Coop's Column - There I Have Pledged to Set My Foot, Too
"Being alive is very difficult. Human beings are very complicated. I know. I've spent my whole life being one, and I still can't totally figure it out." So commented one elderly gentleman as he looked back over the seemingly haphazard trajectory of his life's course of events.
"Being alive is very difficult. Human beings are very complicated. I know. I’ve spent my whole life being one, and I still can’t totally figure it out.”
So commented one elderly gentleman as he looked back over the seemingly haphazard trajectory of his life’s course of events. Did (his) life have meaning at all? Yes, he was willing to declare that it did. But he was crushingly honest, too, and quick to add that there were so many puzzling detours and dead ends—deep mysteries all—that at times he feared he’d never find his way home.
Nor be able to find hope and joy in God again.
The writer of Psalm 73 was an honest man. Never could he settle for easy answers to life’s complex questions. Never would he be willing to brush away its torturous challenges with a blithe, cheery confession: “God is in the heavens, and everything’s OK with my soul.” Rather, he had some cheeky questions for the God in heaven himself: “What’s going on here? Is God out to lunch? Nobody’s tending the store. The wicked get by with everything; they have it made, piling up riches. I’ve been stupid to play by the rules” (73:12-13, The Message).
At a summer Bible conference some years ago, a woman told me a sad, sad story. Her husband, intending to bicycle his way home after a pleasant afternoon of picking strawberries with her near their children’s home, lost his sense of direction. She watched him go straight where he should have turned. Frantically she shouted at him, but he was too far away to hear her. She grabbed her own bike and pedaled furiously to catch up with him, but could not. “They found my dear man—six months later—in a ditch. He had Alzheimer’s Disease.”
The woman’s words stunned me. As I was reflecting upon them later, they reminded me, too, how easy it is for us to slip into a kind of spiritual Alzheimer’s Disease. We become disoriented, lose our sense of memory and anticipation, and eventually slide into a kind of mindless apathy. Spiritual amnesia overtakes us, a forgetfulness of soul.
How, then, to stay alert and keep our lives headed in the right direction? The writer of Psalm 73 claimed he got his bearings again only when he gathered with God’s people “in the sanctuary.” He needed to be with others who had come together there to worship God and to renew their purpose for living. When he had tried to figure things out all by himself, “All I got was a splitting headache.” But, “when I entered the sanctuary of God,” he confesses, “then I saw the whole picture” (73:17). In other words, when he joined the congregation of God’s people and became one with that company of people who were living the Grand Adventure as God intends, then he learned how to live well and to die well. He regained his bearings. Perhaps not all his questions were answered. But at least he was headed in the right direction again. He found strength for his next step.
In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Mr. Standfast, nearing death, records what was his life’s single aim:
I see myself now at the end of my journey, my toilsome days are ended. I am going now to see that head that was crowned with thorns, and that face that was spit upon for me. I have formerly lived by hearsay and faith; but now I go where I shall live by sight, and shall be with him in whose company I delight myself. I have loved to hear my Lord spoken of; and wherever I have seen the print of his shoe in the earth, there I have coveted to set my foot, too.
“There I have coveted to set my foot, too.” It’s every Christian’s aim in life. And it’s the very purpose of Christian corporate worship, too: to rehearse what it means to follow Jesus by the power of his Spirit, and thus to bring the Triune God glory.
So that, with Standfast, we too shall forthrightly be willing to declare: “There have I pledged to set my foot, too.”
O Lord, grant us heavenly wisdom, that we above all things may seek You and find You; may above all things cherish You and love You; and may understand all other things are they are, according to the order of your wisdom.
(Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ, 13th century)