Author’s Note: I’ve always been intrigued by the biography of Francis of Assisi. To have the whole world and its riches before you and then choose poverty and simplicity and devotion to God is as stunning and perplexing today as it was then.
I wish I were a screen writer (wait–it’s not a non sequitur, it is truly related). I would love to take the biography of Francis and bring into the 21st century.
Francis would be born in the US with a senator as a father and a brilliant psychologist as a mother. They would give him the best private prep schools and take him around the globe to experience culture and high society. He would have Kobe steak and Beluga caviar as afterschool snacks.
A terrible disappointment, he would struggle with school and end up hanging out with the bad kids, sampling alcohol and maybe a little pot. Although well dressed, he would always be in the wrong place at the wrong time in the wrong picture snapped by the paparazzi.
His father naturally expected Francis to follow him into law and politics, but Francis would enjoy computer hacking and fashion design and gourmet cooking. This created great tension between the father and son. With turmoil in the Middle East, Francis would join the army in a last ditch attempt to win his father’s respect and learn some discipline.
Although mostly adjusted to military discipline, Francis would have a rebellious streak and often participate in bad pranks on newer team members. This character defect landed him on the worst patrol ever. He would be wounded in an IED explosion and sent to an Army hospital in Germany to deal with physical wounds and PTSD.
In this hospital, he would repeatedly see visions of Jesus on the Cross at Calvary. Of course, that’s not the kind of thing you tell an Army doctor. Hitting a plateau in his treatment, he would be honorably discharged from the Army and returned to civilian life in the States.
He would wander aimlessly from city to city, never quite fitting and always just on the edge of insanity from the PTSD. It was in one of the lesser, seedier cities that he would take shelter for the evening in a skid row boarding house. As Francis approached his room, he would see an older man, disheveled and passed out in front of another door. Maybe the man was a drunk, fallen off the wagon one too many times. Or maybe the man was a drug addict, collapsed after receiving a bad formulation of the latest designer drug. In either case the odor was foul–a bizarre combination of urine and sweat and vomit and maybe even a bit of feces.
Usually, the man would have been an object of ridicule and derision, a future story for friends at a party. But on this occasion, something in Francis would break. He would look at the homeless man and see Jesus in the flesh. He would pick up the man, carry the man to the man’s room, wash the man down, and give the man a set of his (Francis’) own clothes. As he was leaving the room, Francis could smell an alluring mix of lavender and lilac and roses; none of which were anywhere near the tenement row.
Francis would spend the next decade of his life thoroughly exploring Christianity. He would sit in different denominations week after week. He would take lecture courses from seminaries and Bible colleges and even comparative religion courses from secular liberal arts schools.
None of it would satisfy him. He would hear the voice of Jesus telling him to love Him by loving the people with the least worldly possessions, thus rebuilding the Body of Christ. He would be told by Jesus to avoid things because people are often used to get things instead of things being used to get people in love with Jesus.
Francis would spend the rest of his life seeking and expressing an authentic expression of Christian faith and devotion. He would build numerous domestic violence shelters and halfway houses for addicts in recovery. He would stop and make small repairs on the homes of widows and single mothers. He even helped renovate animal rescue facilities and no-kill shelters.
A legend would even be handed down that he stole a Rolls Royce from his father, intending to sell it in a black market auction somewhere in Bangkok to build homes for orphans and children ransomed from the sex trade. Hauled before a judge, he was informed by the judge that stealing was not really something Jesus would do. Humbled, Francis would give the car back to his father silently with great humility. As a result, the judge liquidated his retirement accounts to fund the new charitable ministries of Francis in the foreign mission field.
Most of proper Christianity would eschew his lifestyle and choices. However, a few humble souls from every denominational pew as well as some non-Christian faiths would love Francis and be in his network. Everyone would work together on his projects.
At the end of his life, Francis would not hold the Nobel Prize or the Congressional Medal of Honor. He would not be nobility or business leadership or academic greatness. He would just die a simple man full of great love for the Jesus he saw in others. And others would love the Jesus Gospel they saw in his life.