Monday, November 20, 2017
Psalms 119:41 – 48 May your unfailing love come to me, O LORD, your salvation according to your promise; then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word. Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws. I will always obey your law, for ever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them. I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees.
In the second season of the TV show “Survivor”, one of the castaways was a 24-year-old youth ministries major from Seattle Pacific University. With 15 others marooned on a deserted island in Malaysia, Dirk Been wanted to be the lone survivor and winner of one million dollars. The “lone” part was the problem.
According to a Campus Life article in January of 2001, Dirk began to feel like an outsider early on in the auditions to be a contestant. “When I was in LA being interviewed for the show, I didn’t hide the fact that I was a Christian,” Dirk says. “When I added that I was still a virgin, they gave me some funny looks.” Dirk’s confidence and sexual innocence were intriguing to the show’s producers.
When advised that each contestant could bring one “luxury” item to the remote island in the South China Sea, Dirk took his Bible. “I couldn’t imagine not having my quiet time with the Lord for a single day, let alone 39,” he said. When Dirk explained to his tribe why he’d chosen his particular “luxury item,” he was made fun of on national television. In fact, the retired Navy Seal said the pages of the Bible would make good toilet paper—he could think of no other reason for bringing a Bible on a deserted island.
Dirk couldn’t help but wonder if his Bible readings would get him voted off the island. He faced the temptation to put the Word aside—at least until after the Survivor experience. But as a committed Christian, Dirk knew faith didn’t work that way. He couldn’t just stop doing what he’d always done, even for just a few days, and then pick it up again later. So he continued to read his Bible, and he made it a regular habit to pray for his fellow “survivors.” He also looked for opportunities to talk with others in his tribe about his beliefs. And he knew he needed to show his faith by simply pulling his own weight, by doing his best in competitions, and by just being a decent guy.
According to Dirk, the hardest aspect of being stranded was having no one around who shared his beliefs. “The other members of the Tagi and Pagong tribes couldn’t understand where I was coming from.” Confronted by the rising tensions of tribal politics, and insufficient food and sleep, he said, “I didn’t have someone I could really open up to and pray with. The spiritual isolation was tortuous.”
Dirk didn’t win the million. He wasn’t even portrayed very positively on the show. He admits to making some mistakes that he’s ashamed of because they contradicted his faith. But since being voted off the island, the other castaways have admitted that Dirk reminds them of the guy everyone wanted to be friends with in high school. Dirk’s infectious and positive attitude has overshadowed that which was depicted on the television program. Today Dirk lives here in Wisconsin and continues to travel and speak to today’s youth about his faith in Jesus Christ.
What a powerful example of today’s passage from Psalm 119. Here was a man who answered with the love of God those who taunted Him. He put his hope in God’s Word and God’s outcomes, and did not succumb to the temptation to fit into the group by conforming to their behaviors. He walked about in true freedom because he delighted in the commands of God. He loved the Word of God more than he loved the feeling of acceptance he could have temporarily experienced by denying it. He may have been voted off the island and banned from their presence, but he knew he would never be voted out of God’s presence. He was and still is a true spiritual survivor.
When we reach the end of our survivor experience as a castaway on the island we call “earth”, we will stand before God’s tribal council and give an account of how we lived. May we each be able to declare that we loved God’s Word more than life itself, and we were bold and courageous enough to share it with others, even those who taunted us.