This is for all the Lonely People

This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by
Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup
And ride that highway in the sky

This is for all the single people
Thinking that love has left them dry
Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup
You never know until you try

Well, I’m on my way
Yes, I’m back to stay
Well, I’m on my way back home
“Hit it, Jerry”

This is for all the lonely people
Thinking that life has passed them by
Don’t give up until you drink from the silver cup
She’ll never take you down or never give you up
You’ll never know until you try”

-America.

I hope this post encourages somebody today. Even if it were to light up the horizon for just one person, I should consider it to have accomplished its purpose..

This one then is for the lonely people – yes for those who’ve been thinking that life has passed them by..

Perhaps one of the most poignant words ever uttered are the words “too late”. In them meet many turbulent currents of emotion – regret, bitterness, guilt, sadness, hopelessness, brokenness, frustration, anger, despair- it’s all in there. .

It reminds me of a day long ago when I stood gawking at the rear- end of a train I was supposed to be on. I’d joined my husband for a short stint in Norway and we’d paid through our pockets for a weekend getaway with friends in Sweden. It’d snowed heavily that day and despite skidding and sliding our way to the train station (never..never wear sneakers when you’re trying to run on ice!!), we missed the train. It was a very, very expensive miss…

That’s the thing about missed opportunities… they’re often costly. But yet that’s not the only reason they fill our hearts with this aching loneliness. The hardest thing about ‘missing the bus’ is to be reminded (daily) of those who didn’t, those who unlike you arrived at all of life’s milestones at the predictable and socially appropriate timelines! ‘Too lates’ have a way of making you feel like the clumsy outsider, the social neanderthal you were not prepared to be..And that is probably the most painful part of the deal.

My own story is a saga of ‘too lates’. I didn’t get married at the right time or get to be a mom at the right time or come upon purpose at the right time..And now it would seem that it’s taken several hard knocks to wake me up to some fundamental truths about myself and life that I wish I’d known decades earlier. And I ask myself whether it’s too little… too late?

In several respects at age fifty I feel like I’m starting over. What keeps my shoulders from sagging is the memory of a man whose life never fails to renew my hope in the restorative power of God.

My favourite pic of my Dad

Dad started his life in his mid fifties. He was academically brilliant – Gold Medallist from the then Madras University and one of the few at the time who was offered a full paid scholarship to MIT. With a start like that, the world could’ve been his oyster, but like me, he had some deeply wired fatal flaws. Destructive patterns of behaviour wrecked his choices time and time again and at the end of what many would call the most productive years of his life, he found himself without money, without opportunity, without honour, reputation or security ..and almost without family.

How Dad’s life turned around is nothing short of a bonafide miracle and that’s a story to be told at another time! What I do want to emphasize here is that it did! My Dad (and this is what I loved most about him) had an almost childlike optimism. In his mid fifties, he picked up the broken pieces of his life and began to dream again – not from a place of boldness or courage but from a certain crazy innocence that somehow remained untainted by all he’d been through. Dad was a ‘late bloomer’ if ever there was one – and bloom he did : ) He died a week short of his eightieth birthday – a content man who’d found a reason to live.

So if today finds you as one of them lonely people who thinks that life has passed you by, all I want to say to you is…don’t give up…”until you drink from the silver cup and light that highway in the sky…” You see, there’s a positive side to a day being like a thousand years in the sight of God. On the one hand it means that the wait can seem long. But on the other hand it also implies that with God a thousand years can be made up in a day! And for those of us caught on the wrong foot by time, that should give us tremendous, tremendous hope!

God’s restoration cares little for socially acceptable timelines! Sarah and Abraham became parents at an age when they should’ve been grandparents twice over, Moses spent forty years in no-man’s land before his purpose found him and our own Lord Jesus was called home by his Father at age thirty-three – at the very prime of His life! We’re in good company : )

I don’t know if you’re reading this at the start or the end of your day but would you allow me to sing you this song to cheer you on today..and spur you onto tomorrow?

