The preacher finished his sermon and before closing the service asked the people before him “Do you want to be with Jesus right now? – Raise your hand if you are.” The multitude raise their hands, except for one man at the back row. The preacher was slightly concerned, so he decided he’d repeat the question. The result was the same. Odd, he thought, maybe the man didn’t hear the question. So he asked a third time, even louder – Do you want to be with Jesus right now? That didn’t do it either.
So after the service was finished he struggled through the crowd to find the man who didn’t raise his hand and ask him what was stopping him from wanting to be with Jesus. When he finally asked, the reply was “Oh, I do want to be with Jesus! But I don’t want to go there right now, I quite like it out here.”
It’s an example I recently heard in a sermon and it bewildered me. So I took a note of it in my mind and gave it some further thought in the days after that. Today, as I think about it again it scares me – because it’s so true.
We have made our world far too comfortable. Well, the areas I’ve lived in, at least. We’ve managed to surround ourselves with far too much stuff that doesn’t challenge us. And yes, unfortunately, as the man from the back row – we quite like it out here. Even with the financial issues much spoken of lately; even with the gloomy weather which we’re only making worse; even with the government officials we don’t quite approve of. One would think that not having to work, not having to pay taxes, not having to deal with expensive heating, not having to worry about food… that all of these will somehow make us eager to move on. Indeed, one would think.
But no. Christians in the (non-Wild) North seem to be indifferent to the image of a heaven waiting arrivals. In fact, the very thought of death freaks us out… When it shouldn’t! That’s because we think of death as it has been portrayed to us by the world we live in. Not as a beginning, but as an end: the end of being with our friends and family; the end of being a football fan; the end of using the Internet; the end of enjoying hot summer days in the freshness of the mountains. The end of the things which contribute to us feeling comfortable and nice, cozy and easy.
Where is apostle Paul to come and kick some butt?! Cause he got it right. He desired to depart and be with Christ, which is, as he says – better by far (see Philippians 1:23). Yes, he did end up hanging in there for a little more as it was God’s will. But we seem to be telling God “Don’t you dare touching my life cause I ain’t done living it just yet!” Way far are we from being “torn” as Paul was.
When I realized the truth about God’s love and decided to surrender my life in His hands, I wasn’t afraid to die. As a matter of fact, I was anticipating the day I’d go and be with Him, because I knew there was so much more to have, to experience, to be up there – where the days are brighter and the nights (if there’s such) – filled with the magnificence of God’s creativity. I was looking forward to being in a place where our breakfast will be peace, our lunch will be joy, and every day for dinner we’ll get God’s delicacy of love. A place where the radio doesn’t get boring with the same songs playing over and over and you don’t have to pay 99cents to iTunes to download something different. A place where having a walk at night doesn’t insist you carrying a gun in your pocket. I so wanted to be in that place where seeing God doesn’t require creatively molded word metaphors, cause He’s just right there – in front of me.
Then, as the years passed by and everyone else was giving me A’s and B’s for knowing God better and better I was waking up in the morning with a strange new and somewhat bothersome feeling – the one of being afraid to die. I’ve gone over this so many times in my mind, analyzed it from so many different angles, that I know today – it’s the feeling of quite liking it out here. That’s how, in the midst of everything else I lost my anticipation to be with Jesus. So without even noticing it, I became the man from the back row, who might raise his hand, but just out of politeness to the preacher.
How do I get my anticipation back? How do I become a fearless believer again? Why does it feel like I’m the only one in the non-Wild North?