Wineskins Archive

December 20, 2013

Hope Network Newsletter: I Will Come to You (Jan-Feb 1998)

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Reflections on the Living Presence of a Risen Christ

by Lynn Anderson
January – February, 1998

30“Tell me, doctor,” asked the despondent patient, “Is life really worth living?” “That,” replied the doctor, “depends on the liver.”

Not at all a new question. Inscribed on the tombstone of an ancient Roman are these words: “I was not. I was. I am not. I care not.” Is this to be the lot of us all? What do we do when hope dies?

At a conference a few years back, I spotted Bob leaning against the wall, alone, though in a crowded room, staring at the floor, his eyes as vacant as last year’s bird’s nest. When I asked what was wrong, it seemed as though it took Bob five minutes to drag his eyes up from the floor till they met mine. Then he spoke for a lot of us, “Lynn, I have lost my dream. What do you do without a dream?”

One Sunday morning, not long after, my good friend Mike steered me to a quiet corner. Then choked out the word that last Friday, at 45 years of age, he had been handed his pink slip. Fired from an executive position in a corporation he served well for over 20 years. “What do you do on Monday when your dreams die on Friday?”

Sometimes it seems that dreams are dying all around us and hope drains out of every pore.

A business we poured everything into for years finally goes south.

A career that claimed the best years of our lives stalls.

The pink slip wipes out a lifetime of security.

A loved one dies, or leaves.

A love affair that filled tomorrow with flavor dies, and it hurts terribly, even when it may be a relationship that needed to be killed.

A mate, who meant more than life, turns cold, then walks out of your life.

The marriage is over, but the remains won’t stay buried.

Or marriage never materialized to begin with. Alone.

What does my heart do when I stand alone in the darkness? With no dreams. And no hope.

It was dark that morning when a few of his best friends headed for his tomb. Insufferably dark. Dark with several kinds of darkness, not merely the physical absence of light. They stood in the abysmal blackness some call “the dark night of the soul.”

Of course, they grieved at the grave of a friend. But their grief ran even deeper than the loss of a loved one. Their very cause for living had died with him. And with it hope died too. From all appearances, their long awaited messiah, for whom they had left everything and burned all bridges, was really no messiah at all. Yes, a beloved friend – but now a dead and self-deluded fool – at best. At worst a betrayer of their deepest affections.

Dawn brought with it daylight. But the darkness that had settled over his devastated friends still persisted.

For me, dawn is a symbol of hope, a new day, a new beginning. This morning, int he gray light just before sun-up I was running down a country road. Between strides I kept glancing to the east as the sky slowly turned soft purple, then pink – and finally a ball of fire burst over the horizon, shooting its arrows of gold at the heart of the darkness.

I stopped running. I tell you. I stopped running and shouted at the dawn. Shouted at the top of my lungs in the soft golden light of the rising sun. Dawn! Hope! Yesterday’s mistakes, the haunting shadows of the night – all flooded out by blinding light – a day of new beginnings.

But dawn did not help the friends of Jesus huddled around his burial place. On the contrary, it only brought to light another day of hopelessness. Dawn seemed actually their enemy that day. At least while it was still dark, a person could imagine – and hope – and not be forced to face the devastating facts. But dawn lit the way to see a tomorrow they could scarcely bear to face. Dawn only led on toward Monday. “And what do you do on Monday, when your dreams die on Friday?” Tell me. Did this morning’s rising sun mean something like this for you?

Nevertheless dawn came. And brought them the surprise of the ages. The rising sun proved anything but enemy. Actually it symbolically lit the way for his friends to see a larger dawning. A bright and glorious dawning. They saw emptiness, yes. But even the word empty totally reversed meanings. The sun’s first rays, like probing fingers, explored the cracks and crannies of his tomb – and found it empty. The tomb was empty!

And the emptiness meant He was alive.

He was not a misguided, dead fool after all.

And for sure, no betrayer who brought dreams crashing down.

The Dream Is Still Alive

His life went on. Dawn did not show that huddled circle of friends the emptiness of tragic endings and broken dreams. No. Oh, no. Never. Sunrise signaled a day of new beginning.

The dream was still alive – is still alive – in ways that can never be killed.

Their friend still lived. Still lives.

And he continues as a friend still. Not just at Mary’s house for an hour. Or on the road for a day, for the few who happened to be near. Our friend is alive. At all places. In all times. For all people. With hope and dreams. For all who seek relationship with him. Always alive!

Yes, of course that tiny band of folks gathered at the tomb that long ago morning could scarcely bear to face tomorrow without him. Nor can I. Nor you. Nor need we.

