Welcome to Songs of Salvation! Each Sunday I will feature a Christian author sharing a "Song of Salvation" to uplift and encourage believers and glorify God.
And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. Revelation 12:11 NLT
Authors, find out how to share your Song of Salvation here.
I grew up in a family where faith in God was closely integrated into our family life and experience. My parents modeled relationship with God to my sister and me, and as a child I simply accepted what I was taught. Beyond childhood, though, I found that the faith of a child no longer satisfied me, and in my senior year of high school I was confronted with the need to choose for myself. The cultural setting was far from sympathetic, and a number of other friends with the same roots chose to abandon faith. In my senior year class there were just two others–both girls–who openly followed Jesus.
I remember, during our family’s annual seaside vacation, standing high up on the rocks, agonizing for way too long about whether to jump into the sea like the bolder kids. Eventually, heart in my mouth, I did it. Deciding about God felt very similar. It was clear to me at the time that going undercover wasn’t an option. It would have been a complete cop out. If I was going to follow Jesus, I would have to join my two classmates in doing so openly.
I chose God, and in the process I was forced to step way outside my comfort zone. That first step was so difficult that everything that followed in the next couple of years seemed easy by comparison. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, but I’ve never looked back, and I have no regrets.
Life hasn’t been boring since I decided to become a follower of Jesus. More than any other single choice I’ve made, that decision has influenced where I’ve gone, what I’ve done, how I’ve approached my career, and plenty else besides. It’s had a profound impact on the way I’ve handled relationships–as a husband and father, within my extended family, and beyond.
For me, knowing God has changed every aspect of life. I wear glasses, and although I can see without them, everything is fuzzy. Relationship with God is like a lens that allows me to see the world more clearly. The colors are richer, and the details sharper.
I’ve received so much grace from God, and I’d like to think that in response I’ve been a little more gracious to others than would otherwise have been the case. At the very least, I’m conscious every day of how much I have to be grateful for.
That doesn’t mean it’s always comfortable. I feel like I’ve been on an apprenticeship–one that’s stretched me in uncomfortable directions and taken me places I would never have gone. A friend once observed that following Jesus isn’t for the fainthearted. I think he was right. God doesn’t do half-baked. If you want predictable and uneventful, this isn’t it, and if you’re looking for fame and fortune you’ll almost certainly do better elsewhere.
My mother passed away a few years ago after a protracted decline as a result of Alzheimer’s Disease. During the whole of that period my father cared for her at home. Having promised to be faithful to her in sickness and in health, he never wavered in that commitment, even as his faithfulness became increasingly costly.
As the disease progressed, daily events became surreal at times, and occasionally quite bizarre, especially during the last couple of years of my mother’s life. My father was in his early eighties at the time, and I once asked him how he coped with the craziness. “I never know what’s going to happen next,” he told me with a smile, “so I treat each day as an adventure.”
I’ve often thought about his words since. Treating life as an adventure seems like an eminently sensible approach, especially when the going gets tough.
Adventures make me think of my favorite literary genre, fantasy. There’s always a quest that launches the main character on a journey into the unknown. We know that the quest is important, even if its full purpose is uncertain. And while the journey might be trouble-free in the beginning, it never stays that way for long. Distractions and opposition are guaranteed, and sometimes the burdens will seem almost too heavy to bear. But there will be unexpected help along the way, and a few faithful companions to share the load.
Such is the journey undertaken by Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings. But the description fits my father’s life experience, too. And it sounds like my own faith journey–uncomfortably so in some respects.
The good news is that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. In a fantasy adventure we get the feeling that whatever might happen, and however bad it gets, the quest will be completed successfully in the end. “There never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope,” says Gandalf. Yet we never doubt that Frodo will make it to Mordor somehow, and the ring will be cast into the fires of Mt. Doom. And we’re not disappointed.
I have no idea how life will play out for me, but I have hope. I didn’t map out the journey, and my hopes for completing it certainly aren’t founded on my own capabilities. I’m putting my hope in the one I’m following: “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith”. (Hebrews 12:2).