Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 39 - "Don't Look Back!"

Day 39 – Saturday
Don’t Look Back!

On June 28 of 2009 (my 37th birthday), I wrote the following:

Photo: Heraclitus of Ephesus
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus (540-480 BC) said, "You can never step into the same river; for new waters are always flowing on to you.” No doubt a different version of the same quote, he is also purported as saying, "No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man."

I found this to be true on my 37th birthday, last Sunday, when a group of friends from high school got together to share a picnic meal in the park. Most of us hadn't seen each other for almost 20 years. How could I expect that everything would be just the same as it was before?

Most of us had gained weight (congratulations to those who didn't). We have lost hair, or gained it in places we should never have it. That hair doesn't look quite the same as it once did, either, with tinges of gray found on most of us. Some who were meatitarians are now vegetarians. All of us were single, and last Sunday there were spouses and gaggles of children running around.

Heraclitus also said, "There is nothing permanent except change." That couldn't be more true! I guess, since the mini-reunion coincidentally coincided with my birthday, I let it affect me more than most. While I enjoyed the company of my friends, I have to admit that seeing them made me feel old. As everybody changes around us--we watch our kids grow, we watch our spouse change--somehow we picture ourselves as remaining the same. The impact of that is greater when you see someone you haven't seen in almost two decades.

"Boy, you guys sure got old," you want to say. "It must be you. It couldn't possibly be me."

But the river continues to flow. It changes and shifts, making us acknowledge that the philosopher was right. You can never step into the same river twice. So if it's true that you can't go back again, the only question remaining is How can I make today's river more beautiful? And that's a better thing to focus on, than the fact that I'm getting older every day.

Yesterday, three things happened that underscored Heraclitus’ point in my life. First, I delivered a mattress to a church member who’s attending the same seminary I attended in 1996. Fourteen years ago, the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond was two brownstone houses just across the road from the large campus of the Presbyterian School of Christian Education. Today, is greatly expanded, having bought and renovated the Presbyterian campus. The student body is much larger, and the faculty has changed dramatically.

Then, I delivered some wonderful Girl Scout cookies to one of the same high school friends I visited with on my birthday. My friend is a wonderful person, but again our visit emphasized the changing river of life.

Finally, I received a letter from my deceased grandmother. She’s been gone for over a year now, and my aunt had been going through her belongings when she came across a letter that Grandma had written, to be copied and delivered to all her grandchildren at the time of her death. In the letter she gave some advice, expressed her love, and wished us all well. Yet no matter how nice it was to hear from Grandma from beyond the grave, it was like trying to step into the same river twice. It just wasn’t the same.

Now—let me apply this to our commitment to pray for an hour a day.

When relationships change, they are changed forever. The old relationship can never be regained. Neither should you try to step back into the old way a relationship used to be. This is also true for your relationship with God. Since you’ve been praying for a hour a day for almost 40 days now, your relationship with God has changed. You’ve become more intimate, more trusting, more patient as you listen for God’s voice. You’ve learned to carve out a part of your day for prayer, and have found that you really couldn’t do without it now. At one time, you might have thought you couldn’t afford to spend an hour in prayer, but now you realize you can’t afford not to. Soon, our Lenten covenant time will be over, and you will be faced with a choice. Will you continue in prayer, or will you go try to step back into the old relationship you used to have with God?

You’ve gone too far to turn back now. You can’t step into the same river twice. If you try to go back, you’ll be dissatisfied. In Luke 9:62, Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." My question is—why would you want to look back, when there’s so much glory ahead?

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