“Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12, NRSV)
God has a hold on me.
How else can I explain where I am today? There is no other reasonable explanation for where I have come from and where I am today in life and in the ministry other than, “God has a hold on me.”
I have sat with those who are crossing the threshold from this world to the next. I sat in a Starbucks and talked with an elementary school student about what baptism means. Over the years I got to hang out with some of the coolest teenagers. And when others said it was not possible for teenagers to do certain things (I’m looking at you Habitat for Humanity), I had the honor of watching the “impossible” happen.
Walls are typically built for protection. Nehemiah, in the Old Testament, leads a huge undertaking in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. The Great Wall of China was built to protect dynasties from invasions by surrounding tribes. We build fences around our yards to prevent the neighbor’s pets from trampling our lawns. Emotional walls are produced to protect ourselves from getting hurt by others.
Walls are protective.
“Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.'” (Genesis 8:15-16, NRSV)
For forty days and forty nights Noah and his family, along with an ark full of animals, floated. Finally, the rains stopped and the waters receded. And then, God said to Noah, “Go.”
“Go out of the ark.”
They had gone into the ark to seek shelter from the coming storm. They had gone in obedience to the word of God. But once the waters receded, it was time to go out.
They had been inside long enough.
Too often we choose to stay inside the ark. Read “church” or “comfort zone” or “pew.” And it’s comfortable in our arks. It is safe and familiar. We know what to expect inside our ark.
The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why do you look so resentful?” (Genesis 4:6, CEB)
The Jedi Master Yoda warns both Aiken and Luke Skywalker about anger. Yoda tells Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
Someone should have warned Cain.
There was another school shooting recently, this time in Santa Fe, Texas. I was out-of-town and found out from Megan who texted me the news. Even though we are parents of a toddler, the anxiety that a school shooting creates is not lost on us.
According to a recent Washington Post article, the Santa Fe shooting was not the only one that week. In fact, there has been a large number of school shootings and threats of shootings in 2018. Another article from the Washington Post reports that more children have been killed by school shootings this year than deployed service members.
And while I’m in favor of some action happening to discuss the various issues related to school shootings, I found myself praying. I share with you my prayer and invite you to pray with me.