A month ago I watched a documentary about the making of U2’s hit album, Achtung Baby. The film is called From the Sky Down; it chronicles the band's fierce struggle to find unity, creativity and light at a dim point in their career. U2’s fight to keep pushing, despite conflict within and without, has inspired me during my own season of transition, struggle and rebuilding.
At the close of the 80's and dawn of the 90's, you might not have guessed U2 was on the verge of implosion. The album Joshua Tree had been a huge success and the boys from Dublin had more worldwide appeal than ever. Even so, the band's creative and personal lives were in disarray. Sky Down depicts the band as a collection of aching individuals, walled into their own spaces both musically and emotionally.
I, too, know what it means to give off the appearance of success, while inwardly in shambles. After six years of vocational ministry, two of which were spent serving in Budapest, Hungary, I learned how to earmark my success within ministry. In recent years you might have described me as a gifted teacher, experienced leader, knowledgeable student of the Bible and innovative missionary. My Greek professors once called me their “star student.” Despite all this outside support and promise, I eventually became exhausted, disenchanted and frustrated with all-things-ministry. So, what happened?
When Bono and the gang arrived in Berlin on October 3rd, 1990 to record a new album, they found a city they could relate to. Germany had officially been reunited on the exact day of the band’s arrival in the capital. Since Berlin was the epicenter of such a monumental historical shift (de Wende), U2 saw and felt the identity crisis the city was undergoing.
Berlin had been divided by an ominous, concrete wall for 30 years. All of a sudden the German capital entered the 90’s and became a unified metropolis. U2 wondered if their own walls might come down? Would the 90’s also be a time of reunification for this band with so much promise and talent? Or would they remain in isolation, moving towards desolation and short of redemption?
Budapest was my Berlin. Allie and I moved there in 2010, seeking to serve and experience God in new ways. I didn’t know it at the time, but this city that had seen so much darkness, depression and loneliness would create the ideal backdrop for confronting these very qualities in my own being. And, like U2, I was not only stepping into a new city and culture, I was also stepping foot into a decade of uncertainty. Would I survive this overseas adventure and return home with a refreshed sense of God's presence? Or would I leave Hungary with a full passport and an empty heart?