When Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus he was given succinct instructions: "But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." (Acts 9:6)
No doubt we all sometimes wish we had directions from the Lord, just for us, telling us exactly what to do. But would we really want this? Could we handle it?
God allows us to learn, to err, to drive ourselves to exhaustion, to exult with joy, to go up, down and sideways in the full exploration of our human potential. No doubt we provide God with an astonishing spectacle.
Nineteenth-century preacher Phillips Brooks writes:
"the belief in heaven and hell is but the carrying out into the long vista of eternity of what men see about them every day,--the law of spiritual accumulation and acceleration, the law by which sin and goodness increase each after its kind."
Brooks, Phillips, The Law of Growth (New York: E.P. Dutton and Co.) 1902, page 9.
This is an interesting way of thinking about Christian living. It creates an image of the good we do reverberating throughout time. If I say a kind word to someone, he or she may carry that a long time. It might influence that person's self-esteem and conduct for years to come. If I make a small offering to my church, it will assist in all the activities and lives affected by my church. Such an offering is both pleasing to God as an act of worship as well as useful to God's purposes. We enter the realm of mystery when we contemplate how our acts of free will can constitute a participation and contribution to God's divine plan.
We shall not dwell on the flip side of the coin-- our acts of sin and evil-- for the ramifications are obvious.
Brooks was undoubtedly a passionate, fiery preacher but he also had an introspective side:
"We must have, first, a deeper meditativeness in what we do. Our life so learns to lack the habit, that we almost fear it... There is so little rest! There is such an unreasoning passion for activity!" (page 197).
Our own lives matter. Do we understand what is going on around us? Do we understand who is going on around us? Brooks suggests: "we know no more of the real depth of our own lives than a child who crosses a frozen lake knows how deep the lake is" (pages 197-198). Something to ponder...