A Word from Walker
I think I can confidently say that I am sure we are all glad that 2020 is officially behind us. No doubt we have to be very careful during the teeth of winter while other surges can occur. Prematurely jumping back into pre-COVID activities will most likely result in more infections. Right now we need to be sober about all of this without being dominated by fear and anxiety. But as we await a critical mass of our population being immune to the COVID-19 virus though previous infections or the application of the vaccine, it is nice to think about a time in the near future when we will eventually focus on other things. Afterall, a person can only be pushed under the relentless waves of uncertainty so many times before they feel drowned beneath its weight.
The Bible reflects this truth when it tells us that “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Prov. 13:12). A lot of us have felt soul-sick as we have witnessed people die, churches struggle, families spin out of control and our economy falter. Perhaps we can be bold enough to say that if we ever needed the power of God’s renewing hope to bring new life to us, it is now. Leaning on a sovereign, good and loving God is the only trustworthy anchor we can cling to in this storm as we await for the clearing of the clouds. However, in this period of expectancy as we await the hope of a coming spring, I want to remind myself and each of you that to push 2020 totally behind us without reflection about what we have learned will be a tragic waste. Here are three big lessons
I am still learning from:
First, I have learned that spending time in prayer is not merely a transactional process. We are typically in such a hurry that if we pray, we will crank out some requests and tie these together with some obligatory-laden statements about “living for God’s glory.” I have been there more than a few times in my life. But what has been actually sweet for me is to pray early in the morning and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the instrumentality of the Word to learn how to learn more about God’s character. There have been days where I have been lost in just one thought and felt God nudging me to consider how it should impact me. This “fellowship factor” of prayer reminds me of times when as a child I would hear family members tell stories. I reveled in those occasions because I learned something about them I didn’t know in the context of the narrative of their lives. In a similar fashion to pray is to step into the narrative of our great God and marvel at how we can even play a small part in His great story of redemption.
Second, I have learned to be more present in the here and now. When you can’t plan what do you do? How do you handle the limitations of where you can go and what you can do? You can get angry and even depressed. Or you can give yourself more fully into relationships; simply enjoy a good meal (hopefully not too much); or even chip away at projects around the house that you have been putting aside. This frame of reference is placed in sharp contrast to how we normally operate where we either feel handicapped by our past or are obsessed with trying to control the future. Jesus tells those who feel that their past is limiting to not fear because their sins have been forgiven (Lk.7:36-50). To those who are fretting over the future he tells them that worry will never create a positive result (Matt. 7:25-34). What is left? To live more fully in the present. When your options are limited through a pandemic you can learn how to revalue what is really important.
Third, because of the first two realities I have been reminded that suffering is temporary. Suffering seems to slow down the clock of our lives. We look at others who seem (notice I said seem) to be traveling through life at an enjoyable pace. They remind us of beauty queens or parade marshals who ride in really cool cars, have good hair and flawless complexions with dancing cheerleaders all about them while we are left behind to sweep up the garbage after the jubilant crowd has faded away. You ever felt that way? When you have lost your job, your marriage or your health everything seems to fold in on you, encompassing you in a bubble of soundless and suffocating loneliness. I have experienced all three. But let me tell you, the Gospel is a sharp sword that pierces that bubble and enables you to fellowship with others who in actuality are on a similar journey (1 Jn. 1:5-10).
Well, focusing on these three truths is a good place for me to start as I engage my sixth decade. I hope it serves as an encouragement to you. It is a privilege to be on the journey with you.
Happy New Year,
I have read so many newsletters from ministries talking about the relief of surviving this year and the promise of a new year. Quite honestly, I really don’t care to write another one of those. Don’t get me wrong, when asked about my take on this year I have quoted A Tale of Two Cities by saying “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Most of us do not remember what the rest of that passage says, “…it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” Charles Dickens was not only a master story teller, but a wordsmith! How can we have so many vast experiences in a single year? In the midst of some global challenges, many of us have still been blessed immensely. Some of us may have even taken pride in how we had weathered the storms only to realize that we had not remained unscathed.
However we find ourselves in this new year, I am resolved that storms are a very real part of life. This may come as no surprise as many of us have seen our share, but the way in which we face them and weather them can make all of the difference. So many of us find ourselves easily falling into a routine without ever wondering if we are truly standing firmly upon the rock of Jesus Christ. When the torrents and floodwaters arrive, we realize where our foundation truly lies.
While I trust that these words may resound with you personally, now imagine what it has been like for those who are not walking with Christ or connected with a church family. This reality is at the heart of missions as we seek to make a difference in our community. From toy stores to food pantries and everything in between, the good news of Christ is crucial. Without it, we are using a band-aid to treat cancer. The deep seated needs of people are much more profound in the world that we live in. People are desperately grabbing everything that they can to fill the void that all of humanity experiences.
Stu Weber in his book Tender Warrior noted, "I love the story of an American shoe company who sent one its salesmen to a remote country on another continent. The guy had barely arrived before he wanted a ticket home. He wired the home office, 'Get me out of here! This country is so backward they don't even wear shoes here.' Sometime later the company sent a different salesman to the same country. He wired immediately, 'Send me all of the shoes you can manufacture. This place is a goldmine! No one here has any shoes!'
So why don't we stop trying to buy a ticket back to 2019 and get busy in 2021 selling shoes! (Or serving Jesus if you know what I mean.)