He is alive. If that is not true, nothing else matters. I have always been prone to depression. Maybe you too. And some mornings we have struggled to think of some good reason to get up and face the day.

But then Jesus makes us smile. And laugh. And shout.

So early in the morning, at dawn I shouted and laughed – at the top of my lungs for a day of new beginnings. Do you feel what this means?

He is really still alive. And he promised: “I will never leave you or forsake you.” “I will not leave you orphans.” “I will come to you.” “Lo, I am with you.

Life is Worth the Living

These are not mere religious facts to tuck away in our brain files. This is present reality. He is here – always. Invisible, yes. In another dimension, yes. But:

Never out of touch. Never deaf to our cries. Never out of reach. Never pre-occupied.

Which means I can have a relationship with him – and that is all in life that really matters. Otherwise, why face tomorrow? Without him, is life really worth the living? But with him I can face tomorrow and life is worth the living, just because he lives.

So listen – we live in the day of his resurrection. And resurrection is a day of new beginnings. The dark past can be totally dispelled, like night shadows vanish under the fresh light of dawn. Did your business go down this month? Jesus would inquire, “Who are you, a business person? Or a person? I came alive to say you are a person. And precious to me!” “You really do matter to me. And I can turn this dark night of failure into the dawning of great opportunity. To begin again.” Not necessarily to begin a new business. But a new way of looking at tomorrow. And failure. And success. And dreams.

Your marriage has been hell, for years now. Especially lately, since the affair. Trust seems destroyed. Anger rules the days and the nights. Communication means fighting. Silence does too. But He is alive to say, “You can be forgiven.” “Your emotions can heal.” “And your marriage. You can feel alive. And begin again. New.”

To give love, not demand it. To bring Joy, not consume it. To become a student of your mate’s needs, not of his or her faults. To forgive, not remind. To hope rather than resent. Even to surrender, not win. To rekindle love. Even romance. And dreams. He is alive.

God. Church. Prayer. Bible. Faith. They all seem so far away and so long ago. Time has moved like lightning, and I’ve been away for years now. Life seems mostly about using up the time between now and the day of my funeral. Staying too busy to hush the noisy voices asking questions of my soul. What is hope? The one who is alive forever says the gift of new life is offered fresh every morning.

New Life is Still Available

You can decide to accept that gift today. And come home. Back to full spiritual vitality. Come home to God. Back home to Bible, church, prayers. And hope. Why couldn’t I? Why didn’t I resist? I don’t like where I am going. But bright lights. Then dim lights. Alluring perfume. Sweet wine. Clouded judgment and at least the fleeting feeling of life. Of loving. Of being loved. But I cannot stand the way I live. The way I feel. Going nowhere. But I have sinned so deeply, so shamefully. Again, and again and again … and ….

New life came out of the grave and is still available on this day of new beginnings. You can be forgiven. Completely. In one instant. And find the loving arms of Christian brothers and sisters around you. You can feel clean again, and alive and loved, really loved … again and again and again and again on this day of beginning again.

Divorced. The judge said the word you always hated. Believed it would never happen to you. But it did. And you really didn’t want it. And it is ten times the hell you imagined it would be back when you saw it through the eyes of a married person. Now it seems like life is over. And that part of life – that center of life is over. It is gone. The marriage is dead. But the mate is still alive. The funeral past. But the corpse still walks around.

But Jesus lives and life is not finished. He came alive to let you start over. Not necessarily with a new marriage. But with a new center for your life. A real intimate companionship with a living, eternal friend, who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” No, I never married. I’m single. No, of course I don’t want to be. But the years zipped by, and no real opportunities came my way. Oh, people came. But not the kind to spend my life with.

Now, frankly, some days I wish I’d not been so particular. Maybe a mate less than I hoped for would be better than no mate at all. Married friends say, “No mate is ever all we would have dreamed, anyway.” But they don’t know what I feel. Life is stalled out. I feel partial. No children. Or grandchildren. I have too many years ahead, and no one to really share my life with. Has life passed me by? Why me? Why not someone who does not want these things? I feel dead already – but won’t get my funeral for decades.

You Need Never Be Alone

Jesus. Jesus said, “I was dead and I am alive forever more.” “Life is in me. Be willing to leave husband, wife, children – for me. Be satisfied with me alone, and then you will find deep satisfaction.” He is alive and wishpering, “I too knew singleness. But I also knew the zest and flavor of my life in the father’s loving will. Today is a day of new beginnings. Not necessarily with a mate. Or even a fiancee, but a new way of looking at personhood and at fulfillment.

