I have no memory of my birth. I was born three weeks before the day CS Lewis died. I was also born three weeks before the day JFK was assassinated.
I had nothing to do with either of them, thank you.
There is a very early memory of a train station, but Mom has to fill in the details. There is a vague memory of some churchmen coming to our apartment the night she became a follower of Jesus. My Dad was at work, and Sally Field was on TV. She must’ve have looked good in her habit as I, so the story is told, pitched a fit when Mom turned off The Flying Nun to talk about Jesus. I was about three.
From that night on I have no substantial memory that does not in some way include God or His people.
I’ve probably been in more church services than anyone save a “tent meeting” evangelist. The hours spent singing, listening to sermons, giving testimonies, attending Bible classes, studying the Bible and books about it could not be calculated by an army of MIT grads.
I’ve given my share of sermons as well.
I’ve speculated about the return of Christ, strategized the best way to reach unreached people with the gospel, and cried over altars both empty and filled.
I’ve prayed with Russians, Belorussians, Brazillians, Canadians, Nicaraguans, Brits, Aussies, Tuvans, Americans, the hurt, the sick, the newborn and the dying.
I’ve walked the Serengeti with Maasai evangelists, ridden in the backseat of a Camry all over Siberia visiting believers, and to visit Alaskan pastors flew in an Otter that used warmed engines for cabin heat and featured a flight safety talk given to six air-weary passengers by the co-pilot who turned around in his seat and spoke past the “cockpit door” aka, a curtain. A 6-hour ride in a Kenyan van en route to Maasai Mara over roads not paved since WW2 POWs did the feat left me wondering how we passengers had even one tooth left between us.
I’ve twice flown over jungles so extensive (South America and Africa) a downed plane would have left any survivors so remote Lost would have seemed Found by comparison.
In all these travels one thing was always assured: when I returned “home” the roads would be paved, the pantry and freezer filled with food, where a loving family, safety and comfort were known. It was a place predominantly Christian in outlook and values. Polygamy was not known as in Kenya. We were not recovering from state atheism as in Russia. On the whole, my values were shared. Many of my faith objectives were implicitly supported by the culture, if not explicitly so.
Now? Not as much.
Things have changed tremendously in the last few years. While shopping for eyeglasses at the vision center last week a couple of teenaged boys, 9th or 10th grade I’d guess, were trying on various pairs and looking at each other for evaluations. For the first time I could not tell whether two teenaged boys were friends, brothers or boyfriends.
A young man I know who drives for Uber told me of a customer who, within 30-seconds of entering the car, spoke of his desire to have an affair with a co-worker. Driver and customer were complete strangers. Perhaps ride-share drivers are the bartenders of postmodernity.
The narrative is changing.
Followers of Jesus love to sing “This world is not my home, I’m only passing through,” but seem awfully put-out at our transitional living arrangement. Bad neighbors and all that. Earth is a temporary place filled with eternal souls–souls better served without our eternal bemoaning of our station.
I wonder, at times, if we are as concerned over lost people as we are uncomfortable being around some of them. The New Testament does not record Jesus getting goosebumps while dining with sinners, religious or otherwise. If love for our neighbors means less comfort for ourselves, then we should become comfortable with the lack of it.
In changing times, no matter how minor or how severe, God is always at work. And He is always with us. The words of Jesus remain the same, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
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Featured image “The Playground called Life,” by theflickerees.