Praying til Pentecost Day 27
"Do you love me more than these?" John 21:15
The death, and burial of Jesus initiated a crisis of faith for His followers. His death on the cross and placement in the tomb intimidated them and blinded them to the rebirth of their vision that only His resurrection could provide.
Crisis has been described as a dangerous opportunity. The Chinese combine the character for danger and the character for opportunity to form the word crisis. Life is filled with crisis. One of the least comforting contemporary proverbs of our day is, "We are either leaving a crisis, heading into a crisis or in the middle of a crisis." Not much hope out there these days.
Today I turn 60 years of age. That definitely registers pretty high on the old crisis meter. I can remember thinking that 60 years of age was ancient. I have a much clearer and generous perspective on that milestone today!
When I was 24 years old, I returned from two years of service in East Africa, and enrolled at seminary in Fort Worth. I made an appointment with the pastor of Sagamore Hill Baptist Church, and drove to the East Side and knocked on the door of the yellow, wood paneled parsonage on Hampshire. The man who answered the door was Dr. W. Fred Swank, pastor of Sagamore for 4o plus years. He was white-haired, pot bellied, wrinkled and sixty-six years old. I was stunned. I remember thinking, "So this is my future!?" Little did I know that 16 years later my family and I would move into that same parsonage, but that is another story.
Like I said, I have a totally different perspective on sixty today! I don't FEEL old. I may be in denial, but I find myself youthful in the one thing that matters most, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so." I only seem to feel my age when I lose my confidence in the simple truth of that children's song.
I admit, I wince a little bit when I compare my passport photo of 1972 with my current picture. I feel like I am looking at an image of the son I never had. It is a little creepy to think that physical age can sneak up on you and transform your appearance, even while you are looking in a mirror every day. How does that happen?
Still, when I got up this morning, I did not FEEL sixty. I did not FEEL old. I felt fine. The crisis came when I tried to live like I was 22 years of age. I dusted off my road bike this week, and started out on a ride on a beautiful morning. The air was cool, and the sky was blue, and very little wind. It was a great day for a ride. What I ran into was a wall of reality. When I was 22 years of age, I rode my bike quite a bit. I even took part in a 60 mile race called Bear Downs my senior year at Baylor. I was young, fit, and a seasoned rider on the hills around Waco. I found out this week that Runaway Bay, Texas is home to the foothills of Mt. Everest. I was working my way back home after a brief, but leg burning ride when I looked up and saw my house on a far and steep hill. I had never noticed the incline when I was driving my car. I pulled into my driveway huffing and puffing, and could not dismount the bike without laying it down on the ground. At that moment, I did not FEEL sixty, I felt much older. The slow, steady climb up the hill revealed more about my birthday than I really wanted to know.
Crisis of faith may not be a crash at the crossroads of doubt and belief. It may be a fatigue that comes from a steady push up the hill. It is the little things that can cause us to stumble, or choke, like the rock in our shoe or the bone in our throat. They have a way of adding up over the years.
Prayer provides us the means to maintain constant fellowship or consistent companionship with the presence of the Risen Christ. Lack of personal time with Him has a way for cooling the flame of intimacy, and one day we wake up and realize that there has been a slow erosion of the love for the One who matters most.
When the disciples saw Jesus take His last breath on the cross, they thought that they had lost their capacity to have conversation with Him. When they heard He was alive again, they rejected the truth they heard. When He came to them in person, they ignored His command. They had great difficulty looking into the future because they were overwhelmed with the fact that things would never be the same again. What they could not see was the way the Risen Christ was trying to correct their vision, and prepare their hearts to believe the best was yet to come.
As I approach the home stretch in my years on earth, I find myself facing the same question Jesus asked of Simon, Son of John, "Do you love Me?" It is not enough to be faithful to the call of the Master. There must be a First Love relationship with Him. My body may not show it, but I find great renewal each day when I come to Jesus with a child like faith and trust to place the day into His hands. The mirror does not reflect the confidence of a child, but the image of the man. Still, I think I gain strength and comfort when I reflect over the past sixty years, and realize I have come this far by faith, and I will meet this crisis the same way. Happy Birthday to me!