An old friend rang up yesterday. He had some time to kill and rang me just to chat and catch up. It was fun; we laughed at each other, caught each other up on the latest news with other mutual friends and spent half an hour just horsing about.
Arriving at a certain destination in life to find that you've finally caught up with where your friends are, spiritually and mentally is such a blessing. When I first got to know him years ago, church and faith were mysteries to me. I wasn't involved in any church, wasn't even attending one regularly. I don't think I even knew what church was for. In the past, when he talked about his struggles with his faith and ministry, I sympathized but could not understand.
It has been like that for some of my old friends, especially the ones I knew from Campus Crusade. Back then, they were starting to get more and more involved in their church youth ministries, starting to serve more in church, delve into theology, ponder the meaning of life, death and resurrection. They were so far ahead, I couldn't see them at all.
I was this messed up and lost kid who wandered into their company. Sometimes I wonder why they let me in. It must have been so obvious I didn't know what I was doing. I see it in others so clearly now; they must have seen it in my eyes too.
Did God use them? I think He did. That verse about being the salt and light is really the key.
I hadn't the foggiest idea about God then and I was heavily involved in a very damaging relationship. But as an ex-crusader who wasn't really one, I often thought of people I knew in crusade and about the things they did in the name of their faith. The ones who went off to become missionaries. The ones who died to self and showed up at church week in and out, serving the church in so many capacities, small and large. The ones who wound up being there for each other in sickness and health and poverty and wealth. The ones who flatly said that they didn't believe in extra-marital sex or that porn was ok. The ones who were kind. The ones who said, over and over again, that Christ is the way, the truth and the life and the only way to salvation is to believe in His name.
These were the lighthouses in the sea and the fog. They shone - dimly sometimes, but always light giving - in an age where everyone seemed to have lost their collective moral compasses.
I watched them from my perch in the sidelines and even through the years I was physically and spiritually farthest from them, they never quite left my heart. For better or for worse, they had stamped my inner landscape with alien notions of personal holiness and the fear of God. But now, when I see them at infrequent gatherings or read their blogs - I finally get what they're struggling with, I finally understand their heart for God.
Christmas is drawing near and even as all the churches gear up for carolling, evangelistic outreach events and celebratory dinners, tempers are bound to fly, tired people are bound to wonder if all this is worth it. So this is for every christian I've ever known who may someday wonder: Did I make a difference? Was it worth it? Did I do enough? I can't see the fruit of my labour despite all that work - was it all for nothing?
As one who took a much longer time to catch up - and then not even on my own strength or volition - I just wanted to say that it was worth it and it wasn't all for nothing.
Yes, you did make a difference. Yes, it was worth it. No, you can't always see the fruit of your labour - but that doesn't mean there wasn't any - you just can't see it yet. God took your weak and fumbling gifts and used it for His glory even when you don't see it. Salvation belongs to the Lord, but He definitely uses your efforts in the process.
So press on. Don't be afraid to be different, to be as drastic as Josaiah. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and speak the truth in love. Press on so that one day we'll get to do the best kind of catch up session - the one that takes place in heaven.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1 Cor 13:12)