October 20, 2017

A Painful Journey

By Donnie Rader

Time robs me of pleasant memories. Oh, I don't mean that the memories are gone. But, with time changes come and things are not like they used to be. The pleasant memories of the past are quite different from what I see at the present. And it's painful. The emotion you feel when you reflect and realize that it's not like it used to be is indeed a painful journey. How many of us have not wished that we could go back and relive an earlier experience? In some ways it hurts to know we can't do that.

Such journeys are especially painful when it comes to people. I think of those I've loved who are now gone. As I wonder back to the time when they were still with us I sometimes feel this big lump in my throat. Then I look at people that I never thought of as being "old" and notice grey hair, less hair, wrinkles, a slower walk, a bend in the back and other signs that say they are older than I want them to be. Though I know the answer, I still sometimes wonder, "Why does it have to be this way?" At times I wish I could turn this journey around and reverse the process.

The saddest of all is to look at those you love who no longer serve the Lord  some who even live ungodly and immoral lives  and remember when they feared God. Nearly as disturbing as that is to consider those who are showing signs of getting weaker and looser in their faith. I see those I care about tolerating and practicing things that they would have abhorred not too many years before. In both of these the painful part is recalling when they were not like they are now. The real "punch" of the pain is when I think about how we don't have as much in common as we used to have. Our faith is no longer the "like precious faith." It is neither "like" nor "precious" anymore. And, in some cases is no longer "faith."

In the last few months I've made this journey time and again. On more than one occasion I've been in gatherings of extended family. While others at the gatherings may have had their minds on other things, I was taking one of my painful journeys. I noticed things I wish I had not seen.

Recently, at a relative's funeral, I sat looking around the room at family I had not seen in a long time. I glanced at one cousin, then another, then aunts and uncles. I thought about those who were not even there. At one moment I was thinking about how such a large family had been "raised in the church" with the influence of the gospel of Christ having such an impact on one family. (We have five preachers, one elder, two church treasurers and two deacons in the family. Be-sides that, my granddad and great-granddad were both elders.) The next moment I thought of all the fun we used to have together. I paused and savored the thought of how we once had a closer bond. As I let that thought go, another, not so pleasant, came. This one was to think about the spirituality of many of those I was looking at or thinking about. It's sad enough to attend a relative's funeral, but my thoughts were really painful. Oh, how I wished that it was like it used to be  before time brought so many changes.

Sometimes, I hate time! It robs me of pleasant memories. It leaves me feeling empty and disappointed. Yes, I know that time has made a lot of things better. Changes are really for the good. While I know that, it doesn't remove my disappointment  at least right now.

What scares me is to think what my enemy time may do to me and my own children. What will ten or twenty years bring? Maybe the pain of my journeys will be worth it. For, you see, I'm more determined than ever to serve God with fear and do all I can to prevent my children from departing from the way they should go (Prov. 22:6). In the middle of one of my journeys, I stopped, bowed my head and said to God, "Help me, Father, to serve you better and to raise my children right." If I can do that, maybe time won't be so bad after all.

Guardian of Truth XL: No. 17, p. 5
September 5, 1996

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