I have a widget on my computer that allows me to track airline flights. That way if I know what flight Lyn is working I can see where she is. Amazing, isn't it? This tracking concept has captured my attention.
In the last few weeks I have noticed more and more people tracking the Stock Market. They are taking the time each day to check on where the Dow Jones Average is, or the value of stock on their watch list, or stock held in their 401(k). Since before the first of the year, the Stock Market track has been headed down and the problem is no one knows where it will stop; there is uncertainty about the bottom. So, everyday is filled with fear.
During the presidential campaigns we heard a lot about tracking polls. These polls reflected the candidates' favorability rating from one week to the next, or even day to day. Now that we have selected a president, there is a tracking poll that provides an approval rating from week to week. It seems wherever you turn someone is tracking something.
Have you considered doing some "Faith" tracking?
The process of tracking your faith requires a starting place and a destination. And, neither of those points are really places. You might associate the starting point of your faith with a place or a day or an experience, but the place isn't the marker; it's the moment of personal connection to God, the moment of new life, of new direction, of new birth.
The destination of faith is certainly not a place, not even Heaven. It is a transformed awareness of life seen and lived through the spirit and power of Jesus. We see what he sees, feel what he feels, do what he does. He is found living in us. That's the end game.
Paul says that our "hope of glory" comes from one thing, "Jesus in us." Remember, genuine faith can be tested, "do you see Jesus in you?" Yes! You pass the test. Now, will you go through trials? Yes! Through pain and testing? Yes! Will you have mountain-top moments that thrill your soul and lift your spirit? Yes! Will you go through the valley and the shadow of death? Yes! All of these experiences will lead you to the awareness of Jesus in you. They track your faith.
Whether you are in the middle of good times or bad, the emergence of faith is based on your awareness of Jesus in life. Your vision, or calling, or ministry has one direction, one destination. Do you see Jesus in the moment, in your attitude, in the faces of your fellow believers? Each step brings you new opportunities to do just that.
When you're in pain, it's tough to think of anything but your pain.
Decades ago I was on staff in a Southern California church. My ministry areas included oversight of the education and youth programs. Lyn and I were in our fourth year when, out of the blue, I was called into an unscheduled Thursday evening meeting with our church Board.
The chairman didn't waste any time. After a perfunctory prayer he read a carefully scripted letter that asked for my resignation. I was stunned nearly speechless. On the surface there was no case, but beneath the surface was one deacon's complaint about my perceived lack of attention to his struggling daughter. To this day, I can't remember the words of the letter, but I can still feel the pain in my gut. After a period of heated discussion the Board agreed to modify the 30-day severance. I was to be paid till I found a new position.
As I walked out of that room, I felt betrayed, abandoned, misunderstood, embarrassed, powerless, and a concoction of other emotions that I didn't have words to describe. How could I tell my wife about this? I wanted to escape, to disappear.
I drove around trying to come up with a plan. My best plan? "Just wait till tomorrow, maybe Jesus will come tomorrow and I'll never have to tell anyone."
Once I was sure Lyn would be asleep, I pulled into the driveway and parked the car. I prayed, "God make it go away. Make it all a dream." I quietly entered the house, tip-toed into the bedroom and gently crawled into bed hoping for sleep.
"How was the meeting?" Lyn whispered.
"Just a meeting," I replied, but my silent tears spoke louder than my words.
She sat up in bed and replied, "No, something's wrong. What is it?"
"No, let's talk now!"
There was nothing left to do, my plan had failed. In fact, it looked to me like my whole life was a failure. "They fired me tonight. We are supposed to announce it Sunday and say that I resigned."
After an hour of reliving the meeting, Lyn asked, "Why didn't you want to tell me this?"
"I want to be a success in your eyes. I want you to be proud of me. I didn't want you to think of me as a failure."
Then she said something that became the beginning point of a changed perspective. "When we got married we promised to love each other for better or for worse, when you refuse to tell me about this kind of pain, you are refusing my love. I want to love you now more than ever. I want to share this pain. Do you understand that?"
Within a month or two we found another church and a better house and continued ministry opportunities with that Southern California church in spite of being fired. In more ways than one, we were all shaped by that night.
Now, when you face difficult times, painful experiences, and those out-of-control moments, talk about it. Talk to a spouse, a friend, a mentor. Share the pain and then ask God to help you step back and look for Jesus.
When the news from the tracking poll is negative and frightening, look for God to show up, not to fix the moment, but to help you look past the eyes, behind the words, and beyond the fear.
Jesus has a plan for the pain; his plan is for people to see his power in your life. After all, he is still alive!