Every time I turn around it seems, I come face-to-face with the problems that appear to infest the Church, the "body of Christ" as many among us would proclaim.
Today, it was an established executive with a well known publishing corporation that specializes in ministry books and pamphlets He titled his "blog" - Saints on the Lonely Walk of Faith.
Now I probably would not have had anything to say if he had used a word like "frustrating" or "confusing" as - in my opinion, there is much to be said about the frustration in the church and that many of its followers are confused by what they observe along the way.
But lonely, I'm sorry but after walking in faith for the past thirty-nine years - as of last Monday, the only loneliness I have found has been a figment of my own imagination. It will be eight months tomorrow since my beloved wife passed away and I hurt, oh, how I hurt for awhile. Then I would discover that her family who had always professed love for me during our marriage, no longer even cared for me. I started to wait impatiently for their calls, at times hoping they might stop by to visit, but it would never happen. One morning, I woke up to a feeling that I was all alone in a city I hardly knew and loneliness appeared to be an option.
Then, I opened my Bible for a word of comfort and there it was, Jesus' words, "I will ask the Father and He will give you another helper, that He may be with you forever, that is the spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him, or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. (John 14:16-17)
The "He" of course was the Holy Spirit, the one with whom I had wrestled for awhile, confused by those who were fervently teaching about Him and eagerly employing the "magic" of speaking in tongues. It sounded good, but it didn't work for me as they said it would work until that fateful evening as I sat between two sisters with a problem that they insisted I had caused. One would say I had done "this" and the other would insist I had done "that" and I did not understand either claim. Finally, I suggested we pray and they led and each fervently pleaded their case to the Father and I sat there amazed as what they were claiming in their prayers was not the same as when their voices were raised against me. I started to pray, asking the Father to give me the words to say and to my amazement, the words that came out of my mouth were intelligible at best. I started to stop and they urged me to continue as there were tears falling across their faces and then, they got up from their seats and came and fell at my feet.
What had happened? One thing that had actually happened was that both of these dear friends were now asking me to forgive them, while in my heart-of-hearts, I needed them to forgive me. We made our amends quickly and would go on our separate ways. It was not long afterwards that I received another job offer in another city and we would never meet again, at least here on earth.
I kept asking, what had actually happened, did I really speak in tongues, and it would be years before I would have that experience again. What does it mean to me? It means that God is true to His word, He had sent another helper and on occasion, He has demonstrated His power over my tongue.
But that it not the important past. Awakening from my concerns that I host lost my dear wife and her references to me that I had been, her "rock", I began to fill my life with an understanding that I needed to get on with my life. I forgave those who had confused me by their actions and I have to believe that it is God who reminds me to pray for each of them, daily. They might not care. I know, He cares.
Arising from the suggestion of loneliness I asked God to show me what to do on a daily basis, He has led me to uncover people waiting to express their love for others by loving me.
I would remind my friend that the walk of faith is not a lonely walk, but one filled with the promises we can find throughout the scriptures and all we are required to do is act on them.
I am reminded that on the streets where we each live, the houses were filled with people who need to know the truth that sets us free and the joys we will experience as we grasp the realities in His promises.
It will soon be my 85th birthday, God willing, and I am reminded of another old man's voice who I met within days of my "conversion". He and the others were singing a song that lifted my spirit with these words, "It gets sweeter and sweeter as the days go by, oh, what a love between my Lord and I." I went over to see him as the services ended and asked, "Are those words that you were singing true to you?"
"Yes, son," he replied, "It gets even sweeter than that." And so it has been in my life.