Vol. 11 No. 7 July 2009
Yesterday morning, my wife and I climbed into our car at about 5:00 a.m. and began a journey to Valdosta, GA. I had been asked by an old and dear friend to come and preach the funeral of her sister. It is about a 5½-hour drive from our house. After the funeral and a quick hospital visit, we headed home. We got home about 9:00 p.m. last night. It was a long trip, but it was well worth the time and travel.
As we travelled, I would look down at our odometer, and I would see the miles click away behind us. I could not help but think of the journey we were taking, but more so about the journey that we had already taken.
In April of 1981, we travelled the same road. It was totally different then. Highway 84 from Dothan to Valdosta was, frankly, not a very good road back then. As we went through one little town, the electric sign on a bank said 93°. We were moving from north Mississippi, and it was not anywhere near that hot up there yet. We had a child that had just turned two the month before. We were moving to a brand new place with no certainty of exactly what to expect. We stayed there for nearly ten years. A daughter and our youngest son were both born while we were in Valdosta.
Yesterday, we travelled, just the two of us. It is totally different now. First of all, Highway 84 is four-lane all the way from Dothan to Valdosta. Now the temperatures in Valdosta usually don’t vary much from those in our South Alabama home. The two-year-old of 1981 is about to turn 30. His sister is married and has given us a grandson, and the youngest is a sophomore at Faulkner University now. We had not been able to visit Valdosta very much for several years, but in the last year Barbara has been back to a wedding, two funerals, and for me to speak at the Airport congregation. I was with her for all those trips except the wedding.
The miles of life lived have passed on by and are leading into tomorrow. As each click of time goes by, we add new experiences, new phases, and new segments like those of the past that have made us who we are today. It is wonderful to go and see old friends. Memories flood back about things of the past. We were right across from Georgia Christian School, where our two oldest started school. Barbara was reminded of the English and French classes she taught. She still sees some of her former students, like Jason Chesser who preaches now in Wetumpka, AL. We remembered when I left our oldest son at kindergarten, because I was studying at the library. Wonderful memories and precious friends have been born in days like those.
I am thankful for the trip that I am travelling. Life changes. New friends are made. They do not replace old ones; they simply cause an increase in your life. I am thankful for the friends who are part of my life today. We have travelled many roads since 1981. Only the Lord knows what roads remain ahead of us. All I do know is that each new road, each new journey, will include some “potholes” and some detours, and some “rough weather,” but will also include joy, happiness and wonderful friends both from the past and those I know now, and those yet to come.
I know exactly where I want this journey to lead. That day will come that the journey of this life will end. The miles will no longer be counting away, and the clock will stop, for I will have entered into a land measured by eternity not time. There I hope to spend the endless ages in the presence of the friends I have made along the journey, and those that I have never met before. I truly believe that life is a journey worth taking.
“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. ” (Hebrews 11:8-10).
One thing some people resist is another person trying to change them. A young lady may not appreciate it when her boyfriend starts trying to mold her into something of his “ideal woman.” Therefore, she insists: “Don’t try to change me; that’s not me.”
Occasionally you hear people say, “That’s just the way I am.” A man may have a problem controlling his temper. In a variety of circumstances, he may become angered, and therefore, show it through piercing words, sarcasm or unkind actions. When brought to his attention, he says something like, “Everybody knows that’s just me; everyone knows I have a problem controlling my temper.” The idea often conveyed is that you should just accept me the way I am with my spiritual weaknesses and flaws: “Don’t try to change me.”
While it is true that you and I have our weaknesses, it is not “a given” that we should just accept them, learn to live with them and not be bothered by them. Jesus did not come to reinforce our flaws. He did not come and say, “Just be your natural self however ugly and selfish you may happen to be.”
Becoming a disciple and follower of Jesus, we have committed ourselves to adopting the totality of his teaching, his spirit of meekness, humility, longsuffering, forgiveness and compassion; yes, we have obligated ourselves to adopting His way of thought and imitating His way of life. The Christian life involves a process of growth, development, transformation—becoming like Jesus. Friends and brethren, heaven has no reservations available for those who tell Jesus, “Just leave me alone—don’t try to change me.” Instead of that approach, may we pray: “Jesus, make me like you” whereby the beauty of Jesus may unquestionably be seen within us. Never doubt the power inherent in his Word, which can make us all He wants us to be.