I have a friend that used to frequent our small group before we branched (i.e. split into two groups due to an abundance of inviting, which leads to an abundance of size) and he went with the ‘other’ group. He and his wife were the very embodiment of inspiration, grace, meekness and generosity and pretty much everything else in Galatians 5:22-23.
I don’t get to see either of them as much anymore, but he still sends a few of us some daily scripture that he finds applicable/helpful/meaningful to start our days. There’s also the occasional times he sends out some inspirational writing, expanding on a particular thought or theme that’s been on his mind. Personally, I think he’s an amazing writer and I feel privileged that he graces our email-box with his all-too-infrequent musings. What follows is one of said ‘musings’ that I found particularly impactful—at least for me. I hope you find a little nugget of revelation within it as well. So without further ado, I present to you, Mr. Jim Coryell…
John answered and said,
“A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven.
You yourselves bear me witness, that I said,
‘I am not the Christ’, but I have been sent before Him.'”
~ John 3:27-28 NAS
I received a note from a friend we have not seen in years giving me a brief update on his life. It was nice to know he remembered us, but there was one sentence seared into my heart as I read his words: I said goodbye to my son last night as he heads off to Afghanistan. Can you imagine the emotions that were wrapped around that Dad and his son? Some of you can because you’ve been there. The pictures fly fast and furiously through your mind – not only from when he first grabbed your finger and won your heart, but the pictures you have seen of flag-draped caskets being carefully rolled from the bowels of a huge aircraft. And we can be encased in our silk cocoons so tightly that we don’t hear the hurt screaming all around us.
And we can be just as unconcerned when we read the onionskin pages in our Bible.
What do you know of the birth of John the Baptist? Well his parents were elderly. They had no children because Elizabeth was barren. Oh, they had prayed about this yearning in their hearts many times, but nothing happened. Then one day God’s messenger tapped Zacharias on the shoulder to tell him that he and his wife were going to have a baby. Stop right there and put some skin and bones on these two who were “advanced in years”. Imagine it. Do you know couples that have tried for years to have a baby and that day finally came – maybe after dozens of visits to the doctor? Did they accept that news calmly sipping a coke? No way! They threw their cokes in the air and started dancing! (Do you suppose Zacharias and Elizabeth did a jig? Remember they were elderly.)
God’s promise was fulfilled and all who were there when the baby was born felt His presence. Their friends were amazed: “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.
What joy Zacharias and Elizabeth had as they played with their little boy and dreamed about his future – a grandchild maybe! John grew into manhood. He was physically strong and he was spiritually strong. Don’t you know his parents were pleased with their son and saw their dreams coming true? Their son was a man of God. Surely he
would become an important person in their community!
And then came the day when John quietly shared with them the calling he had from God. They held each other closely, watching with tear-filled eyes as their precious son walked out of their lives. He left home and went to live in the deserts by himself. His only garment was made of camel’s hair cinched with a leather belt and his food consisted of nothing but locusts and wild honey. Did he ever come back home at all? I don’t think so. The last word they had was how their John was cruelly beheaded by the orders from a drunken king..
What a lonely man John must have been! Did his Mother and Dad grieve and talk long into the night wondering – “Where is he tonight? Why did this happen? What did we do wrong? God show us, please.”
Yes. I’m putting words on the pages, but Zacharias and Elizabeth were real! They were parents just like you and just like me. Should they send a brief update they might say something like this: “John left home yesterday. We have no idea where he is. He’s living in the desert alone with very little to eat and we miss him so very much. Our hearts are broken.”
Don’t just read the printed words. Put flesh and blood on the people who walk across the pages. Your Bible will come alive as you become a part of their lives! Tremble with Gideon! Weep with Jeremiah. Stumble blindly with Samson as he grinds at the wheel. Hide in the caves with David!
Lord, help us to grasp all that You share with us and come to really know the people you tell us about. Don’t let us read casually about their shattered dreams. What pain David must have felt when his own son tried to kill him. How Jacob must have grieved when his beloved Benjamin did not return from Egypt with his brothers. You tell us that Mary was at the foot of the cross. I cannot in any way comprehend her grief.
We want to know You and we want to have the compassion buried in our hearts because You live there. You gave us the ability to love, and to love sometimes means a broken heart. But it is “better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” ~ Amen