The New Year dawns. And yet for some of us, the hope it holds out is not vibrant enough to erase that gnawing sense of emptiness within. “What do I need more of?”, we wonder.. more exercise? more love? more drive? more purpose? more discipline? more of God? More breaks? Or perhaps we’d rather word it as what we need less of..less fights, less stress, less debt, less commuting, less drama…?

I think of Jesus approaching the woman at the well, offering her ‘water’ that will leave her permanently satisfied. His exact words – “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again. But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.” ( The Bible, John 4:13-14). My soul has often salivated at those words of Jesus, particularly in seasons or days when life feels ‘dry’. What I would give to never thirst!

What’s still missing? Why does dryness persist even for those of us who’ve encountered the Fountain of Living Water? Why isn’t the Good News gladdening our hearts the way it’s supposed to? I believe that one big reason could be that we’ve engaged with only one half of the ‘good news’.

I was struck by these verses in the Gospel of Mark -“Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God”.(The Bible, Mark 1:14) Ever wondered about the Gospel that Jesus preached? What was its content? (That’s a question worth asking in a time where we’re exposed to so much preaching and teaching on the Gospel. )
Well, Mark in his characteristically crisp style answers that question in the very next sentence. He quotes Jesus’ message of the good news to be – “ the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel”.(The Bible, Mark 1:15) The Good news according to Jesus? – God’s rule on the Earth is immanent! In short, God was finally going to have His way with His Creation. The old order of darkness and death was going to give way to the new order of the Kingdom of light and life! The rules of the game were about to permanently change! And an invitation was being made to change ours too!

In Biblical scripture we see that this is indeed the hope of the ages..that God would finally take His place on the throne. Now, the people of Jesus’ time;the Jewish priests and scholars believed that this reality was to be fulfilled in the Person of a Political leader/a Messiah who would free the Jews from the yoke of Roman oppression but Jesus’ disciples came to understand that this rule would begin in quite an unexpected place -not in the corridors of political power as was assumed but rather in God’s dominion over the human heart, for He had taught them, “the Kingdom of God is within you! “ (The Bible, Luke 17:21). It therefore makes perfect sense for repentance to be an intrinsic part of Jesus’ teaching -a new rule was about to be established and we were to wholeheartedly amend our ways to welcome it!

Through his death Jesus paved the way for this rule to begin. He took upon Himself the sin of the world -the corruption and decadence of our hearts, so that God’s spirit might dwell within us and make us alive again to Him! But here’s the truth I want to underline -this indescribably precious gift of new life does not get ‘activated’ without repentance. Could it be possible that this is the ‘missing ingredient’ in our lives? For if there’s no repentance, there’s no life. Or to put it in the words of James (the brother of Jesus) – “faith without works is dead”. (The Bible, James 2:26) Faith not expressed in acts of repentance is dead and cannot bring life. In other words it could be that what we need is not more of this or that, nor more of God ..nor even more of answered prayer but rather it is God having more of us that is the pressing need of the hour.

To be honest, I’ve been troubled by teaching and preaching that’s focused entirely on receiving the free gift of Jesus’ sacrifice on behalf of humanity. True, the gift is free. No amount of moral and spiritual scrubbing will cleanse our sin-stained hearts but indeed if a new Kingdom has come, and Jesus is the King and Ruler of that Kingdom, the gift must be met with the offering of a humbled, repentant life!

And that brings me to another very important point. Repentance is not a ‘moment of confession’. It’s a lifestyle. It is the Christian lifestyle. There’s no life without it. There are two other words that we can substitute for repentance here – obedience or self denial. Repentance/obedience/self-denial – all three words come down to the same thing. To receive Jesus is more than a prayer..to receive means to welcome and to welcome God means to live life on His terms, not ours. It is only when we implement this self-denial/obedience/repentance in the minutiae of our day to day actions and choices, that we will experience the power of the new life He came to give us. It is then that we will drink from the fount of living waters to the satisfaction of our souls. I suspect that what is killing our spiritual vitality is not the absence of more revelation of God, but the absence of more repentance. (In truth the Bible teaches that Repentance leads to Revelation, but that’s for another blog..)

