This week I had the opportunity to meet John Smith, the first president of the God’s Squad Motorcycle Club. We first met John about 25 years’ ago when he stayed with us at our home in Derby, so it was great to catch up with him. At that stage John had been leading God’s Squad for about 15 years, providing a Christian presence among outlaw biker groups.
Smithy is described in his profile as an author, a social anthropologist, a business speaker, a teacher and lecturer, a biker, a defender of the poor and marginalised, a lover of blues music, a gifted evangelist, an elder of the radical discipleship movement, and a prominent social commentator. He has shared the stage with former President Jimmy Carter and has addressed the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
Despite battling cancer for about 15 years, John hasn’t stopped travelling, speaking and writing. In fact he has recently published a new book, Beyond the Myth of Self Esteem. In this book he uncovers common myths about self-esteem and explores their effects on individuals and society. He talks about the way in which the search for good self esteem and happiness has led to a cult of perfectionism.
I used to say, ‘I don’t want to talk to anyone who has not suffered because they usually have nothing to say.’ That may be overstating the case, but my experience has been that those who have encountered disappointment and tasted failure are the wiser for the experience if they rise above despair and confront their situation appropriately.
He went on to say:
If we invest our lives in creating a bubble of perfection to avoid pain, then we are heading for disillusionment. Sometimes feeling ‘bad’ or uncomfortable is the appropriate response to our circumstances; our challenge is to learn to deal with these feelings in healthy and authentic ways.
Smith argues that the western approach to self esteem has led to us thinking that the purpose of life is to find ourselves, but that there is actually something more: the search for meaning and purpose beyond ourselves. In fact, he says, the increasing focus on self has led to the diminution of the person. Smith’s many years of working with outlaw biker gangs and the poor and marginalised in many parts of the world, has led him to being convinced that self-surrender to God, not the search for self-esteem, is the ultimate means by which we find ourselves.
He concludes by saying that if anyone is motivated to explore the spiritual dimension they should include an examination of the person and teachings of Jesus Christ.
As one who long ago surrendered himself to God as revealed in Jesus, I can say that this has been the wisest, most fruitful and most fulfilling decision of my life. I have found where I truly belong. I agree with Augustine of Hippo, who some 1600 years ago summed up relationship with God in this way: “You made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.”