Sunday morning the mercury dipped into the low teens. Rays of sunshine beamed brilliantly toward earth with nothing to filter or dim them -- the sky was clear and with varying shades of blue.
Sandy and I were sitting quietly reading, checking messages, or researching something of interest. Breaking the silence, Sandy spoke. "John looks older."
"John who?" I asked.
"John Eldredge," she replied. I stood up and craned my neck to see around the edge of her computer screen and look at John's picture.
"Yes," I said, "He does. His goatee is getting streaked with white, and the lines in his face are etching deeper. He's been in the war a long time."
I went back to my own computer and clicked the icon for John's website, Ransomed Heart. Instantly and simultaneously, images from cyberspace--and an indescribable sense of loss--converged and blew-up my senses. A deep tiredness pressed down on me, pushing the blood from my face. Sandy was eye witness to it and with deep concern asked me what was wrong.
I buried my head in my hands. Tears and audible sobs spilled out from deep within my soul.
"I don't know," was my response.
I wanted to stay in the moment and work through all the commotion going on in my spirit, but I am a pastor, and I had to leave for church.
Later, back at home . . .
Over and over again, a life changing song and a life changing book kept coming to mind. The song -- The Great Adventure, by Steven Curtis Chapman. The book -- Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge.
In 1991 it was the message of the song that rescued me from Christianity. Prior to the rescue, a suspicion had been growing that there existed a journey with God distinctly different from the one that I and those around me were experiencing. None of us would have disputed that God's record, his Word, declared a spiritual, exhilarating , dangerous, and untamed adventure for those who dared to take up His Son's offer, "come and follow me." Most Christians, though, felt that such a message was for the less civilized world of early Christianity.
Then the powerful lyrics of The Great Adventure came along and gave me the courage to take the first steps to pursue the journey I was created for.
In 2004, it was the message of the book, Wild at Heart. W/H became the most battered book in my collection of hundreds. Why? Because of the countless times I slung it across my office, or living room, or cabin, or lawn, or into the woods. John Eldredge's uncensored journey (he was refreshingly raw -- uncivilized -- didn't use christian speak) brought me to a crisis of belief.
For a couple of years I had been giving consideration to exiting the road less traveled of following the wild and untamed God. I would reengage in a more secure church culture. As the old spiritual goes, "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen." Reason told me I had certainly paid my dues. Big church. Big pay. Big house. Big deal. But as shocking as this may sound, years of observation and participation had brought me to the conclusion that there are few things more pointless than scheduling a gathering for the religious, week after week, to teach them about God and the Bible with no expectation that God would show up and such encounters would change the hearers, who in turn, would go out and change the world.
I don't like that kind of life. Not for me.
Why the tears and wrenching reaction?
The brief dialogue Sandy and I shared revealed unidentified and unexpected grief -- the Adventure has come with some great costs and extreme pain -- I was feeling old and etched in my soul.