I’m back from Idaho and Utah, and had a fabulous time meeting with scores of people from all around that area who are in various stages of sorting out what it means to live as God’s child in the world and relate to the church as a family rather than an institution. The discussions were incredible. I met lots of people who with great passion and courage are following God’s leading rather than making themselves comfortable with the status quo. I love that stuff! And I love watching people live on the edge of their relationship with God and not be lulled into boredom by religious routine.
This really came home with a phone call I had a couple of days ago. I was talking to a friend I’ve known for almost 35 years and one of the first ‘mentors’ I had in helping me see the glories of relational life in God and in real community among the Body of Christ. As we were reminiscing about our days together his voice lowered and he said, “It’s sad to think that my best days were my earliest days.”
I was stunned. And, yes, it was incredibly sad. I wouldn’t say he is unhappy now, but for the past few decades he has been a pastor in a mainline denomination. He does that better than anyone I know. He really has a heart for people and gives himself for their good, rather than making them cogs in his own vision. Nonetheless, I could hear the tiredness in his voice as he paused now only a couple of years from retirement. He had hoped for so much more.
I remember thinking like that as well a decade or so ago as my life got caught up in the day to day demands of religious machinery that seemed to always beckon me away from the deeper callings of my heart. I remember reading 2 Corinthians 3:18 one day, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory…” or as one translation says, “From glory to glory….” I used to joke that this journey seems a lot more like “from pit to pit,” rather than from “glory to glory” and I remember lots of people getting a good chuckle out of that. We used to look at the exuberance of new converts and remember with longing those early days. We used to think, ”Just wait until they mature a bit then they will be as bored with this Christian life as the rest of us.” How sad!
Our earliest days were never meant to be our best days. And I have found they are not. Ten years ago I was on that long, painful slide into numbness that religious routine smothers us with. Thankfully, God drew us out of that and gave us a taste of real life in him and real relationships with brothers and sisters. I wouldn’t trade the experiences of the last year for any one previous. It really is from glory to glory that he changes us. That doesn’t mean every day is blissful, but that we see his hand ever-working even in the pain and sacrifice that his life calls us to. And we see the growing imprint of his nature on ours.
That’s what makes it all worthwhile. Don’t let your spiritual life slowly decline into mere routine or commitment. Pour out your heart to him and let him renew you in the glory of his life and set you on the track that takes you further into his glory every day, instead of further away from it. Don’t let yourself get to the end of your days, pining away for the ‘good old days,’ Rather, let him lead you ever-closer to him so that each day reflects his glory better than those who’ve gone before.