A remarkable thing about the Bible is its gritty reality. When people screw up it shows: Abraham let his wife go off with Pharaoh because he was afraid... David commited adultery and murder... Peter denied he knew who Jesus was.
The Bible isn’t filled with simple commands, aphorisms, and cleaned up stories. Sometimes the tales move past PG-13 into an “R” rating.
The characters are not archetypes of perfection. They are three dimensional people, characters we recognize, personalities which we know, we have met in our own lives.
I particularly like Peter. He didn’t do things in half measures. He saw Jesus walking beneath the stars on the Sea of Galilee and ran out to meet Him. He promises to stay with Jesus to his death. He jumps in, all the way. When they went to crucify this passionate follower of the Messiah he told them he didn’t deserve a death like our Lord’s. So they crucified him upside down.
I picture this big guy with the huge heart doing everything in his life in a big way. When he denied he knew Jesus, his shame, his fear and anguish is almost tangible.
He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, "I don't know this man you're talking about."
Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times." And he broke down and wept. --Mark 14:71-72
Picture this big fisherman, this rough fisherman, face in his hands, shoulders shaking in deep sobs.
Peter had passion.
Once a month I get together with some guys. We pass peanuts and cookies around a campfire and talk. We share our lives, our concerns, our growth and challenges and we hold each other up in prayer. Sometimes we show our dedication to each other by loaning a pickup truck or lending a hand on some project. We meet once a week to pray, and we meet once a month to talk around a campfire.
I call it our Moon Howlin’ Night. Once a month we look at the stars, watch the moon glide slowly overhead... and we talk. We joke, we question, we wonder...
A year ago one of us asked a question:
“Do you guys find, as you get older, that you haven’t as much passion about things as you used to?”
We offered different answers, but the matter didn’t seem fully answered. So last night I asked it again (it is great to have a group of buddies which meets so regularly we can pick up a topic a year later).
The answers to the question still wandered around a bit. I guess the guys are chewing it over. It’s a tricky question. I don’t think our passions wax and wan like the moon that passes overhead each month. Quite the reverse. I think our passions are more focussed than ever before. They don’t jump quickly from one thing of great important to another.
One of us put it this way: “I think I am more selective about what I get passionate about.”
When one is twenty or twenty-five it is easy to be passionate about everything. Everything is important, everything is critical.
So what is the passion like for men at age 50 (give or take a few)?
We are passionate about our families, that is certain. We love our kids (and grand kids for one of us). We love our wives, and protect them with our prayers and our lives.
We are passionate about particular interests (music, work, our craft...).
We are passionate about our Lord.
Every one of us. We don’t go to church and leave our faith behind at the end of the service. I know these guys. We don’t just do church. We are church.
We place our shoulders to the work of our church and push, daily, weekly,monthly, yearly.
This is starting to sound a little self-aggrandizing. Let me set aside my writerly voice for a moment and lay something out clearly:
We are screw ups. All of us. After all we are human beings. We know we are imperfect. We know we cannot be the icons of perfection that people think church goers should be, need to be. But we want to be obedient to our Lord
That is one reason we get together.
As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.
We get together so there is a place where there isn’t any posturing (maybe a little, but it’s all in good fun). We get together so we can be honest with each other. We get together to hold each other accountable to our vows, our promises, our aspirations.
And we do more than kick the burning logs tighter into the dying fire. We fan each other’s flames, build up each others’ passions.
We ask each other tough questions (and dumb ones). We laugh together, and wonder together, and wander from topic to topic together, even when the topics span a dozen moons. We watch the moon go through its phases, just as we watch our lives go through their phases.
It is true we get tired sometimes, jobs, families, hobbies, and, of course, church, requires a lot of us.
But there I can talk about my passions. I can talk of how the burning of our church by my son makes me feel... I can describe the last moments of my first child’s life... I can talk about how it feels to me to mix prayer and painting, and what goes on in my heart when I worship.
We don’t do these things because we think we are doing good deeds which make us worthy in some way. For we aren’t worthy. We are all much less than the men God planned us to be had there not been that fall from grace... a grace He gives us once again.
But we try. Not in the spirit of earning anything, of deserving anything, but in the simple recognition that we are grateful for what He has done and we want to please Him.
And it is simply easier to please Him when we link arms and move forward together.