I think most Christians have those times in their walk with Christ where they feel a bit distant in their hearts. I’ve been in that place for awhile – feeling a little sad and out of sorts – a bit discouraged. Things which once brought pleasure seem to have the joy sapped out of them.
In my ministry life, I’m feeling like my teaching ministry isn’t bearing fruit and sometimes question whether I’m making a difference at all. My devotional life and time in the Word has been slipping. I sense my heart is distant and I’m not growing. I’ve been a Christian for 50 years now, so it’s a hard thing for me to admit I’m struggling in these areas.
One thing I know for sure, while my heart feels distant, God is not. He’s as close to me in my struggle as He is when all seems well. He has not moved – his steadfast love has not changed.
Psalm 119 is very dear to my heart. I re-read it today and found comfort in knowing that the “man after God’s own heart” felt this way at times too. Here we find David often crying out before God in the midst of his struggles, acknowledging that his help would come from God’s Word. Even when he felt like a lost sheep, He knew the Shepherd was near and would deliver him, put the song back in his heart and words of praise on his tongue.
I find assurance knowing that when the heart of one of His servants strays and feels distant and cold, the Good Shepherd is there seeking, drawing her heart back through His Word.
Here’s a Facebook rewind where I reminisce about my first date with my (now) hubby, Wayne. We now have a granddaughter who is almost the age I was when Wayne and I met. And she reads my blog! Yikes!
Early in their writing relationship, Wayne shared his list of hobbies. It makes Cindie laugh today because she’s never in 34 years of marriage seen him even attempt to body surf or snorkel, but there they were on his lengthy list. Try as she may, she couldn’t find much in common. Why she tried so hard, knowing full well he was “too old” and she was “too young” is hard to explain. I think it is best summed up that high school girls like to dream – and dream she did.
They planned to do three things together during his 30-day leave of absence from the Navy: ride together on the church bus to Camp Fairwood; a dinner at a restaurant (Wayne’s way of saying “thanks” to Cindie for writing); and a fishing trip (because, as you may recall, in trying to find something in common on the aforementioned “hobby list,” she had stretched the truth a tad to say she “loves fishing.”) Other than these three things, absolutely no plans to “date” were on the horizon.
But God is always full of surprises.
First surprise: on the very Sunday that Wayne and Cindie met in the hallway at church, God planted a Marine named Danny (cousin to her best friend, Cindy).
Danny and Cindy came to church together that Sunday evening. Cindy introduced Danny to Wayne and Cindie. Danny was on leave too, and, small world that it is, was stationed on the very same Hawaiian island as Wayne. Danny, outgoing and gregarious as they come, assuming Wayne and Cindie were a couple (not knowing they had really just ‘met’ one another) said, “Hey, why don’t we go out for a bite to eat together after the service?” Cindie had to ask her mom, of course. It seemed innocent enough, so mom said yes, and off her daughter went on her first unplanned un-date with Wayne.
The second surprise was an “un-date” that happened the very next day when Wayne accompanied Cindie and her dad on the trip up to their church camp, Camp Fairwood. It was Monday, August 6, 1973, and Cindie’s dad was driving a bus loaded with 30 or so junior-aged boys headed for a week of camp and he had invited Wayne along [in retrospect, Cindie wonders if this was her dad’s way of checking out this young man who was paying attention to his young daughter]. The stated intent was for Wayne (who drove fuel trucks in the Navy) to give Cindie’s dad (and his bad back) a break in driving on the trip home with the empty bus. Wayne and Cindie talked all the way up to Camp, with junior boys teasing them all the way . . . and Cindie’s dad keeping tabs via the bus’s extra-large rear-view mirror.
Then, as God would have it, surprise number three. A Pastor from another church asked if he could hitch a ride on Garfield’s bus – this would get him closer to home where his wife could pick him up. God’s surprise? Pastor Luke offered to drive, allowing Wayne and Cindie to chat non-stop for another 120 miles (although neither apparently wanted their photo taken, here is photographic evidence).
Cindie attended prayer meeting on Wednesday night – and so did Wayne. Cindie’s friend Cindy (I know, it’s confusing) was there with her cousin Danny too. They decided once again to “grab a bite to eat” after the service together.
During their table talk at Jolly Roger’s, Danny suggested they all go to the Wisconsin State Fair together on Friday night. Cindie swallowed hard knowing she’d have to ask her parents about that one too. She knew this one was going to sound more like a REAL date. Surprise number 4: since it was a double-date, her parents said ‘yes’…with reservations and restrictions, of course.
The fair was wonderful. The foursome enjoyed all the usual fair fun and food, then decided to take in a concert by Sha Na Na. Arriving late for the concert, they took a place seated on the ground near the stage. A song or two later, Danny decided for reasons unknown to lay his head in Cindie’s lap. She didn’t know quite what to think, or what to do. But Wayne did. He stood up and said to Danny and Cindy (mostly to Danny), “We are going to go take a look around at some of exhibits, we’ll catch up with you two later.”
Before the evening was through, in the midst of a crowded state fair exhibition hall, Wayne and Cindie were separated. Wayne once again knew just what to do. He reached through the crowd, took her hand in his, and didn’t let go until the evening ended with a gentle goodnight kiss at her front door.
He let go of her hand that night, but never her heart.