(I find this to be timely and hope you enjoy it. Written in August of ’04.)
We’ve just returned from a weekend camping trip, which proved to be a lesson in at least two things:
1) Don’t go camping on the weekend. Insensitive dolts were playing rock ‘n roll songs and whooping it up at 3:00 a.m., just like they did when I was growing up and camping in Southern California. When I approached to ask them to knock it off, they seemed startled that I was bothered. I felt old.
2) God is more compassionate than I thought.
Fishing in a nearby stream on Saturday and fully enjoying myself, I heard a different sort of question from the Spirit, one I’d never heard before: “Son, if in the next moment you were to join me in heaven, what would you expect?”
Foolishly thinking that I didn’t want to be interrupted during such an intense and focus-demanding time—fly fishing—I quickly shuffled the thought to a far off place, and got back to the more important business of fooling trout. However, the same thought returned two more times to my mind before I finally paid attention.
Thinking about what I would truly expect upon my arrival in heaven, a curious realization crept across my mind. On the faces of those gathered in welcome, I would expect to see a hint of disappointment.
Yes, I know about the rich welcome awaiting the faithful upon arrival home—“Well done, thou good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness.” But I was startled to realize that I didn’t think I’d be getting that rousing reception. Or, at least, not that rousing.
I don’t always do so well in this life. I regularly get stuff wrong, needlessly offend people, or fail to act like the man I am in Christ. Whether I know it immediately or find out about it later, failure weighs me down. You too? And then I begin thinking about all the work I have to do to make things better, and to make me better. I’ve proven, however, that I’m not very good at saving myself.
Anyway, in my mind I heard something like this, “I know how difficult it is in the world, I know how very awful it can be. Do you think I have no compassion for you, my righteous son? Do you think I don’t know of your anguish and valiant struggle between flesh and spirit? I am so pleased in your triumphs and rejoice in your success! I love how you are and how you do. Fear not your homecoming—it will be triumphant.”
There on the stream I choked up and laughed a laugh of relief and renewed hope. “He’s really compassionate!” I thought, “He really understands and delights in the smallest success, valuing it far more than the ugliest defeat, wiped clean as He looks upon me with joy and delight. He really loves me in the mess.”
I had a great afternoon. Throughout it I was overwhelmed by the compassion He has for me (and for you) right now in this life, in every trial, in every struggle.
And, yes, I caught a bunch of trout. You can ask my wife and girls if you don’t believe me. Really.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,…” (2 Cor 1:3 NIV)