In the fall of 1981, I hitchhiked home from Tacoma, Washington to Langdon, North Dakota on a surprise visit to my family. A combination of rides took me to Grafton, so I had to hitchhike west on Hwy 17 and then north on Hwy 1 to finish my journey. I left Grafton in mid-afternoon with high hopes of being home that night. But I only got a few short rides and spent most of the time walking. I figured that if I made it to Hwy 1 before dark, I could catch a ride on Hwy 1. But when the sun set, my goal was nowhere to be seen. Around nightfall, I crested a hill and saw the light that marks the intersection blinking in the distance.
I kept my eyes on the blinking light on the horizon. That was my goal. Though I was tired and hungry, I forced my self to keep putting one foot after another . . . finding strength by thinking about things like getting home . . . sitting down to a real dinner . . . family laughter . . . my own bed. After a while, I started thinking more about relieving my present discomfort, like getting some sleep right now, than attaining my goal. I could feel my resolve weakening. Eventually, I lost all vision and heart. I gave up and walked over to a large, round haybale . . . dug myself a little cave . . . just big enough to curl up in . . . crawled in . . . pulled straw over the opening to protect me from mosquitoes . . . and fell asleep.
The next morning, it only took about a half hour to make it to the intersection. It was a little disheartening to learn that I was less than two miles from the corner. I got a few rides and made it home before lunch. My family was glad to see me, but everyone wanted to know where I had been the night the night before. It turned out that the gentleman who had dropped me off in the Grafton area had called my family, though I had asked him not to. My dad and siblings had driven down to the corner of Hwy 17 and Hwy 1, honked the horn, hollered, and waited for a couple hours, hoping I might show up. Comparing notes, we realized that if I had kept walking and not given up, I would have met them at the blinking light. What a blessing that would have been! I could have showered and gone to bed clean, instead of sleeping in clothes ripe with four days of funk. I could have slept in a real bed instead of a haybale. I could have gone to bed with a full stomach instead of an empty belly.
In a similar manner, we often start out our Christian life with noble goals . . . goals that honor the Lord . . . goals that will be well rewarded at the end of our journey. But during our pilgrim journey we get tired . . . the desire for future reward starts to cool . . . the desire for present satisfaction grows stronger. Pretty soon we start making choices that give our present temporal happiness priority over our noble goals for the work of God in this life. We don’t depart from the faith, but we do make ourselves a little too comfortable in the Sodom of this world. We no longer run as if we were running to win, but poke along, content to merely finish.
As David encouraged himself in the Lord, so I encourage you my friends to encourage yourself in the Lord. If your vision for the things of God has cooled, rekindle the fire. While it isn’t easy, it will be worth it all when we see Jesus. There is nothing down here that is worth taking our eye off the blinking light of heaven on the horizon and setting it on the miserable haybale of the world.
“Set all your hope on the grace that shall be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13)
“Do not grow weary in well doing, for in due time we shall reap if we do not faint” (Gal. 6:9)
“Run [the race] in such a way that you may obtain [the prize]” (1 Cor. 9:24)
May you all have an amazing week in the service of our amazing Master.
“Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire.”
Lee W. Brainard