Mountains Beyond Mountains and the "Long Defeat"
I've just finished an awesome book I highly recommend called Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder. It is the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, a man who would "cure the world". He specializes in infectious diseases and labors tirelessly to rid the whole world of such diseases as AIDS and TB. Profound and moving, I couldn't put it down and found all kinds of inspiration to live a good life of service. At one point he is questioned about the logic of spending so much time, effort and money on one young patient knowing that the likelihood of his survival is slim at best. Buried in his response to that query was this: "How about if I say, I have fought for my whole life a long defeat. How about that? How about if I said, that's all it adds up to is defeat?... I have fought the long defeat and brought other people on to fight the long defeat, and I'm not going to stop because we keep losing. Now I actually think sometimes we may win. I don't dislike victory..." He continues discussing how we talk about "winning", and how we who are born with certain advantages that automatically qualify us to be winners in a winning society (first world), and how we say we want to be on the side of the losers needs to be critically examined with brutal honesty. He says, "We want to be on the winning team, but at the risk of turning our backs on the losers, no, it's not worth it. So you fight the long defeat" (p. 288). I love this passage because it reminds me of how I've felt about the church and pastoring for years. Just because we do what we feel is right doesn't grant us automatic success. In fact, I have clung tenaciously to my convictions about certain things, hoping they'd pay off with success, only to experience a "long defeat". Does this mean I switch my strategy, compromise my conscience, injure my own integrity, in order to experience success? Farmer's convictions to serve the poor, especially in Haiti but also other places around the world, met with opposition and criticism of all kinds. But he pressed on convinced that he was doing the right thing. This book helped me to continue doing what I feel is right, inspite of the consequences, inspite of the criticism, inspite of the opposition, inspite of the long defeat, not only because we sometimes see victories, but simply because it is right!