Remember what it was like as a kid waiting for Christmas day to arrive? For children, it may be part excitement in seeing far-away extended family, participating in a time-honored family tradition or simply the expectation of a special toy. The questions can be frequent and incessant, sometimes with the touch of whine: "Is it Christmas Day yet?" "It's taking a long time!" "Is it ever gonna' get here?" Kids are so present-focused they have difficulty grasping an understanding of a longer time horizon. It's a combination between wanting something now and their struggle to have hope that something will eventually come to fruition. In reality, I'm not sure many of us adults are much different.
I was speaking with a client the other day when the subject of God's mercy came up. In part, the conversation centered around the Old Testament story of Mephibosheth. He's not a well-known character in the Bible, but one for whom I have a particular affinity. So much so, I named a cat after him ("Phibo" for short - in the picture above, he's peering out the front window anticipating my return from work one day). Anyway, the conversation reminded me of an article I wrote a long time ago. Rather than retell the story here, I thought I might just reprint what I wrote (note: before blogging went mainstream, I sent physical newsletters to folks every quarter). It's from my single days while living in the Orlando area, way back in 2002. Enjoy this "blast from the past"!
"So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more." - Ephesians 4:17-19, NIV84 Many people who've struggled with life-dominating issues have found tremendous help in the Twelve-steps. While it's not for everyone, the benefit to those who've discovered a path to sobriety and serenity through participation in such a community is undeniable. While the movement's core principles (confession, repentance, restitution) are rooted in the gospel message itself, many Twelve-step communities have become more secularized with time, much like many other popular things that become a part of mainstream culture. For Christians, it's important to intentionally integrate Christ and the Scriptures into our recovery.
"God, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference." - Introduction to the Serenity Prayer, traditionally attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr This little prayer has been a mainstay in the American recovery movement for nearly 100 years. The most familiar part of this prayer is quoted above. But if you (like many) have never read the entire prayer, it's quite effective for re-focusing on Kingdom values as we seek to walk out surrender to Christ in a fallen world.
It's a well-worn phrase in American politics within the executive branch of the United States government: "I serve at the pleasure of the President." The staffer who utters these words is, in effect, saying they were asked to serve on the President's payroll and that they will do so until they are told they're no longer needed - at which time they will immediately tender their resignation upon the President's request. Whether it actually happens this way behind closed doors, it's the way this time-honored tradition has been played out before the American public dating back to the early days of our Republic. There's a simplicity to this perspective that has rich application to the life of the Christian leader.
"But it's almost midnight and I know that none of my accountability buddies are going to be awake. What good is it if I'm not going to get a call back in the moment that I'm really struggling most?" Good question. I've heard similar questions from many of my clients over the years. But for those with solid accountability in place, the answer is that we're never alone.