How does scripture invite you to the path Jesus walked? This month our We Conspire articles explore how scripture written thousands of years ago can inform a loving faith in our modern world. In this article, Carlos A. Rodriguez with Happy Non-Profit and The Happy Givers reflects on his own “table-flipping” experience — the moment he realized his path needed a different direction. Carlos writes:
Five and half years ago, Hurricane Maria was destroying Puerto Rico. I was signing books.
Yes, the very night that one of the worst hurricanes in recorded history was ravaging through my homeland, I was in North Carolina, at a fancy Barnes and Noble, reading chapter four of my second book, Drop The Stones, in a pretending-to-be-oh-so-holy voice.
I had practiced the pauses to make the story more dramatic. I had rehearsed the pronunciation, so my English sounded better. And I was dressed to impressed (at least my wife was impressed).
My mom and dad had flown into Raleigh to see me. My photo was about three feet high on the main bookstore entrance. Friends and “fans” had come to get their signed copy.
Listen, I love myself. Sometimes too much, sometimes not enough. The problem was that I was falling for the same traps that I kept telling people that they shouldn’t be falling in.
Then a friend gave me a call three days after Maria made landfall. He was neither pleasant nor cute. He did not call to congratulate me on my book release. He did not call me to invite me to one of his conference events so that I could promote my book some more. He loved me yes … but he called me to tell me off.
And I am forever grateful.
“I was literally sitting on a merchant table. Selling books about God. Signing my name as if I was somebody. And living a life that was not even close to what Jesus had invited me to live. Yes, I was prime for a Jesus-table-flipping.” —Carlos A. Rodriguez
My friend had been an old school missionary in the middle east. He spent many years in the “mission field” realizing that the one who needed saving was him.
Yeah, he has a bit of a following, a few books sold, a few medals under his name. But I was now the up-and-coming voice. The one who might just steal his platform. So yeah, he was probably just jealous.
Or, as I found out through this next season of my life… he was right all along.
The one who needed saving was me!
I was literally sitting on a merchant table. Selling books about God. Signing my name as if I was somebody. And living a life that was not even close to what Jesus had invited me to live.
Yes, I was prime for a Jesus-table-flipping.
You know what my friend said to me on that call? To not waste my life being a talking-head. That the people who were hurting in Puerto Rico were more important than the next church meeting, that living my book was more important than selling it, and that I would regret wasting myself in the conference circuit.
As Father Richard Rohr likes to say, “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable.”
I’m eternally grateful for my friend who made me miserable with the truth. His gift of honesty and clarity invited me into the life I am currently living.
Now, as I serve the most vulnerable people in our community, I have discovered a radical freedom from the me-myself-and-I cult. Cooking for my neighbors, farming for our community, and rebuilding houses (as we do at The Happy Givers) is truly my place of joy and rest.
My prayer is that the table-flipping-Jesus re-encounters you in the most compassionate ways.
Because my friend was right.
And so was Jesus.
It is definitely better to give than to receive.
Reflect with Us
When has your faith been driven by fear? When were you driven by love? How did those experiences impact your spiritual journey? Share your reflection with us.
Carlos A. Rodriguez is a passionate speaker who leads Happy Non-Profit and The Happy Givers. He is the author of Simply Sonship, Drop The Stones, and the upcoming Flip The Tables. He loves spending time with his wife, Catherine, and their three children. Carlos also is a Puerto Rican — living in Puerto Rico —and he can’t wait to host you there!
We Conspire is a series from the Center for Action and Contemplation featuring wisdom and stories from the growing Christian contemplative movement. Sign up for the monthly email series and receive a free invitation to practice each month.