Remember the classic Bugs Bunny cartoon imitating the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. It happens to be one of my favorites, although the Looney Tunes in general falls in the favorite category. When Bugs goes flying by that lethargically sluggish tortoise and spins it around faster than a tornado and it makes me laugh every time.
“What a maroon!” Bugs exclaims in his standard hilarious mannerism.
But I recently come to realize this age-old parable applies to our Christian lives as well. Sometimes we want to speed by the rest of the world and quickly make our getaway to Heaven. But just as the carrot patch tempted Bugs, we too are often tempted to stray from the path. Following his bountiful meal and a nap, Bugs loses the race. So often we find ourselves sidetracked from following the path God has for our lives.
July 31, 1994 in a small upper room office of East LaFollette Baptist Church I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior. In those brief moments of prayer, I could literally feel the guilt and conviction of sin being lifted off of my shoulders. That Sunday night, following what that church dubbed as a “fifth Sunday singing,” I knew I couldn’t wait any longer.
I had felt Him tugging at my heart for many weeks. Following the singing, the pastor ended with a time of invitation. This is a time when people are given the chance to come to the altar and clear up things with God in prayer.
As the first verse was sung, I held tightly to the wooden plank atop the pew in front of me. “I’m not going up there,” I insistently told myself.
The youth group usually sat closer to the front, but on this particular day we sat in the last two rows on the left side of the church.
As the second verse edged back into the chorus I thought, “I’m not walking all the way up there. I’m not walking past all of these people from the back of the church to the front. I’m not going to do it.”
Then the third verse came. “There are youth members, people my own age, on both sides of me. I’m not asking them to move. I’m not going up there. It’s not happening,” I again convinced myself.
Then a pause came. The piano player begins playing softer as the pastor begins to speak. “When is he going to shut up,” I think.
He posed the question, “If you were to die tonight, would you wake up in Heaven, or would you wake up in the Devil’s Hell?”
The pianist began playing loud again and the fourth verse of the invitation song ensued. At this point I’m clawing the wooden plank with every fingernail I have, nearly ripping the beautifully seasoned cherry-colored stain from it while pondering the eternal question of the pastor. By then I was just trying to hold on to the wood long enough to make it through the song without moving.
“Why did the music/youth minister choose such a long song and insist on singing all five verses?” I hear my voice screaming in my own head.
Finally! The fifth verse and chorus end and I take what I believe is my first breath since the song began. As we all begin to file out of the church, I remove my fingers from the indentions I had dug into the top of the pew in front of where we were sitting. As I neared the doorway leading outside, I stopped. Finally my heart said the first thing that made since all night.
“I’m not leaving this place like this. I’m not walking through that door. I’m not going outside; I’m going to accept Jesus,” it said.
I went to the youth minister and asked if we could talk and pray, and in those few minutes I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ; His love and forgiveness.
That was 18 years ago last week. As this anniversary of my salvation approached, I began looking at my life and the things I’ve done over those years since He came into my life. As mentioned in previous journeys, I spent many of those years away from Christ making my own decisions, living my own life and trying to win my own race. At age 17, I was sidetracked. I saw a beautiful spot to grab a few carrots for myself and take a nap. Unfortunately when I woke up thirteen years later, I found that my actions and decisions had caused me to all-but-lose the race of my young-adult life. Much like Bugs, I can only imagine how things would have turned out if I had stayed focused on God and the His path in front of me.
“What a maroon!” Bugs would say of how I conducted myself.
For those who are good at math: 18 – 13 leaves a little less than five years that I have been dedicated to Christ; and not all at once either. I followed the Lord closely for nearly four years following accepting Him and roughly a year ago rededicated my life to His will. Since then, He has led me through many things. He has reminded me that it was He that gave me the ability of written word and that I should use that ability to glorify His name, and not my own name as I have in the past.
While the many years away from His perfect plan for my life – years that I was in control – has caused many disasters, as always He has the ability to make the best of the messes we create. Looking back I can’t understand why I detoured from that path, but I know that I was only able to return to Him through personal prayer and through the prayer of others.
We all have had someone praying for us – that special someone who first showed us the love of Christ. And what a blessing it is when we, as Christians, get to be that example of His perfect love for someone else. Whether it’s our children, neighbors, friends or someone we just met. Regardless of the relationship, we pray for those who don’t yet believe that Christ came to Earth, died on a cross and rose from death to ascend into Heaven for us all. We do this just as others prayed for us before we believed. Those people were placed in our lives to lead us to Christ, just as each of us have been placed in the lives of non-believers around us for the same purpose.
Colossians 1:9, 10 reminds us of how we are prayed for by believers around us and how we are to pray for our acquaintances who have yet to accept Christ.
“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,” Colossians 1:9, 10 (New International Version).
Many apologies for skipping last week, but I was in reflection of this special time in my life. As well, I was experiencing much temptation, human arrogance and ignorance as evil, once again, tried to wave tasty carrots, naps and other sinful indulgences in front of me in an effort to, once again, make me stray from the path of life’s race – the path of His will.
While struggles were plentiful and sometimes my prayer was scarce, I looked to Him before it was too late and through prayer, belief and love was able to stay on His course.
Father God I thank You for those who prayed for me before I knew You. I thank You more for those who prayed for me to be led back to You. I especially thank You for Your love of sending Your son Jesus Christ and I especially thank Him for dying for me and my Earthmates that we might receive forgiveness of our sins by asking and accepting His love, compassion, forgiveness and grace. Most of all, I pray that the lessons You teach me and the words You give me for this writing can help someone else to come to know You or to come back to Your side. Amen!