Let’s face it. Most of us wandering around on the planet today have not seen Jesus in person, nor have we audibly heard his voice, emanating from the sky or from the back of the laundry room.
The vast majority of Christians throughout history belongs to a blessed group of those “who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29), and while blessings are nice, when you’re in the midst of fumbling your way through life’s daily challenges and pain, it’s hard to fully comprehend that you’re not doing this all by yourself.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified . . . for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)
Encouragement at 2 o’clock in the Morning
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who has committed that verse to memory, only I’ve shortened it, mentally to, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” which is much easier to repeat, as a mantra, at 2 o’clock in the morning.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you,” Jesus promised his disciples, and, by extension, the rest of us. These are comforting words indeed, but in a visually stimulated society, sometimes words aren’t enough, and the more difficult life gets, the more we ache for something more tangible onto which to hold.
Jesus understands this — that’s one reason He told so many stories, because His listeners understood about sheep, and olive trees, and grapevines, and goats. Nowadays, however, sheep aren’t a part of many of our lives, and sometimes, as we meditate, it’s helpful to mentally modify the stories a bit, into something that we can comprehend.
Babes on the Beach
I did this last month when we took our four-year-old granddaughter to the beach for the first time. Four of us went in all — Small Person, The Norwegian Artist, our Tired of Being Youngest, and myself — and I was immediately struck by a few things:
1) At no time, EVER, was Small Person left alone — anywhere. In the car, on the road, in the lodging unit, at the beach itself: at least one adult was always there, watching. We had no intention of any sort to leave her or forsake her.
2) We always knew where Small Person was. On the latter part of the visit, she was allowed to walk from the lodging unit to the fence boundary, 25 feet away. Asserting her independence, sometimes she walked briefly out of our immediate sight, but she never actually was. (“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father . . . So don’t be afraid: you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29, 31)
3) The only reason Small Person was accorded the independence to walk to the fence boundary, unaccompanied, is because she had proven that she would not do random, stupid things, like run off. In actuality, she did not want to be alone out there — in the yard, by the fence, and most especially on the beach itself. Although as she became more confident she didn’t need to hold the Norwegian Artist’s hand at all times, she wasn’t going anywhere without him.
Learning from Children
There is a reason Christ encourages us to become as little children — “He called a little child and had him stand among them, And he said: ‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18: 2-4)
We have trouble with that humble part, because it sounds too much like “humiliate.” But when we humble ourselves, like children, before God, we acknowledge that the beach is a big, scary place, and we are too small, young, vulnerable, and defenseless to be on it by ourselves.
And we never are. You may feel alone and abandoned right now, my friend, but I assure you — you are NEVER on that beach by yourself.
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