"Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Luke 21:28...."This advent word is not meant for the well-fed and satisfied, but for those who hunger and thirst. And like a miner buried alive in the mine, we hear every blow, every step closer the rescuer takes with extreme alertness. Can one even imagine that the miner ever thought of anything but the approaching liberation from the moment he heard the first tapping on the rock?" Dietrich Bonhoeffer
This week I've shared two stories of past Christmas times in my life. Stories of how, in the midst of pain and suffering, He broke through with His infinite hope and assurance. With this last entry, I want to share a story of how He brought me out of the shadowlands. How He restored the years "that the locust had eaten." How He gave back to me, that which the enemy had said was lost to me forever. His Word says that He came to "seek and save that which was lost," and if we will trust Him, He will do so in ways beyond belief.
This story takes place during Christmas, 1993. It had been four years, seemingly unending years, since the collapse of my marriage and ministry. During that time many voices had "spoken" as concerned my pastoring again. Most were voices that offered no hope. Voices that encouraged me to be realistic; single men didn't pastor churches. Most especially, divorced single men didn't do this. I needed to realize this, accept it, and get on with my life...a life that would never again have such a role for me. The problem with all this was, the voice of the Father was never one of those voices. So I held on to the promise of restoration I'd believed He'd given me. Step by step, the days turned into months, and then years, but in a manner that only He could work, the door opened to come to Virginia and plant a church. A planting that had next to no visible resources, few people, and little reason to expect it to succeed on any level. One person told me it would be a miracle if I was still there after 6 months. None of this made any impression. Some would call what I had an "opportunity." I called it God. I had been longing for this door to open, and I had told Him that whatever door He did open, I would go through. Like the miner, I had been "hearing" in His still, small voice, that my redemption was drawing near. When the door suddenly opened, I knew it could be no one else but Him, and all the dissuading voices in the world would not keep me from stepping out into what seemed a void, and finding the Rock that is Christ to stand on.
So there I was, on that Christmas Sunday, leading worship for a small, but vibrant group of believers. He'd blessed us with a wonderful place to meet, and we'd decorated it all for the season. We sang, we prayed, we rejoiced. In it all, I saw the glory of the Lord. Here I was, doing again what the devil said I'd never do, in a place the devil said I'd never be. And all because of His grace that wouldn't let me go, wouldn't let me quit, and allowed me to hear the Rescuer coming for me even when I felt trapped in the deepest darkness. My redemption had come near; my redemption had come. My Redeemer lived and lives. So it is for all who will look up, raise their heads, and look for the redemption that He has promised and that will surely come.
You may well find yourself in that "cave" today. Do not be swallowed up by the darkness, but believe and know that His Light swallows up all darkness. The Rescuer stands outside the cave wall. He has come. He will bring you out...if you'll just keep looking up.