He finished tightening the light bulb and stepped back to examine his work. Ever since his wife died a few years ago, he spends much of his time serving at the church. As a retired electrician, he enjoyed bringing out the old toolbox. He had wanted to do this for some time. His wife always told him the lighting in the church was not bright enough, and she had trouble following along with the sermon in her Bible.
The church had never been wealthy, so he bought the new light fixtures for the entire sanctuary by providing some of his limited funds and getting a few others to chip in. They were not fancy, but they did the job. He wondered what his wife would have said if she could have seen it. He imagined her wrapping her arm around his and feeling her warmth against him as they stood side by side to survey the work. Then, with a smile, she would have said something like, “Honey, you brighten every room you walk into.” He would have then responded with his usual flat smile and slightly shaking head. She always loved puns, but she seemed to enjoy watching his response to them even more. Oh, how he missed her.
Earlier that day, as the chairman of the pastor search committee, he spent over an hour on the phone with a young man just out of seminary. He already liked him and hoped he would be the one to become pastor of the church. They talked about what it means to be a successful church in a world that is walking further and further away from the truths of scripture. Having lived through World War II as a child and hearing the stories of his parents about the great depression, he never assumed the hard times were gone for good. They always have a way of coming around again just when we put down our guard and begin to trust in our prosperity. This truth applies even more to the church. Jesus told us we should expect persecution. The time of peace we have enjoyed in the United States is not guaranteed to continue.
He told the young man, too many churches believe their chief end is to exist as an organization. They seem to think they are somehow fulfilling their calling if they can keep people in the pews and pay their mortgage. He said that in this secularizing society, increasing pressure to conform would be applied to biblical churches. The more church leaders give in to the temptation to see our churches as our own little kingdoms, the easier it will be for the enemy to challenge our commitment to Jesus. As C.S. Lewis once said, “Like a good chess player, Satan is always trying to maneuver you into a position where you can save your castle only by losing your bishop.”
The conversation was encouraging, but these truths caused his heart to rekindle a familiar hurt. When his daughter went off to college, she wandered away from the faith. She had wanted to build her own kingdom and break the glass ceiling. Not only had she abandoned the faith, but she had become a proponent of almost every tenet of progressivism. Her embrace of this worldview seemed to be one less of conviction and more of expedience. These principles were a means to her success, and the fact that society had cloaked them in the language of virtue helped her suppress the truth she learned as a child.
He had tried repeatedly to reach out to her, but she would rarely respond. The last time he had seen her was at her mother’s funeral. She was always cordial, but she had more important things to do. She had been chasing success and had it by the tail. In her mind, she did not need anything else. She believed she had the power to make her life what she wanted it to be, and nothing could stop her. He quickly thought back to his worldliness when she was a child and how that might have influenced her. He also regretted the way he handled things when she first began to walk away. He thanked the Lord that his sins had been forgiven and whispered the words of his favorite hymn, “Jesus keep me near the cross.” He then prayed that the Lord would restore the years the locust had eaten.
The heartbreak caused by the severed relationship with his daughter was more acute than the grief caused by the death of his wife. He knew where his wife was, and they would soon be reunited. When his daughter first rejected the teachings of scripture, he felt the power had gone out in his life. He was in a dark place and felt helpless. There was nothing he could do; the entire situation was out of his control. Over time, however, he realized the power had not gone out. He had just been relying on the wrong grid. It was only his power that had been proven impotent, and he needed to trust in the power of God. He realized that man’s control is an illusion that can be exposed in a moment. Through all of this, he learned to lean less on his own strength and more on God. When he was at his weakest, that was when God’s strength was made perfect.
Coming to terms with his inability to rectify the situation, he would spend hours praying for her. He prayed that not only would the Lord call her to himself, but he also prayed her conversion would be so profound that the Holy Spirit would use her faith to call many others into his glorious light.
Lately, he had begun feeling ill. After going to the doctor, the diagnosis came back as cancer. He was thankful that it was slow-growing, but the physicians told him that it would eventually kill him, though they could do a few things to prolong his life. Though his faith was strong, the physical and emotional pain was heavy. He said a little prayer. Lord, I do not feel like I am burning as bright for you as I should be. In my brokenness, let your light shine even brighter.
He went home that night to his empty house, feeling like one of the old dim church lights he had just discarded. He grabbed his Bible from the nightstand and continued reading where he had left off in the book of Exodus. One verse in chapter 14 resonated through him. “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” He let out a deep sigh, laid his Bible down, and pulled the chain on the lamp. What he did not know was that the Lord was working through him to set things in motion that would resonate through eternity. For now, however, as he drifted off to sleep, he uttered one final prayer. “Whatever you choose to do, I trust you.”
Read about the young pastor here.
Read about the daughter here.