What a time to be alive. This year has handed us unique opportunities that have changed our sense of normalcy. Could these changes become the standard moving forward? I doubt it, but it’s safe to say some changes are here for a while. Take the quarantine, for example. Our routine was roughed up, plans were postponed, and distraction delayed what needed to be done. But there is a positive side to all of this. We were exposed to an eternal truth: Even when the world seems to be falling apart, God has a plan. I have seen this firsthand during the last few days.
I’m an extrovert. I work best when I’m surrounded by people. But here’s the catch—they cannot talk to me while I work. My 19-year-old brother is a man of few words, so throughout quarantine, he would sit quietly with me on my screened-in back porch where he would work on his projects and I would work on mine. During this time, we still would occasionally converse, and the talks were meaningful. One such discussion started by centering on his interest in the military, which has been his life’s dream since he was a toddler.
To fully explain this interaction, I’ll provide some background information. When he was 10, my brother went to the altar and “prayed the sinner’s prayer,” but he never followed through with baptism. However, he followed a Christian path by going to a Christian school, summer church camps, and even received a baseball scholarship to play at a Christian college. Baptism was discussed on several occasions, but he always said, “I will someday.” I was never sure what was stopping him until life came to a screeching halt due to the coronavirus.
One afternoon on my porch, I asked, “Hey buddy, have you thought any more about baptism?”
“Yeah, I think I’m finally ready,” he said.
I was intrigued, so I did what any curious big sister would do. I wrestled him to the ground, Hulk Hogan style, until he told me what he meant by “finally ready.” (OK, not really, but I did ask him to explain.)
“Well, Sis, I never really felt like I was good enough for God’s love.” (I had to fight back tears.) “I even tried to run away from him.” He looked at me and smiled—it was a smile only someone who really understood God’s love could give.
“That was just silly,” he continued. “God was like, ‘No! I am here with you. You are not alone. I love you! Take my love.’”
I chuckled to indicate I understood what he meant.
“But now, Meg,” he explained, “I know God loves me. I know I can’t run from it. So, I decided to accept it, and now I’m ready.”
And accept it, he did! My baby brother was baptized just a few days later. I can already see the commitment in his eyes and the desire in his heart to follow Christ.
Running from Love
This weekend, seven days after baptizing my baby brother, my husband preached a sermon on the parable of the lost coin, lost sheep, and lost son. Notice I said parable (singular). These three stories all share one point that Jesus wanted to get across: come home. At the climax of his sermon, my husband shared one more story with us.
In a Brazilian village, there lived a young girl whose beauty was unrivaled. She would often lament, “If I could just get out of this place and make my way to the city, I would be a model and actress without any problem.”
One morning, her mother woke up to find the beautiful young girl missing. The mother searched, but her naïve little girl had run away to the city.
The mother suspected what would happen to her daughter in a big city with no one to protect her, so she took a picture of her daughter to a printer, had posters made, and headed to the city herself.
The young woman was desperate to be among people “like her” and decided she would do whatever it took. She quickly learned how cruel the industry could be. Then she learned how unkind the city was. Her desperation forced her into acts of which she was not proud. One night after leaving a hotel room where she prostituted herself, she made her way to a public restroom. She rinsed her once beautiful, trusting face and was shocked to see the poster next to the mirror. Next to her picture it said, “I don’t care what you’ve done. I don’t care who you think you’ve become. I love you. I forgive you. Come home.”
This story is the message of the cross. The implication of Christ hanging in agony on an unsanded, dirty, dead tree is this: “I don’t care what you’ve done. I don’t care whom you think you’ve become. I love you. I forgive you. Come home.”
My brother finally heard that message, because Christ and his gospel do not shut down when the rest of the world does.