'I Had No Sense of Purpose'
In college, I felt my faith in Jesus slipping. But he found me--with help from some U2 music.
BY: Christian Scharen
In the midst of these struggles Jesus found me and turned my life upside down. I began attending the campus church on Sundays. A new team of campus pastors had begun in my second year, and they genuinely seemed to make space for questions. I wasn’t ready to toss out my faith yet. One night that fall, a religion professor was presenting a lecture on homelessness in the Seattle-Tacoma area. I went not knowing what to expect. There I learned that four thousand people slept on the streets each night, and many more were hungry and had inadequate housing. As if for the first time, I stopped looking in the mirror, and I looked at the world. I saw tremendous, shocking, and inexcusable suffering. I vowed that night that I would work to change this. I call it my conversion experience—the night Jesus came to me and told me to help the homeless, just as he said to his friend Peter, “Feed my sheep” (John 21) so many years before.
So I started an educational campaign believing that if people knew about the outrage of homelessness, surely the problem could be solved in a short time. My first major event, complete with a film and speaker, drew four people—three were my good friends and one was the speaker! So I began volunteering every Friday night downtown at the Last Chance Shelter and serving meals at the nearby New Covenant Pentecostal Tabernacle Church of God in Christ soup kitchen. I began reading more about Jesus—the Jesus who sought out those who were suffering and who were left on the margins of society, and while I worked to help them, I was being made whole myself.
That same fall I began listening to the new U2 album called The Joshua Tree. I’d really liked U2 before, but now I felt that the anthem “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” explained exactly how my faith had turned from a self-centered certainty (my prayer: Jesus, help me and bless me) to a world-centered questioning (my prayer: Jesus, why do so many people have to suffer this way?). After I traveled to Nicaragua, to Mexico, and to Jamaica to work with and learn about the struggles of third-world countries, songs like “Bullet the Blue Sky” made so much more sense. As I learned about the heroic struggles of the civil rights movement, I sang out joyfully on “Pride (In the Name of Love).” Jesus had found me, and over the years since then I met him again and again as I listened to the music of U2 and tried to follow Jesus in working with the suffering and outcast of society.