Please forgive me today. I will probably ramble and write for quite a while. I feel a little long-winded and it's a bit emotional. This isn't supposed to make too much sense, it's just for me, I think. Write it down now (typing is so much faster than actually writing) and then try to sort it out in the weeks ahead.
Today I went to a memorial service for a man I have worked with for the last ten years. It wasn't a close relationship - he was the head of one of our affiliate offices so I didn't work with him on a day to day basis but in ten years I dealt with him and worked with him enough to say he was a friend.
The memorial service itself wasn't a surprise. It wasn't a religious-type service but a "celebration of life." Pictures of the deceased with various friends and family, plenty of people speaking about what a good man he was, etc. One of those friends, though, spoke and his words hit me like a punch in a gut. Nothing else at the service touched me, made me cry, like the conviction those words left behind.
Let me say that I work for an incredibly liberal office. They are deeply Democrat-minded people and consider anyone who likes or respects what conservatives, Repulicans, George W. Bush, etc. stand for to be on the "wrong" side and that's all there is to it. They are pro-choice, pro-labor, pro-liberal. Gay marriage gives 'em pause but while they won't support it, they would never come out and say they're against it. If it works for you...
What gave me a heavy heart today was one of the gentlemen sharing a conversation he had with the deceased when he knew his time was short. They talked about what comes after...and the man who has passed away shared that he's pretty sure he'll be ok in heaven because when gets before "The Big Guy" he's going to argue that he "fought on the side of right and that will be enough." My quotes are not word for word but pretty close to what was said.
That's when I could hear thunder. Literally. In my head only, mind you but...my head started ringing, my ears felt like they had cotton in them and all I could hear was the Holy Spirit telling me I did not say enough. I have not said enough. I do not say enough. What I do say falls on deaf ears and they don't get it but that part isn't my responsibility. I do not say enough. I do not represent Christ in my workplace. I believe, with all I know about the character of God and my faith that my only way to be right before God is to repent and believe that Jesus is His Only Son, that the man whose life we were celebrating today will not be in heaven.
And my heart broke. In half. Then fell and shattered into pieces. My failure was only a minute part of that heartbreak because, well, I have time. God has granted me today and if I wake up tomorrow and go to work, He's granted me that as well and I can share Him. I can share Him more than I ever have and I can change my silence.
The man who passed away? His time is done and his final choice has been made. I know it was his choice to not look for or seek the truth. I understand all of the logic, all of the arguments, I know all of the "right words." They do not offer solace to me right now. The cliches "we live in a dying world..." "they do not see the truth right before their eyes..." All of those words that Paul must have uttered with cracking voice and tears...they've all been said before, we know the truth but the sting of them. Oh...the sting doesn't hit us until we are faced with the finality of someone. To know my grief is so small compared to the grief God feels at his loss. God didn't want to lose him. I can't hardly bear up under that today. God grieves when His creation ignores Him, misunderstands Him and worse - doesn't care that they do.
I know the argument - I don't know his heart and God can do anything. I know that to be true, too. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps he did accept Christ in those quiet hours before he passed away. Our God is an awesome God and nothing, absolutely nothing is out of His reach.
That is a hope I can hold on to, a mystery question to which I will not get an answer until I have passed through death's curtain myself. I can't tell you how much I pray it is true. Today, though, as I looked around the room at all of those who don't know or have humanized the idea of who God truly is and what He wants for us and are therefore missing the truth... I cry out in my head and in my heart, begging God to give me that spirit of power, of love. Not timidity. Open my mouth, fill it with Your words. Show me how to share you more with every single person I come into contact with every day.
People walk around with tatoos, piercings, t-shirts, clothing styles... they walk around and you can't mistake what they think, feel, believe. Why do I not wear Jesus Christ the same way? I'm not talking buying t-shirts to proclaim that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life but... why do I often stay quiet when someone misrepresents Him? Why do I not step in and share what I know to be His truth? Why do I allow myself to speak poorly about others, to lose my temper over nothing?
Why have I become so complacent?
And I have. Oh how I have. We're studying Revelation and I am the church of Laodicea. I have become lukewarm. How I must fester in the mouth of Christ. How long until He spits me out?
I read a blog post the other day and a comment she made in it was in regard to the first words of Jesus' ministry. She wrote that the first word Jesus spoke when He began His public ministry was REPENT. (Matthew 4:17).
I haven't been able to stop thinking about that. He doesn't say "I am the Son of God and I am here with a wonderful plan for your life." Not... "God loves you and wants you to be happy." Not..."Each of you was made unique and I want you to do whatever it is that makes you feel like the best you you can be."
No. He said "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."
I have only just begun to flesh this out so I am calling on memory here, what I have learned in the past. It has, apparently, become something that I thought I knew but left my heart and resides solely in my head for now so this will be vague. Repent means to turn from your sin, to turn from what is in your life that keeps you from obeying God, from being in relationship with Him and turning back to God.
Our pastor once described it as "doing a 180." Sin/darkness is the direct opposite of God and anything that takes you from His presence is sin. Whatever it is, whatever your "darkness" may be Jesus says "Repent."
I don't know for sure what that means for me yet. I know my prayer - asking God to break my heart with those things that break His - was answered again today. I know I am surrounded by people who have no idea who He is, who will probably get very short and angry with me if I begin to share things with them they have spent a lifetime arguing against. It will get ugly. I think that's why I've stayed so quiet. The people I love in my workplace truly believe that if they are "good people" they have done all they need to do and will be granted a spot in heaven. I have no idea how I will respond to that now. I can't. God is going to have to because I don't know the words. I don't know the best way to share the truth.
The only thing I know right now is my brokenness, my heartache. My trepidation. I pray to be hot, not lukewarm. May God be glorified in wherever He is leading me with this...and may I be obedient in continuing to go.
*UPDATE: If you have a copy or can get a copy, read February 8th's devotion titled "Instantaneous and Insistent Sanctification" in Oswald Chambers' "My Utmost For His Highest." I didn't read it until this morning (the 9th) but oh how it hit home with what I wrote yesterday...