February 6, 2017
Years ago, Ellen and I knew a couple who were in their early to mid-70’s. They loved each other like two school kids. Any time we saw them in public, they were holding hands. The glow on their faces as they talked about one another caused Ellen and I to say, “We want to be just like them when we grow up!” And we do! They are both gone now… she having died first. He joined her in death 5 years later. I never told them about my admiration for them. Sadly, I can’t now.
I have a question to ask of those who have been married for a while. Did you hold hands when you were dating and early in your marriage? If so… why did you stop? Maybe you didn’t but honestly, I see few couples who hold hands any more. Why is that? Some might think that’s a silly question, but I would like an answer. Have you ever even thought about it before? Maybe folks object to holding hands because it’s a “PDA.” Talk about silly… that objection seems to be a bit over the top to me. Or could it be that when kids come along you don’t have spare hands anymore? That makes sense on some level, but why don’t folks go back to holding hands after the kids are gone? Or when they are alone without the kids? Yeah, see the “kid” excuse doesn’t really work for me. Wanna hear my theory? Well, here it is…
I think that when we are early on in dating relationships physical touch is “electric.” Men and women (young men and young women) want to touch and hold one another and they want to be touched and held. Does this apply to EVERYONE? I’m sure it doesn’t, but I’m guessing for the vast majority of us… it’s true. Then over the course of years something happens. The “electricity” that was a driving force early on dwindles into a small spark and eventually disappears. Holding our loved ones’ hand becomes like wearing our old slippers. “Comfortable” but not ecstatic. Why do it anymore if we aren’t getting anything out of it, i.e., the spark is gone? So we don’t.
Ellen and I hold hands pretty much everywhere we go. We even hold hands in the car while I’m driving sometimes. Guess what? No spark. No electricity. No voltage. No current… Just comfort. Does that sound sad or childish? I don’t think of it that way at all. Honestly, I need and desire “emotional comfort.” Don’t you? I don’t want to live in a constant state of anxiety or aloneness. I am grateful to God that there is someone that I can reach out to and know that they will take my hand, love me and comfort me. That is not sad or childish. That is the electric part these days! Not the hand holding but the sharing of life. Young people who are still experiencing the voltage of touch have not yet learned the power of long standing, sticking to, experiencing together… LIFE with someone. It’s glorious and cannot be understood until one has done it… seriously. And as the years go by… it becomes more comfortable and more glorious! At least that’s my experience.
Can I suggest that for some, their faith journey parallels parts of the story above? Maybe you remember your early days in the faith. It could have been in a church youth group. Or maybe you came to faith in your teens in some other form. Remember the fun and the adventure of those days? Learning about Jesus with friends. Maybe going on mission trips together. Or just hanging out with other Believers. There was excitement in all of that… or shall I say “electricity.” Then the years came and went. You grew up. You grew older. You became an adult with adult worries and adult pressures. You no longer spent time with your Christian friends in a Bible study or group. Not only was the electricity gone, but you didn’t grow into any old slippers either. It all just… drifted away.
The Faith for too many folks has become like… I don’t know, “obligation,” if anything at all? What a dreadful place to be. Something that was once so wonderful and exciting has turned into just another commitment. Oh, I get it. Every once in a while, we are reminded of the old spark, but it sputters pretty quickly. On occasion I have met with old friends who used to be a part of my life when the faith was electric for both of us. Sadly, on too many occasions they are no longer walking with Jesus. I enjoy my time with them, but the last thing we are going to talk about are faith issues. It’s just awkward. The thing that used to pull us together has become uncomfortable. How sad is that?
What do we do about all of this? How do we find some perspective on our faith after the electricity seems to be gone? I can’t say that I know the answer to this for everyone, but I can suggest one thing. Begin with the notion that the Christian faith is not about a set of rules or a “belief system.” The Christian Faith is about a relationship. In particular, it’s about a relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s about “knowing and being known” by the Son of God. It’s about spending time with the One who died for us on a cross. I’m going to guess that for those who have found their faith to be “obligatory” or “dull,” or even “non existent” it has something to do with the fact that it has been a long time since they worked on their relationship with Jesus. No wonder their faith has grown weak or died… they don’t know the One the Faith is about anymore! Once their early faith friends were gone, so was their “Christianity.”
In his book entitled A Case for Faith, Lee Strobel interviews Charles Templeton a past co-laborer with Billy Graham. At one point in his life, Templeton came to the conclusion that Christianity made no sense to him any longer, so he abandoned all faith and became a self-proclaimed atheist. Below is part of a striking interview he had with Strobel about Jesus.
“He was,” Templeton began, “the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my readings. His commitment was total and led to his own death, much to the detriment of the world. What could one say about him except that this was a form of greatness?”
I was taken aback. “You sound like you really care about him,” I said.
“Well, yes, he is the most important thing in my life,” came his reply. “I . . . I . . . I . . . ,” he stuttered, searching for the right word, ‘I know it may sound strange, but I have to say . . . I adore him!” . . .
” . . . Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. Yes . . . yes. And tough! Just look at Jesus. He castigated people. He was angry. People don’t think of him that way, but they don’t read the Bible. He had a righteous anger. He cared for the oppressed and exploited. There’s no question that he had the highest moral standard, the least duplicity, the greatest compassion, of any human being in history. There have been many other wonderful people, but Jesus is Jesus….’
“Uh . . . but . . . no,’ he said slowly, ‘he’s the most . . .” He stopped, then started again. “In my view,” he declared, “he is the most important human being who has ever existed.”
That’s when Templeton uttered the words I never expected to hear from him. “And if I may put it this way,” he said as his voice began to crack, ‘I . . . miss . . . him!”
The words of an atheist… they miss Jesus. Friends, maybe that has something to do with the lack of electricity for you. Maybe you just miss Jesus. Guess what?
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
Answer the door why don’t you!