We preach, “Find Jesus, Find Peace”, “Find Jesus, Find Hope”, “Find Jesus, Find Joy”, but truth is, none of these manifest in our experience without the wholehearted turning of our choices towards God…not just our faces..our choices. Why are we as believers still empty? Because sadly, in believing, we’ve forgotten to follow. To use a rather harsh metaphor, we use Him as a towel to wipe up our dirt but have forgotten to gird our towels around our waists and serve others the way He modelled for us. We ‘accept’ Him like a legal loophole to escape the penalty of sin but that’s not the same as repentance and it is repentance He seeks. He seeks the intimacy borne from like-mindedness.

Jesus said, that there was only ONE way to find life, and that was to lose it! (“For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it.- The Bible, Luke 9:24) Indeed what we need more of is ‘self-death’ and what we need less of is our chronic self-centredness. The road to life and satisfaction begins when we continue in believing and repenting in thought and action. One without the other leads to death, not life.

Thus says the LORD:
“Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.

Jeremiah 6:16, The Bible

Ponder. What a lovely word that is! To ponder means to think about (something) carefully, especially before making a decision or reaching a conclusion. And that’s exactly what these writings from Jeremiah ushered me into. The specific subject of the ‘pondering’ was the phrase “old paths”. When you look it up in the original language (Hebrew), you’ll come upon this : old – ôwlâm, o-lawm’; or עֹלָם ʻôlâm; from alam; properly, concealed, i.e. the vanishing point; generally, time out of mind (past or future).

So the ‘old path’ literally means the path that began ‘time out of mind’ in the past and winds its way ‘time out of mind‘ into the future. In short it’s the path that exists beyond the ‘vanishing point’ of visible earthly reality! What a spectacularly meaningful picture of eternity!

Lets dig a little deeper into this lovely imagery. The dictionary defines the vanishing point as a point of disappearance, cessation, or extinction. Yet we know too well that the road only appears to disappear from view and in fact winds on long past ‘the vanishing point’. It struck me that, that’s so much like what death is like -a point on the horizon where we disappear from ‘sight’ but in reality continue on. In truth, the road (our journey) stretches out on both sides of the vanishing point (much longer on the far side, truth be told!); yet we tend to have eyes only for what is in immediate view! (Ponder..)

Now in these writings of Jeremiah, we engage with a God who is pleading with us to seek out these old paths, that we may find life and rest for our souls. Imagine with me if you will a loooong stretch of road extending from the eternal past to the eternal future with our microscopic lives sandwiched somewhere in between. God’s entreaty to us to seek out this path implies that we cannot assume that the road we’re presently travelling on is the ancient one, the good one that’s existed time out of mind! We are implored to turn our feet towards it from wherever we are!!

This made me see the moral teachings of the Bible in a fresh light. These are not just a set of good principles constrained to our lives in the here and now. Rather they belong to the ancient well-traversed path that existed well before we ever came into being and that will continue on well after our individual ‘vanishing points’. So when we align our lives with them, we bring ourselves back into sync with timeless truth, not time-bound ones. (Ponder again..)

And one final pondering.. In art a vanishing point or point of convergence is a key element that allows one to create drawings, paintings, and photographs that have a three-dimensional look . Without it, every picture would be rather dull and two dimensional. Now that’s a principle that’s as true to art as it is to life! Without the inclusion of ‘the vanishing point’ in my own big picture of life, my existence would cease to have meaning and fullness! I am increasingly finding that it’s only eternity that can satisfy my hungry, easily bored soul! No endeavour on earth however big, important or potentially life-changing can fill this listless soul’s insatiable demand for MORE. It is only the eternal perspective – i.e. the knowledge that some of what I’m putting my heart into will last forever (and conversely that some things are simply not worth the time, energy and gripe I’m expending on it) that gives my life the rich, three-dimensional fullness it was designed to take on!

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