Hebrews 11:13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.
Today I wrote a short devotional about this Bible verse for the Good News Daily published by the Bible Reading Fellowship. The devotional will not appear in print until after New Year’s Day of 2019.
(By the way, I recommend this little leaflet publication that fits inside a standard church bulletin. It provides a one-minute devotional for each day of the week along with the daily scripture references from the Revised Common Lectionary. It’s a great tool to share with your congregation each week.)
Right before I wrote out the devotional meditation to go with verse in Hebrews, I had posted an old blog entry on Facebook. It was one I had included in my collection published as On Pelican Wings:
In Gerald May’s book on the 16th century classic from St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night of the Soul, he points to one of John’s unexpected conclusions.
“Sometimes the only way we can enter the deeper dimensions of the journey is by being unable to see where we’re going.
“John says that in worldly matters it is good to have light so we know where to go without stumbling. But in spiritual matters it is precisely when we do think we know where to go that we are most likely to stumble. Thus, John says, God darkens our awareness in order to keep us safe. When we cannot chart our own course, we become vulnerable to God’s protection, and the darkness becomes a ‘guiding light,’ a ‘night more kindly than the dawn.’
“Let me say it again: whether we experience it as painful or pleasurable, the night is dark for our protection. We cannot liberate ourselves; our defenses and resistance will not permit it, and we can hurt ourselves in the attempt. To guide us toward the love that we most desire, we must be taken where we could not and would not go on our own. And lest we sabotage the journey, we must not know where we are going. Deep in the darkness, way beneath our senses, God is instilling ‘another, better love’ and ‘deeper, more urgent longings’ that empower our willingness for all the necessary relinquishments along the way.”
With the thought of God making things “dark” on my mind, I thought about how it would be 21 months before regular readers would see what I had put down for that day’s entry. I was living out the same experience described for those long-ago saints. I had made the effort but could not hope to see results any time soon.
A favorite line from Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, came to mind. Rick starts his first chapter with the aphorism, “It’s not about you.” I have quoted this line many times. But now a variation took shape in my thinking. I think the familiar phrase is a good way to summarize the principle of having a Christian servant-heart. God calls us to serve, not to be served.
But we can’t serve others at all if we are not there to begin with. People won’t be reading my little devotional entry for many months yet. But they can’t read it at all if I don’t get to work and write it now, long before it gets to their hands, and long before I have any way of knowing who they might be.
I adjusted the aphorism a bit. “It’s not JUST about you.” There’s a part for me to play, responding to the Lord’s direction. And he already knows who he intends to touch with the fruit of my labor. I don’t, and don’t need to know. I can do my part without knowing the rest of his plan.
Sometimes, lest we sabotage the journey, we must not know where we are going. It’s enough if God knows.
UPDATE: Melanie has also reflected on the Rick Warren quote at her blog.