Saturday, December 26, 2009

Out Of The Wilderness

Evidently, blogging is not for the faint of heart, nor for the procrastinator. Lots of things happen in 2 years, though it feels only like a few weeks ago that I sat down at the keyboard. We have a new president, new problems and life changes galore - the last daughter married, the prospect of having the mother-in-law coming to spend her last years with us.

The spectre of mortality has cast its shadow across our lives as well. The conviction of invincibility and control over our destiny has yielded to the realization that the job market isn't necessarily friendly to 60 year olds, regardless of accumulated wisdom. It's funny, but when we cease to be able to dictate our own destiny, we remember who is supposed to be in charge of steering the course! It's been a sojourn in the wilderness that appears now to have at least an oasis ahead for refreshing.

I feel a little like Maverick in "Top Gun". I've come out of a flat spin and I'm finally ready to re-engage.

Here's what I've been thinking about. I hope it strikes a chord with someone else.

"So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to Him, "Feed My lambs." John 21:15 (NKJV)

Sometimes faith can be a real struggle. In my own walk, I've been only too aware of the fact that the fire has not burned with the same intensity as in other times that I can recall. Especially recently, with all the demands of the workplace, I've struggled with how to revive that spirit-- that sense of "first love" -- that keeps one close to the heart of God.

In my devotional reading recently, I came across John's account of the restoration of Peter. Before, I had always read it from a perspective of Jesus putting Peter in his place -- you know, Peter's 3 denials matched by the Lord's 3-fold question of Peter's devotion to him. Coupled with that, naturally, was Jesus' call for Peter to put into action what he professed. I assumed that the love was already there. I assumed Jesus was simply being consistent, since earlier in John's gospel, we read that Jesus said "If you love Me, keep my commandments." John 14:15 (NKJV)

This most recent reading caught me like a right hook and brought a totally different perspective to me. Peter's restoration to a love relationship (and ours as well) would come not out of profession, but from action. My cry had been, "Lord, help me love you as I once did". His reply, "Feed my lambs!"

I wanted the feeling without the footwork, the sweetness of fellowship without the sweat, love without labor. I'm not bashful about admitting that I thought, somehow, joy could be reappropriated at will, simply because I was a child of the Father. I thought that if I prayed a little harder, or spent a little more time in the Word, that everything would be OK again. After all, I'm so busy at the job the Lord put me in, that certainly He understands I need a quick fix!

Foolish me! The Lord led me to some introspection and examination of exactly when I felt the happiest in Him. Know what I found? Looking back, the times I felt the closest to the Lord were the times I was doing something for Him. The actions may not have been of great importance, and my work, family or physical circumstances may not have been all calm and serene, but the fact that I intentionally visited a shut-in, or gave a word of encouragement to someone who was struggling, or sang a "special" at church-- those built and bolstered that love relationship!

I remember a sermon from a while back where the preacher emphasized that, in the dictionary, the word "love" was an active verb! I agree! The Teacher's gentle prescription to Peter (and to you and me) is to find love in the doing, and (I believe) conversely to find the power to do because of the love. In the "doing" we shift our focus away from ourselves and our circumstances to the needs of others. It's a paradox to the modern world, but the Lord has proven over and over that we gain by giving away!

My guess is that the teaching works with our human relationships as well. Any "love batteries" running low in your personal relationships? Don't wait for the other person to "act like they used to act" or treat you differently. Love them by doing for them! Feed them-- emotionally, spiritually, with no strings attached. You'll be amazed at how love will be rekindled.

My prayer this week is that the Lord will present you with opportunities for service in His name, even if it's something as simple as breaking bread with another believer. I trust God to take that act of service on our part and use it to build a closer bond with Him and with our fellow servants in Christ.



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