think it’s about never giving up on anybody. I think it’s about always being hopeful about people. And I think it is about about enduring through every, single, circumstance.
But, before we can demonstrate any of that love, we must – ourselves – come face to face with it. No, not it, not it at all. Actually, that should have read, come face to face with Him. Do you know the reason we do not live 1 Corinthians 13? Do you know the reason the world is in seeming disrepair? It’s because the people who claim to know Him, the people who walk under the very banner of His name, these people – the vast majority – have never even encountered Him.
They have encountered religion and an amalgam of myth and orthodoxy – but not Jesus. When you come face to face with Jesus, the real person, not the one in the pictures, the real Jesus – you are overwhelmed with compassion. You weep because you know exactly where you are in life, all of your failures and bitterness, all the empty promises and broken dreams, all the malice you have brought and pain you have caused, and you weep because it doesn’t matter to Him. He likes you just the way you are. Just that way. He requires zero pretense. Zero dress code – spiritual or physical – He likes you, and He’s liked you for a while, and then suddenly, you realize, there’s nothing you can do to make Him like you any less.
This doesn’t negate moral law, no-sir-re-bob, this compels moral law. Once you have encountered the real, living, eternal Jesus, you understand what the Psalmist wrote completely:
You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings. Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand–you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings. Psalm 40:6
We become motivated to live a life worth this love, this like, because of – and here’s the irony – love. God love’s us, God likes us, and we realize it, then in return, we love God and we like God. And we make sacrifices and behavior changes and do works not because of obligation or a sacred have-to, we do everything out of a heart motivated by love. So long to guilt-ridden religious compulsion, and welcome the freedom of Christ!
The world will not change, until we come to end of ourselves. Until we put away our selfish minds and selfish hearts, until we stop living to assuage our own guilt and stroke our own ego. The world will change when we begin to come face to face with the incredibly simple, yet awe-inspiring, knowledge that God likes us. Once we come to know that and understand that and accept that, then we will begin to live that – we will begin to see people for who they really are: patient’s who are sick and vulnerable, tired and weak, at their end of their rope – just like us.
From the band Leeland, Carried to the Table, a song based upon the story ((a must read)) of Mephibosheth found in 2 Samuel 9:
Wounded and forsaken
I was shattered by the fall
Broken and forgotten
Feeling lost and all alone
Summoned by the King
Into the Master’s courts
Lifted by the Savior
And cradled in His arms
I was carried to the table
Seated where I don’t belong
Carried to the table
Swept away by His love
And I don’t see my brokenness anymore
When I’m seated at the table of the Lord
I’m carried to the table
The table of the Lord
Fighting thoughts of fear
And wondering why He called my name
Am I good enough to share this cup
This world has left me lame
Even in my weakness
The Savior called my name
In His Holy presence
I’m healed and unashamed
You carried me, my God
You carried me