On Sunday Marion and I arrived home from a nine-day trip to Minnesota to see our son Simeon, his wife Heather and their two beautiful little girls. As always after one of these visits, my mind is full of thoughts and impressions.
Marion and I thoroughly enjoyed our granddaughters, of course. Their enthusiasm for life is refreshing. We read stories, played games, went to the park. It was loads of fun to play with them, and watch them being silly with Bethany and Dunovan. They are evidently very well-loved children, which gives me great joy.
The trip home was long. We knew it would be. All four of us arrived home feeling very tired. Marion and I don’t recover from these things as quickly as we used to. Monday, and again yesterday, it was a mental and physical challenge to get underway in the morning and get myself off to work. I was feeling my age.
Yesterday morning I heard a song from the 60s on the radio. The singer was praising the delight and fulfillment that a lover can bring. “You feel like heaven to touch – I thank God I’m alive – can’t get my eyes off of you”. I enjoyed hearing a song from my youth, but soon realized that the song – like many love songs – was putting a weight of expectation on a lover that no earthly relationship can bear. Our hearts cry out for someone who can fulfill all our hopes and dreams, but this is a cry that can never be satisfied in this age. We have wonderful moments in this life – glimpses of glory. But we also have much pain, and many reminders of our frailty, our failings, and our inability to rescue ourselves. These reminders become more frequent and harder to ignore as we get older. Much as we might like to push them out of the way, we can’t.
Later that day, I had a very graphic reminder of this truth, as one of my colleagues – a woman in her mid-fifties – told me that her husband had suffered a heart attack, had been hospitalized and was awaiting triple heart bypass surgery. Prior to his heart attack there had been no indication that he had any heart trouble. She is afraid and feels out of control. She is also in pain from sciatica. I promised to pray for her and she thanked me. She has heard the gospel before but hasn’t really owned it for herself. I am praying that she will have her eyes opened to her true need for Jesus.
As if it weren’t enough to face the challenges of aging and our own personal weakness and frailty, we also face a long list of bigger issues. Near the top of my personal list of concerns is the growing frequency of violent religious persecution by Islamic militants in many nations. In North America we hear only a tiny fraction of what is really happening, and even most of what we do hear is sanitized so as not to disturb our politically-correct sensibilities. But along with that, we have famines in many places, increasing incidence of earthquakes, wars, human trafficking, the drug trade, abortion, unemployment, racism, environmental degradation, despotic and corrupt governments in many nations, and numerous other issues that gnaw at the edges of our consciousness.
Yet despite all these challenges and problems, humans continue to find reasons to hope. We do this because we are made for hope. Without hope, life is not really worth living.
And so, everyone in Ottawa is enjoying the long-awaited spring weather. People are going for walks, sitting on patios, working in their gardens. Why do we do this? Because it feels good – yes – but ultimately, because it feeds our desire for hope. We hope for a harvest. We hope that something better is ahead.
And so, this coming Saturday, I am leading a prayer walk in my neighbourhood of Vanier. We are going to pray for our neighbourhood because we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the hope of the earth; because we believe that He has conquered death; because we believe that His Kingdom is coming; and because we believe that He hears the cry of all who call on Him in sincere faith. We want to see our neighbours blessed with this knowledge and all that flows from it, and so we pray.
And so, my son Simeon has sold his house and is preparing to move his family to a city where none of them have ever lived. He is seeking to get connected to a Christian community there, is looking for a house to buy, and has plans to start a business, in the confidence that he is following the call of God.
To buy a house, he has to pay something called earnest money. I have never heard it called that in Canada, but in the USA, that’s what they call it. Earnest money is a deposit. It is proof that you are in earnest – that you really intend to complete the sale, to buy the house, to finish the deal.
Is God in earnest about his promises? In other words, is He serious? Are His promises reliable and trustworthy? In the face of personal frailty and suffering, and massive threats to world peace and well-being, is there really hope? Will the glory of God really fill the earth? Will evil really be overthrown? Will Jesus really reign openly as King?
Paul the Apostle, whose life was totally turned upside down the day that he met Jesus, declared that without hope of a coming resurrection, our faith is pointless. Our faith only makes sense if God finishes what he started when He sent Jesus to the earth. But praise God, that is exactly what He has promised to do. And we have more than just promises. We have glimpses of glory. Those who have put their trust in Jesus, and received the Holy Spirit, have living proof that His promises are sure. The King James version of the Bible calls the Spirit the earnest of our inheritance. The Holy Spirit is God’s proof that he is in earnest, that He is serious, that He will finish what He started. We have an advance taste, a down payment, a deposit. We have a measure of the life of God living on the inside of us.
One day we will see Jesus, the lover of our souls, reigning in glory over a restored earth from His throne in Jerusalem. On that day, in the words of the song I heard yesterday, we will truly have reason to say “Can’t get my eyes off of you”.