I plopped down in an empty chair in the terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and heaved a big sigh. I had 16 days of nonstop traveling and speaking behind me and now had two hours between plane connections to catch my breath. Usually I do not mind waiting awhile in the terminal—I enjoy watching people—but on this day I was tired of it.
Why am I doing this? I asked myself. What’s it all about, anyway?
I was exhausted from sleeping in strange hotel beds with pillows that seemed to grow harder every night. Even the hot chili powder I brought with me to spice up my food had run out. After pouring my heart out to groups all over the country, I was drained and angry with the world. I was even angry with my office staff for booking all these speaking engagements. I had approved the meetings, of course, but it felt better to shift the blame away from myself.
I walked over to a pay phone and dialed the Gospel for Asia office in Dallas. I do not even recall who answered the phone.
“This is K.P.,” I said tersely. “I just want to say one thing: Do not book any meetings ever again unless you check with me directly first.”
When I hung up, I felt worse than ever.
“Don’t these people understand I’m not a machine?” I said to myself aloud. “I’m only a human being.”
As I wallowed in my self-pity, I knew I had to get up and go on, no matter how I felt. And there was a plane to catch. But how was I to find the strength to continue?
None of us remains the same in our enthusiasm and commitment. If we do not feed continually on the things of the Lord—His Word and His presence—we cannot hope to finish the race.
You may have begun your walk with the Lord with wholehearted enthusiasm . . . .
But as time went by, certain things began to eat at that purpose [following what Jesus commanded]—the distractions and cares of the world, your own personal problems, discouragement, fears, the enticements of your friends. Suddenly you find yourself looking for a way to get out of the battle. Maybe your Christian life is just not challenging enough. Maybe it no longer seems worth investing your life in. Maybe when you first made your commitment, the leaders in your church or Bible study were on fire for the Lord and really helped you grow, but now that you have known them longer, you see areas of compromise.
Shifting the blame, just as I did at the airport, is an easy way out. I have seen this happen in many organizations and many lives. What is actually happening here? Over a period of time we can lose our focus.
Moses told the children of Israel,
“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” —Deuteronomy 8:2
God allows adverse circumstances for a reason—whether they be weaknesses, people we work with who rub us the wrong way, decisions we must make that go against our emotions, unfulfilled expectations, misunderstandings, ingratitude, loss of our rights, shattered hopes. Suddenly in the midst of our labors for His kingdom, God takes us and says, “You are in the wilderness. I want to see what will keep you going. When your emotions run dry, when your feelings are gone and there is nothing left to hold onto but bare facts—will you stay with Me?”
Out of the Shadow-Lands
As I wallowed in the muck of my self-pity at O’Hare Airport that day, I had one of those rare encounters with the Lord. Right there at the gate, it was as if time stopped for a few moments.
I heard a voice in my heart asking me, Who asked you to do all these things? Didn’t I tell you that My yoke is easy and My burden is light? Who made it so hard?
Spiritually, I realized, I was dry inside. I had been so busy in my service for the Lord that I had lost sight of the Lord whom I was serving. I no longer had the continual outpouring of Christ’s strength that Paul talked about: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).
Lord, I said, I know what You are telling me is true. I am so depressed and tired and weak. But Lord, I want You to help me.
At this point the ticket counter had opened for passengers to check in and get their boarding passes. I could see the gate behind it just beginning to open. Soon I would walk through that doorway and board the plane. Suddenly, as I looked at it, the Lord painted a wonderful picture before my mind’s eye.
A few weeks earlier I had finished reading The Last Battle, the final book in C.S. Lewis’ classic allegorical series The Chronicles of Narnia. In it, Lewis tells the story of the adventures of eight English children in the land of Narnia with Aslan, the great lion, who portrays a type of Christ. The Last Battle recounts the end of the age for Narnia. As the children watch through a doorway, the old world is destroyed before their eyes and another land opens up before them. It seems to them almost exactly like the old, yet somehow different.
Digory, one of the older children, explains it to the rest:
“. . . The Narnia you were thinking of . . . was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia, which has always been here and always will be here. . . . You need not mourn over Narnia. . . . All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.”
Lewis concludes the book (and the series) this way:
“And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
As I recalled these final scenes from the book, it was time for me to board my plane.
Then the fog of my self-pity vanished. I could see clearly once again. I realized that all my aches and pains, my schedule, the bland food, the hard pillows, the strange beds—all these were just a shadow of what was yet to come. My everyday life here on earth was not the real thing. It was temporary and would soon pass.
I looked toward the gate and thought about the door the children had gone through to leave “the Shadow-Lands,” as Lewis called them, and enter “the real Narnia.” It was time for me to live again, not for the illusion, but for the reality. That gate to my flight was a door to that reality, if I would choose to accept what was set before me.
I jumped to my feet. I knew I had the strength of the Lord to face the tasks before me. Nothing could stop me now! I marched straight for that boarding gate, through the threshold and onto my next connection. The attitude of my heart was changed. I was no longer running on empty. Once again the strength I was receiving was not my own; it was from the Lord.
Excerpted from Living in the Light of Eternity by KP Yohannan. Copyright © 2014 by KP Yohannan. (Carrollton, TX: GFA Books).
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