Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Dog Named Rex & A Journey of Discovery

I recently came across a photo that I took in May 1950. I was sitting on the back steps of our home in Velasco, Texas. I was twelve years old. From those steps you could see our church house and the town's water tower. Guess what got my attention that day? It was Rex. I don't know if he was upset with me or just in deep thought (indulge me on this one). As a young boy, I would often sit on those steps. During the war years the steps served as my fighter plane in imaginary battles over Europe and the islands of the Pacific. As I grew older, I would sit on the steps and think about things that were happening in my life. The last time I sat on those steps was when I was 26 - November 22, 1963 to be exact - the day President Kennedy was shot. I had just finished a three year tour in the Air Force. I was thinking about the direction of my life - how it was all going to play out. This photograph brought back those memories. Now it is 45 years later. I find myself sitting on those steps again. Of course, not literally; but in my mind.

This past year has been a significant one. It was my first year of retirement. We moved to a totally new location, became members of a new church and I was 70. In the midst of all of that I was looking for God or that is how it seemed. I thought I was having to redefine my life. Actually it was God who was doing it. Several months ago, something began to happen in my life and in my walk with God. I can't fully explain it; but it was like I was on a journey of discovery - finding out things about my life and about what should matter most. This is what it began to look like. For a large part of my 70 years I have been absorbed with my own life - very reflective in my thinking - like what I feel about myself; and what God feels or thinks about me. Sixty two years ago God had given me the only thing I would ever need; the only thing that should have consumed my life, thoughts, emotions, and will. It was Jesus Christ; but over time it was like my understanding of Him was becoming a dream and not a reality - like I was the one holding on and struggling to make it real. I am afraid that this experience may be true for many. For some it is easier to stop struggling - just surrender - without pressing on and finding answers. I want to say more about this battle later.

For the last year, through searching, praying, pleading, the prayers of my wife, the words of our pastor, Matt Chandler, the words of Josh Patterson, the music of Michael Bleecker, all of The Village Church and the writings of men like John Piper, God has confronted me with this issue - making the Lord, as the psalmist says in Psalm 16:5, my chosen portion and cup. It is as if I have, in some way, returned to that day when, as a 9 year old boy, God's call finally penetrated my heart and I received His gift - His Son, Jesus Christ. I have this strong sense that I am getting to understand some things in ways that I have missed. Here is where it gets even more amazing. Several months ago I read some words by T. S. Eliot and by G. K. Chesterton.

"We shall not cease from exploration and the end of our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." (T. S. Eliot)

"Every discovery is a sort of homecoming; and because every homecoming is a discovery, there is an element of delight and surprise in every instant of it." (G. K. Chesterton)

I thought, could this be what is happening to me. In this journey of discovery is God bringing me back to the place where I started that Sunday morning at age 9? I know this sounds strange. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced. I know you can't go back - or can you? Just to think that it may be possible, at this point in my life, to go back to the place where I started and know "the place for the first time" is too good to be true. Then I read these words from Jeremiah 29:10-14.

"For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord..."

As I looked at the picture of my dog Rex and the calmness of my world on that spring-like day in 1950, it was sort of a homecoming for me; but nothing compared to coming home in a spiritual sense to the place that I thought had long since passed - a place with a future and a hope; a place where opportunities abounded; a place where I could find the Lord because He said I could. I see that happening. I am no longer sitting on the back steps. I am standing on the threshold. What will I do now? There is only one thing to do - call upon Him; seek Him with all my heart. Please pray that I will do that.

The picture from the back steps and a dog named Rex may not resonate with you as it did for me. God used those memories as a young boy and the powerful words of Jeremiah 29 as part of my journey of discovery. Each life is different. I pray that our life together becomes one of discovery of the vastness of the treasures of the divine life that is ours. I pray that God will use something in your life to cause you to return to the place you started and know it for the first time. I will pray that every discovery we make will become an experience of delight, surprise and wonder because of the One we will be discovering.

“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

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