Last week I was sitting on the train, reading a book about the personality of Jesus. Fabulous, descriptive and moving, each new page seemed to offer a new richness to the earthly life of the God I love. I paused to put it down, letting the final words of the chapter sink in. At this point a man next to me spoke.
“A God book?”
“Yes,” I smiled. “It’s all about the life of Jesus. Really good…”
“Yeah, I saw the word Jesus pop out on a few of the pages…”
As it turned out, this man used to be a pastor at a church – so he was no stranger to Jesus. Or at least, before everything changed.
He told me his kids were still actively involved in church, but he and his wife don’t go anywhere now. They just gradually stopped attending. His work as a pastor involved long hours, and was draining emotionally. After finishing that job he moved into an administration role for a church, and as he clocked up more and more hours it became more about running an organisation and less about his relationship with God. He became disillusioned by processes and procedures. He is now working in senior management for a large company, spending the remainder of his time at the gym or surfing. The voice of God seems like a distant echo to him now.
“I used to be all about telling people they needed to come closer to God. Now it’s like I need the same reminder,” he reflected. “I know I could choose to be involved in church again, re-find God or whatever… but… I don’t know. Something was lost for me along the way… and life is just so busy now…”
I volunteered a couple of stories about my own troughs and peaks in my walk with Jesus… my own disappointments and disillusionments… and how God had worked in my life. But I think what he needed most was a listening ear.
As the train pulled into Central, I fumbled around for a parting comment.
“I really hope you find what you’re looking for…” I said.
“Yeah… I know what I’m looking for – that’s the thing. But I have to choose.”
Life can really take over can’t it?… pulling even the most committed of us in different directions. Our schedules become busier and busier – and we’re lost in the haze of past disappointments.
I’m so glad that my God is eternal and unchangeable. Even though I might turn away, or let the waves of life, or my disappointment with church or God or whatever it might be, dictate my decisions – he is still there. He waits patiently, and gently guides his redeemed children, such as me, back into his arms.
As I left the train, I prayed this man would discover God in a fresh way – that he would know that the Father’s arms were open to him, and that it really was safe to return…
“For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.” (Psalm 117:2)