Do you know that programmers start counting at index 0? Well, we do. But the title’s not off by a year. This article is about the year that led to where I am now.
It was a year of drama, sometimes between me and people, mostly between me and God. On day 1, we sent off the beach missions team and they sang and prayed for us celebrators before leaving. Then I watched The Liar and His Lover before getting some sleep. I woke up to a call for volunteers for the church’s singles camp and capped it off with some bacon and coffee with brethren.
A few months later, after a series about loving the church from 1 John, I reconciled with a sister in the faith. She realized that the issue is so important that your very salvation is questionable if you do not love the individual members of the church.
At around that time, I got assigned to a farther and more stressful place. The trains were falling apart, the traffic was bad, we didn’t have access to the doors, demands and blame were the air we breathed. My daily devotions ceased to exist.
I wasn’t prepared to watch a dream shatter even though I saw it coming. And I hated God for letting me go through yet another betrayal, or worse, for orchestrating it perhaps. But my eyes were dry. I told a couple of brothers that numbness is more intense than pain when we were discussing third-degree burns and wounds where the light shine through (also known as my defense of Jon Foreman against open nerves). This is where that line comes from. I said that not feeling does not erase the reality of the burn. Are you familiar with this quote from C.S. Lewis?
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
I refused to love the Lord, to worship and serve Him, and I asked to rest from ministry. On a rare holiday that I didn’t have to report physically for work, I joined a retreat about brokenness. There, I learned that I wasn’t broken, but hardened. I was standing on my own strength. By the grace of God, I repented.
One song particularly spoke to me. A line goes like this, “Where else can we go, Lord? Where else can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Listen to Sovereign Grace Music for deep and wonderful songs.) And it pierced my heart. I wanted to turn my back on my Creator and Giver of Life, but there was nowhere to go. And I had looked so hard to find the church He provided. It took 3 years of observation before I made the commitment to become an official member. I watched the church overcome its struggles with being warm and loving, and with loving the lost in action. I used to wonder if they cared about social good and evangelism, and I learned that these were something they did organically as individuals or cells (that compose the church body). And most of all, I am thankful for the faithful preaching of the Word of God and for Biblical counsel, means of grace that correct and guide wayward people like me.
But daily life was still difficult, with the commute and the people. Until I cultivated that love for the Word again, sermons and songs spoke to me. I started writing reflections weekly at first, then slowly worked up the habit of thanking God for the little things again, like catching a train or being offered a seat. But mostly, it was through food, good food, that I felt most loved. People fed me, and I remembered that the Lord is good.
Brethren stepped into my darkness and shed light. They offered hugs and encouragement from the Word of God. They challenged me with questions that forced me to examine my standing before God. I came from one such round of questions last night.
When I got assigned to a different workplace, I faced very different challenges, but I know that I have the same faithful God. And His will is not my comfort, but my Christ-likeness. This time, He is teaching me to be patient.
I’m studying the attributes of God once again. It was my favorite topic, but I had a distaste for it last year. And His infinitude in everything He is and does is something I praise Him for. In His limitless love, He relentlessly pursued this rebel. And I consider glimpses of His character more precious than dreams and opportunities. May I see with a perspective of eternity.