“The circumstances of your life may not seem very satisfactory. But I long to be your companion now. My other friends and I will surround you. Always. Even into old age. You need never be alone in my world of new beginnings.”

Unemployed. For the first time in my life, without work. I can’t believe it. Always worked hard. Been honest, loyal. Paid my dues. Everyone said that would pay off. But it hasn’t. Who would have predicted such an economy in my county. So few jobs even for the young and trained, let alone for those past mid-life. Who will hire someone my age in today’s aggressive and competitive marketplace. What will I do? Where will I turn? It looks like the end. And it may be. Could be the end of the kind of life to which I have grown accustomed.

But Jesus is alive in this day of new beginnings. To be our friend. And give us tasks. And to provide. And Jesus has friends all over the world who have never had as much to live on as I do, even when I am without work. In Africa, India, Latin America, Siberia … Thousands of believers live each day from hand to mouth. And many days the mouth finds nothing in the hand. Yet they live, not like the last day, but like the first day of the rest of their lives.”

Because he is not dead. he is alive and he is present and he awaits conversation with you and wants to give abundant life. To teach a new way of looking at things or the lack thereof. At real life which, says he, “has noting to do with employment.” “Your life,” he reassures, “is not about the abundance of things possessed. Consider the lilies of the field. He cares for them. Yet, they are unemployed.

Now is a day of beginning again. Yes, often searching for useful work to earn our bread. And to pay the expenses of being a Christian. It is also a day to begin a savings account – in heaven. To begin allowing my helplessness, penniless-ness and poverty become opportunities to put my trust in Him, and to find my joy and satisfaction in him and in His people and in his work and in his presence.

Chasing Dreams

Religion has never been a big deal. For me it was not bad. Only irrelevant. I was challenged by my career. Building up my business. Making money. Enjoying my position. Comfort. Travel. Good food and wine. Chasing dreams. I had friends in high places. And expensive toys. And a prestigious address. Fine clothes. And … Now I have all those. My whole life has been geared to my goals. Expansion. Achievement. Upward mobility. And now, I have what I had dreamed of, and more. And still reaching ….

But my life is not better now. And I am no different. Oh yes, I have grown more sophisticated, more cynical. My values and appetites have shifted. And grown. Yet inside – inside I am no different, except maybe less happy. Less fulfilled. In fact, I can’t seem to find any lasting satisfaction in my relentless pursuits. I am growing older, and more tired. And I can see the day my family will be grown and gone. And my energy. Maybe tomorrow or the next day. Then what? Mostly, I have lost my dreams. How does a person recover a dream? How do you face life without one? How do you begin again? Of what stuff are dreams built, anyway?

The living Jesus said that life is not meant to gradually grind down and then stop. “I came,” he promised, “that you might have life, and have it more abundantly. Lots of life. Full of life. Long or short.” “I am alive,” he said, “and because I live, you will live also.”

Jesus wasn’t talking about a new business pursuit, a new hobby, a new commodity or a new career opportunity or a new mate or a new romance or a new energy or a new ….

He spoke of beginning again from a new perspective. Of finding meaning in service. Joy in relationships. Purpose in giving. Seeking the kingdom first. Forever in God’s will.

Begin the Adventure

Oh yes, this day is another day of new beginnings. He invites you and me to begin the adventure of exploring our own minds and hearts, and the heart and mind of God. And the surprises he has in store around the next bend in the road. He beckons us to live several cuts above the culture. He leads on into a joint purpose with him and into a relationship that never dims, but only gets richer with time. And fuller. That becomes “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” Not today. Not tomorrow. Not in this world. Nor in the next. They stood in the dark before dawn. Me too. And you. Dark. Without hopeful feelings. WIth no dreams. Is life worth living? And then ….

I study and write in a room where I watch birds return. I listen as they sing bright notes, new each new morning. I see pale green leaves pop on awakening limbs, growing larger and more rich-hued each day. Explodes from the sod. A carpet of green. Then bluebonnets, roses, lilies. Swaying in the spring breezes. New life.

He is alive. He is the unseen life-force that fills my world with color and music and surrounds me with the motion of grass growing, birds, flying, breezes stirring. He is here. Alive. And he quietly, powerfully, always at work within me, is well. And within you. And with his presence comes new life. A glad day of new beginnings. Every morning. So we can face all tomorrows – and relish them. Life is worth the living. Just because he lives.Wineskins Magazine

Lynn Anderson

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