Going Back to Move Forward

Go Back Home3Genesis 31

How does one find a way forward when they feel stuck in the mud?  Robert J. Morgan tells the story of Jim Conway who was feeling a bit “stuck” in his situation.  Morgan explains:  “At midlife, a man begins to realize his body is not as strong as it is used to be, nor his wife as young. He often feels like a failure at work because of his accomplishments fall short of previous expectations. He’s caught between generations, having to care for aged parents just as his children are lurching through the teen years. When the kids graduate and fly the coop, it sometimes hits the father harder than the mother. Then come the college bills. All of this hit Conway like a sucker punch.”

Conway remarks:  “I had literally come to the end of my rope. I was ready to leave everything and run away. I crawled into bed that November night and hardly slept as I made my plans. I was awake through most of the night, detailing specific steps that I would take as I left my present life and ran away to start another life…”  (Robert J. Morgan, From This Verse, February 27th.)

As tempting as running away might seem… there is a better way:  Going back to go forward.  Jacob is a prime example of this from chapter 31 of Genesis.

Now Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, “Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s, and from what belonged to our father he has made all this wealth.” Jacob saw the attitude of Laban, and behold, it was not friendly toward him as formerly. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”

Later while recounting what happened, Jacob tells his two wives:

You know that I have served your father with all my strength. Yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times; however, God did not allow him to hurt me.

He continues:

11 Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am.’ 12 He said, ‘Lift up now your eyes and see that all the male goats which are mating are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you.

Basically God tells Jacob:  “You didn’t out smart Laban with your antics. I turned the tide in your favor.”  Then God says:

13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar, where you made a vow to Me; now arise, leave this land, and return to the land of your birth.’”

Eventually Jacob begins to hate his dream job.   So he leaves to pursue the calling God had for him to in the first place.   God reveals himself to Jacob here as… the “God of Bethel.”

Bethel was that place where Jacob saw the ladder stretching to heaven with angels walking on it. It was there that God revealed the calling he had for Jacob as the bearer of the blessing.

Who is the God of Bethel to you?  For me He is the “The God of the Auditorium of Two Rivers Church in Nashville TN during a Baptist State Youth Conference.”  I got down on my knees at the altar there and offered myself to full time Christian service. Where and when you surrendered to God’s call on your life is your Bethel.

In life we reach a point where we get weary. We threaten to not finish the race assigned us. Even Godly men and women become tempted to fall into an affair or to abandon promising career for something that doesn’t pan out.  They have lost the fire.

Where can one find it again?  Go back to the God of Bethel!   It is at Bethel that you begin to understand why you are raising a family and why you have a job in the first place.

Jim Conway had fallen into a vicious depression. He said:  “Repeatedly, I had fantasies of getting on a sailboat and sailing off to some unknown destination.”  He was a pastor, a husband, a father and an author. But he wanted to run away like a prodigal and start a new life.  He later wrote: “The midlife crisis is a time of high risk for marriages. It’s a time of possible career disruption and extra marital affairs. There is depression, anger, frustration and rebellion.”

So Conway went to bed thinking that the next morning he would plan his escape.  Morgan writes:  “But the next morning, as he starting reading His Bible where he had left off the day before, in Psalms 18, he found these words (or they found him); “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple…..He drew me out of many waters….You will light my lamp; the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.”  He closed his Bible.  The healing had begun.

Have you ever had to step back to catch a glimpse of your calling before moving forward with the Lord?  Who is “God of Bethel” to you?

Blessings!

Pastor Wayne

Giving Yourself at Christmas

One of my favorite stories at Christmas is from Robert J. Morgan:

All I needed was a little piece and quiet—just an hour or so.  Just a cup of coffee and time to think.  And just a quiet spot.  The fuss and flutter of the holidays had upset my schedule, and most of my tasks remained undone.  The Christmas cards weren’t in the mail; the gifts were unwrapped—most of them unpurchased—and holiday preparations at church were percolating.

Only careful, disciplined planning, I reasoned, would enable me to survive the season.

So I chose a little café that served European pastry and a variety of coffees.  Its atmosphere was quiet, with soft classical Christmas music in the background.  Patrons sat at bistro tables, reading novels or working on crossword puzzles.  Here, I thought, I can spread out my calendar, make my “to do” lists, sip my coffee, and schedule the milliseconds between now and December 25.

I only had an hour.

But I no sooner entered the café than I heard a familiar voice. An old friend, Dan Cronk, having little to do that morning, had decided to enjoy a pot of tea and a basket ofbreads.  There he stood, tray in hand, lookingwistfully,delighted to see me and obviously hoping I’d invute him to sit down.

I didn’t want him to join me, for he was a talker, about to rattle away for hours on hypothetical abstractions from his brilliant but rambling mind.

There he stood nonetheless.

“Well, hello Dan!” I said with a broad smile.  “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Didn’t have much goin’ on this morning, and I thought a pot of tea would cheer me up.  Meeting someone?”

“Well, no… Actually, I’m not…. Er … Want to join me?”

“Sure!”

And down he sat.

For the next hour I sat there, head nodding and stomach knotting, listening to him pour forth.  My planning calendar rested unopened on the table, and my blood pressure slowly increased in steady increments.  I silently cursed the impulse that had chosen that particular café on that particular day at that particular hour.

The hour passed, and I cleared my throat.  “Well, Dan, it’s been wonderful seeing you again.  I have to go now, but I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.”

He looked deeply into my eyes, and I noticed for the first time that his were soft, tender, vulnerable.  He smiled and reached his hand across the little table and laid it atop mine.

“I’m so glad we ran into each other today,”  he said quietly.  “Thanks for taking time for an old man.  I was feeling pretty blue this morning, and I guess I just needed a friend.  You know, sitting here with you has felt like… well, it’s been like pulling up to a blazing fire on a cold night.  I feel so… so warm now.  Thanks for letting me join you.”

That incident took place years ago, and Dan is now in heaven.  But I’ve thought of his words many times since.  They were so simple, yet the more I mull over them the more profound they seem.  I’m always tempted to allow the holiday to deteriorate into nothing more than jingling bells and jangled nerves.  Dan reminded me that Christmas isn’t decorations, deadlines, and dashing though the snow.  It’s a time for giving ourselves specifically, our time—to someone with greater needs than our own.  And we do it in honor of the Baby who did the same for us, the one called “Immanuel”—which means “God with us.”  (Matthew 1:23)

Time for friends and fellowship in Jesus’ name.

It’s like pulling up to a blazing fire on a cold and lonely night.

–         Robert J. Morgan  (More Real Stories For the Soul, pp. 157-160.)

An important reminder for us during this hectic time of year.