May 16, 2016

"I'd Rather Be A Door-Keeper ..."

An Apologia for My Life
Samuel M. Shoemaker

I stay near the door. I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out. The door is the most important door in the world. It is the door through which people walk when they find God. There's no use my going way inside, and staying there, when so many are still outside and they, as much as I, crave to know where the door is.  And all that so many ever find is only the wall like blind men, with outstretched, groping hands, feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door, yet they never find it. So I stay near the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world is for people to find that door - the door to God.  The most important thing that anyone can do is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands and put it on the latch - the latch that only clicks and opens to the person's own touch.  People die outside the door, as starving beggars die on cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter - die for want of what is within their grasp.  They live on the other side of it - live because they have found it.  Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it, and open it, and walk in, and find Him.  So I stay near the door.

Go in great saints, go all the way in - go way down into the cavernous cellars, and way up into the spacious attics - it is a vast roomy house, this house where God is.  Go into the deepest of hidden casements, of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.  Some must inhabit those inner rooms, and know the depths and heights of God, and call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.  Sometimes I take a deeper look in, sometimes I venture in a little farther; but my place seems closer to the opening.  So I stay near the door. 

There is another reason why I stay there.  Some people get part way in and become afraid lest God and the zeal of His house devour them; for God is so very great, and asks all of us.  And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia, and want to get out.  "Let me out!" they cry.  And the people way inside only terrify them more.  Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled for the old life, they have seen too much: once taste God, and nothing else will do anymore.  Somebody must be watching for the frightened who seek to sneak out where they came in, to tell them how much better it is inside.  The people too far in do not see how near these are to leaving - preoccupied with the wonder of it all.  Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door, but would like to run away.  So for them, too, I stay near the door.

I admire the people who go way in.  But I wish they would not forget how it was before they go in.  Then they would be able to help the people who have not yet even found the door, or the people who want to run away again from God.  You can go in too deeply, and stay too long, and forget the people outside the door.  As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place, near enough to God to hear Him, and know He is there, but not so far from people as not to hear them, and remember they are there, too.  Where?  Outside the door - thousands of them, millions of them.  But - more important for me - one of them, two of them, ten of them, whose hands I am intended to put on the latch. So I shall stay by the door and wait for those who seek it.  "I had rather be a door keeper ...."  So I stay near the door.

May 1, 2016

Reluctantly, Yet Willingly, Taking Up My Cross

I've been thinking today about a new church appointment and whether I should be willing to take it. At this stage in my pastoral ministry it is not about the money. I'm able to fully retire comfortably, as long as the federal government doesn't go under. What it is about is remaining open to the LORD's leading in my life into new ventures in discipleship. It's about deciding to accept the new things that God is doing in my life, to start afresh in ministry.

Jesus told each of His followers to take up their cross daily and die to themselves. The cross the LORD has given me to take up for Him is not some burden I must endure such as a chronic disease. It is, instead, a new challenge which I can evade, if I so choose, but one I nevertheless take up willingly, even if it has some misgivings.

Jesus, my LORD, reluctantly, yet willingly, took up the cross that was presented to Him in Gethsemane. In so doing, He fulfilled God's will for His life and set the pattern for discipleship for me. So, as a new church appointment possibility begins to take place, I find myself willing, even eager, to see God at work in new ways in my life. I will work to identify God's newness in my life, especially when it doesn't seem to be there. I am determined to trust God in new ways, even if I'm apprehensive about what He might be doing in my life. Mostly, I will in all things seek to give God the glory and thanks for His wonderful gift to me at this late time in my ministry.

Just as at the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, He has now promised to bring forth a new heaven and earth at the end of time. My prayer is that He grant to the church, my wife and me a firm conviction of His goodness and a zeal to participate fully in whatever He intends for us. I pray that we all may be effective witnesses to the world in both word and deed as people who steadfastly proclaim God's love.