It is amazing how soon and how easily I forget. Late in life John Newton, converted slave and slave trader and author of "Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound," told of how his mother taught him about Jesus, "but I forgot." While enslaved himself, tied like a dog under the table of an African queen, he promised God he would change, but when he escaped, forgot his promise. Over and over again, he forgot, but God didn't forget, and as an old man slowly walking the streets of Bristol, he was always ready to tell people that as an old man, he had forgotten many things, but one thing he remembered; "I was a great sinner, and Jesus is a great Savior."
This evening, Linda and I attended the launch service for Conduit North, a new church plant on the north side of Jamestown. The music was good, there was energy and enthusiasm, pastor Cameron preached well, but for me, something was missing, something that had nothing to do with the folks at Conduit. It was missing inside me. I just felt empty inside, like I was left standing on the station watching the God train pull out. I think part of it is envy. I've often wondered if I was playing it safe in ministry, working within a system that provided guaranteed work, housing, health care, and pension. How does any of that help me trust God? I've often looked back at wasted hours, failures in ministry and personal life, wishing I could retrace my steps and do it again, only better. But I can't go back, any more than any of us can. It's easy to wallow in self-pity or self-condemnation. And the Enemy of our souls is more than willing to fan any spark of unbelief into flame.
We got home, I picked some tomatoes, then sat on the back deck in the fading light, praying. It occurred to me that my problem is narcissism. Whenever I focus on me, on how I feel, on the emptiness within, that's where I end up: empty. So I pulled out my phone, went to my gratitude app and looked at the suggestion for the day. It was to give thanks for three things moving. My first thought was about Emma, but she doesn't move enough to count. But looking into the sky with storm clouds rolling in, I could see them scudding across my field of vision, and immediately thought of our God who moves mountains. Giving thanks is a decision we make, not a feeling we have, and as I began to thank him for moving the mountain of doubt and unbelief, I could feel it trembling and finally rolling away like the clouds overhead.
Gratitude has immense power, but only if it is expressed. And only if it is directed to the One, the only One to whom it truly belongs. As Cameron finished preaching tonight, he told the people that though he will make mistakes and probably fail at times as a pastor, he would always give them Jesus. Which was my prayer for him and my encouragement to him earlier today. I am grateful tonight that whether I feel it or not, Jesus is Lord, and will never fail to come to those who truly wait on him.