Long ago, I listened to a remarkably holy man, a cancer patient, sharing a conversation with God.
It was a naked, piercing, and heavy testimony of the “when you’ve finally just had it” variety. During a morning quiet time in his big easy chair, he is praying and listening for God and suddenly (for are not these things rather sudden?) just explodes into venting about the story God is writing for him. It’s not just the disease. It’s the ongoing changes and the endless appointments and the constant vigilance and the social misunderstandings and the lack of closure and the shame and fear that attend. All his anger and helplessness and isolation explodes before the throne in frustration. He lets God know.
And the man described hearing God reply, “I understand you don’t like the story. How do you feel about the Author?”
It cut me to the quick – one of two things he said that did so. Not a pleasant reveal, but an unmistakably holy one. A divine refocusing.
For though I dared not compare my life’s difficulties to cancer, the question was stil one that I had not wanted to face. For I could tell you exactly how my journey (e.g. my family history, my weird and glitchy personality) has made me feel about God.
The other thing he said was:
“I could just hear the clarity coming to myself, and I finally said it: ‘What I really don’t like is, I’m now living a life where I need you, God, on a day-to-day basis, just to get through it. And I don’t like being desperately needy for you, God.'”
With daylight savings coming up on us again in a few weeks, I thought I’d update this story from last spring.
This weekend, I served as a counselor at a youth retreat, out of cell service.
I woke up Sunday morning at 8:30am feeling most refreshed. I’d initially worried that I wouldn’t get enough winky-winky because I’d gone to bed late (12:30am), but nope…8 hours of sleep. It felt good and I was happy. (You know you’re coming up on middle age when these are the things you think about.)
Until a little while later, when I overheard that Daylight Savings Time had started that night. I hadn’t heard about it during the prior week, and didn’t see the usual Facebook memes the previous day because we were out of cell service.
So I’d actually slept only 7 hours.
The moment I realized this, I kid you not, I started feeling tired. Over one hour.
And it got me thinking: Our reality determines our thoughts and feelings to a great degree.
Most of us are well familiar with Isaiah 40:28-31, the “those who trust in the Lord will renew your strength” passage.
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth.
He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding.
He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless.
Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall,
But those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength;
they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint.
But I had never, until this last Saturday, seen the context of the verse before it, verse 27, which adds a new dimension: that powerful God arrayed against injustice.
Billy Graham is dominating my Facebook feed today, and well deserved. Millions are in heaven today because of him.
Like many other tributes, one of the first things that springs to my mind when I think of Billy Graham is his reputation with the world. I’m reminded particularly of one thing I learned from reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye in years past:
In the early days of his ministry, Billy Graham experienced deep concern over the public’s distrust of evangelists. How could he preach the gospel to people who assumed he was a fake? As he considered this question, he realized that most people who distrusted evangelists did so because those evangelists lacked integrity, particularly in the area of sexuality. To combat this, he and the close circle of men who ran the crusades avoided opportunities to be alone with women who weren’t their wives.
Think about this for a moment. What an inconvenience! Did these men really fear that they’d commit adultery the moment they found themselves alone with a woman? Weren’t they going a little too far?
In what seems to me sometimes like a cosmic joke, a person’s life is often boiled down to a sequence of numbers – two dates with a dash between them.
The first is the date of our birth. Its arrival every year is an occasion for joy, for gifts, or perhaps just a little extra attention. We’re familiar with it. We write it on official documents. It’s a friend to us, right down to the whole “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing – the further we get, the worse we feel.
The other, the day of our death, is unknown to us. It lurks in the future, possibly fifty years from now, possibly this very day. We will, by definition, never write it down. By the time it’s known, we can do nothing about it. It evokes loss, shadow, looking back and evaluating, the arranging of one’s affairs and moving on.
At least it does for “the rest of mankind, who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
But this last week, a friend of mine passed (expected), and the words used to describe her passing were, “She met Jesus!”
My friend escaped. She got out. She finally leaped beyond the reach of this world’s grime and reached Jesus.
And it hit me:
Our youth group is currently in the midst of our annual “purity series”.
Our youth group sees fit to devote several weeks every February to the subject of purity with its many angles, and I can’t disagree with their choice. Given the escalating danger that sexual promiscuity poses to our young people in today’s bankrupt society, an emphatic approach seems right.
Last night’s message featured possibly the best possible angle on purity, the best reason to pursue purity.
It came, rather unexpectedly (for me), out of 1 Peter 1 – a passage that gives holiness the backdrop of a cosmic secret, withheld even from the angels.
“Hey, Brandon,” she said, bouncing up to the counter – not a coworker, but the girlfriend of one, whom I didn’t know from Adam – “Do you know the difference between a cheeseburger and a [sexual reference]?”
No. I don’t know the difference between those things, and I’ve as much desire to find out as to go dumpster-diving on Main Street during rush hour.
I looked at them with what I hoped was a world-weary half-grin.
“C’mon. Enough for one night,” I said.
They relented good-naturedly.
I’m trying to be gracious. I don’t want to be THAT Christian, the one who gets all debilitated because unbelievers act like unbelievers. You have to let this stuff slide off your back in environments like this.
Plus, I actually enjoy this particular coworker. He’s got solid character (albeit a one-track mind) and I consider him a friend. Burning bridges over this stuff doesn’t necessarily help when you’re trying to share Christ.
But this stuff does get tiring.