I became a Christian early on in my life — I was blessed to be raised in a Christian home, and my parents led me to Jesus as soon as I was able to understand. Then, in my young and naive mind, I was all set! I had made the major decision, and now I could coast through life on my self-righteous wave and “be the light” to the world! I was all done!
In a sense, I was right. Jesus said, as he died on the cross, “it is finished” as he gave his life as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins; we are told that once we have given our hearts to Jesus, we are a new creation! We are all set, BUT that does not mean that our humanity dies away completely, or that we don’t require grace moment by moment for the shortcomings of our sinful nature. I am ashamed of how many times I have had to reset my course, confess and start again, and find that I am not “coasting” at all — instead, I am lump-bumping my way down a somewhat different road than I planned to be on, hitting every pothole it seems, and doing all kinds of damage. I always thought that when I became an adult, I would “make it.” I would be a mother and wife with straightforward thoughts and stable emotions — I would encounter life head on and make decisions clearly, because all things would be black and white. Not so much, as it turns out!
My dad used to joke that he didn’t know what he wanted to be when he “grew up” — I laughed every time because he was in his 40’s, well situated in a long term position at a stable company, married with a home and three kids. But now, I hear the truth in his words because I feel the same way. What do I want to be when I grow up? When will I grow up? It is an uncomfortable feeling to know that in my mind, I will never be “grown up” in the way that I thought I would — I don’t have it all figured out, I will always mess up, and always need grace for my shortcomings.
It was because of those shortcomings that I was feeling burdened and low one day a few weeks ago. I was on the way home, and there is a particular stretch of road just before our exit from the highway where I find myself often looking down at the road. I don’t know why on that stretch, but it always seems that I am looking at the road. I was tied up in my thoughts and my own issues, and my head was down because I was just weary. All the sudden, something made me look up. I lifted my eyes up, and there was a big and beautiful head of clouds up ahead in the sky — there was obviously a storm coming, but the preamble was just breathtaking! There were layers and layers of different types of clouds all stacked together — the sun was starting to set, and so the layers were tinted different colors of pink, orange and blue. It was one of those pictures that you just ache to be able to paint, to keep forever.
I was mesmerized — I just kept turning my head around to see how far the clouds stretched in either direction, and tried to soak in the beauty of them. I couldn’t look away! I knew that a storm was coming from the other direction, but I just kept my focus on the beautiful sight in front of me. Then I laughed to myself because so often God uses something in nature to send us a reminder, and I love it! I was focusing on my problems, my shortcomings, my difficulties on the road ahead and all I could see were my dark clouds of failure, when I should have been looking up at the beauty of what was before me. Jesus is the beautiful preamble to any storm — and should be your focus before, during, and after it. No matter the dark clouds that are coming, or that already surround you, look up, because it has already been done for you — it is finished!
Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory. — Mark 13:26