Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.” Jeremiah 29: 11-14b (NIV)
Her words still pierce me today as they did that night nearly thirty-seven years ago as midnight neared. As they usually were, her words were soft, understanding and with a tone of forgiveness, but resolute with the eternal values that shaped the person she was, and remains, to this day.
I was in my second year at the University of Florida Law School, and despite having some personal say over my comings and goings, the classes, studies, Law Review responsibilities and employment at the Center for Government Responsibility had begun to demand my presence at the school from very early in the morning until near midnight every day. Finances were tight as the GI bill educational assistance, earned from my service in the US Air Force, was nearing an end. I needed to graduate on time, and graduate well, while still supplementing the GI bill assistance with other outside income.
My values seemed clear and my responsibilities many, surely she understood as others seemed to. What I didn’t realize was that I was being held captive to values of the world.
Her words slammed hard as I walked out of my five-year-old son’s room that night, having just kissed him quietly on the forehead while he lay sleeping. “You know you haven’t seen Nathan awake for the last three (3) days.” Her words hung between us, as my first impulse—anger—was replaced with tears. Tears as I stood there thinking about that little boy who thought I hung the moon, the light from which was all I seemed to see him in each day now. Tears of shame and frustration flowed from the crashing realization that the transient and worldly values I embraced as truth were holding me captive, and leading me on a course toward an irreversible loss of a sacred gift.
I began to change.
I wish I could say that the change was immediate and obvious. It was neither, but it was steady, gradual and lasting. It was a change which began from within. I was being brought back from being captive to worldly things, toward the beginning of a journey to freedom. I made time each day to come home. I stopped talking law with classmates during breaks between classes, and went home, even if only for a few minutes to talk about matters far more grand with a little boy who once again started showing me the important things in the world around him.
A commitment was born from within, marked by a path lighted with eternal values on which I have tried to travel to this day with the encouragement of Lynda’s guiding heart, the love of a son, daughter-in-law and now two precious granddaughters, and the miraculous love of a God Who continually whispers to me:
“For I know the plans I have for you, Scott…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…you will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart…and I will bring you back from captivity.”
Jeremiah 29: 11-14b
Webster’s New World Dictionary, Second College Edition defines
“Transient” as—passing away with time; not permanent; temporary; fleeting; passing quickly or soon; and
“Eternal” as—existing through all time; everlasting; forever the same; always true or valid; unchanging; timeless.
I wonder which category—“transient” or “eternal”—defines the set of values that capture your life. Which category guides the decisions and choices you make, the truths you hold as “sacred”, the relationships with which you have been entrusted, the priorities of your day, the attitude with which you greet each new morning, or the faith and passion with which you live out God’s call and purpose on your life? Because friends, the truth is, that a battle rages to capture our hearts between the worldly and sacred values in life, between the transient and eternal. What values capture our organizations and corporations, governments, educational institutions and churches? What values capture the hearts and guide the dreams of generation after generation who are following us?
Sadly, we live in a culture where transient values are too often the accepted way of life. A culture which—rather than being driven by a sense of absolute truth, integrity, service beyond self and hope—is driven by fast-changing technology, a business, media, sports and entertainment environment which glorifies success at all costs, violence, greed and self before others. Even our religious institutions struggle and too often fall short in standing against the tide either by their example or meaningful intervention.
Yet through it all, the One Who knew us first and knows us best says…
“For I know the plans I have for you, (your name)…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future…you will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart…and I will bring you back from captivity.”
Jeremiah 29: 11-14b
The catch, following Him and His values with all your heart.
And the good news of each brand new day is this: that no matter the mistakes, lost moments and memories, missed opportunities lying on the path behind you, He has laid the future out before us to claim anew—for us to begin afresh and anew—a journey out of captivity and into the sunshine of a brand new day of freedom with Him.
By the way, Lynda’s lesson of years ago was learned well—most every day I have a chance to see or talk to Nathan and tell him I love him.
What captures your heart? Maybe it’s a good day to start a journey out of captivity into freedom with the God who loves you leading the way.
Copyright 2011. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.