Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children; and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5: 1-2
It wasn’t exactly my favorite kind of weather for taking a road trip. As hot dry air blew in my face from the car heater, I navigated through swirling snowflakes, disappointed at the vague result of my “fleece.” In trying to decide whether or not to devote an entire day to driving to the other side of the state, I had set forth a Gideon-type “fleece:” If the weather was great, I’d go; if it was awful, I’d plan on going another time. That morning the sky had appeared infuriatingly indistinct – not exactly clear and sunny, but certainly no blizzard. I had decided to go.
My friend and fellow songwriter Jared had been in a near-fatal car crash a week before, and our fellowship of young Christians had prayed through the night that he would survive; he had. According to my sources, his survival had been remarkable, if not miraculous, and we all praised God for it. Now he was recovering in a hospital in Kalamazoo. I knew that had I been in his position I’d be going stir crazy, so I had made the decision to go provide some relief from the boredom. Although it was Christmastime – not exactly a time I usually sat around looking for something to do – I had carved out a day when I could set everything aside.
I popped a cassette of the late, great Keith Green into the tape player. (Yes, this was a while ago.) As I sang along with the familiar songs, I found I was singing them as prayers, as I identified with so many of the lyrics. One in particular seemed to express the longing of my heart that day as I went to minister to a friend.
“The end of all my prayers is to care like my Lord cares, My one and only goal, His image in my soul …
I want to, I need to be more like Jesus … “*
I was glad that in a small way, I was going to be like Jesus that day. I would pray with Jared, read the Bible to him, maybe sing the songs we had written together. I was looking forward to “being Jesus” to my friend that day.
By the time I arrived at the hospital, the tape had played full circle, and I was singing “I Want To Be More like Jesus” again as I turned off the engine, grabbed my guitar, and headed in to see Jared.
Although I had been warned about his condition, it was still jarring to see my friend for the first time since the accident. The swollen, bruised face was scarcely recognizable, and the once animated singer/songwriter was now semi-conscious at best, letting out an occasional groan, but otherwise still. I sat by the bed, waiting for him to open his eyes, but the nurses said that his sleep schedule was still so irregular, they couldn’t really tell me when he would wake up next.
I prayed for him as I sat and waited and one hour turned into two, then three. Occasionally, I’d talk to him, in case he could hear me and just didn’t feel up to moving. I tried to encourage him with talk of his engagement and upcoming wedding. I softly played and sang a song or two. Occasionally I would step out for a quick walk down the hall to escape the oppressive stillness of the room. But not wanting to miss a moment if he woke up, I soon hurried back and took my place by the bed again, praying and willing him to open his eyes.
Come on, Jared, wake up. Please? I need to go in an hour. I tried not to think about the six hours of driving involved in getting there for one hour’s worth of visit…
… Half an hour left, Jared. Pleeease wake up!
When ten minutes remained before I absolutely had to leave, it was clear that we weren’t going to have that great time of fellowship I had expected, and as I packed up my guitar, I took one last look at his face. Out like a light. I sighed and headed for the elevator. I tried not to yield to the feelings of frustration and doubt. Had I misread God’s answer to my fleece? Should I be feeling guilty about leaving town and coming all this way only to waste the whole day, when there were so many other things I could have been accomplishing at home?
I loaded the guitar into the car, got in, and turned on the engine.
“… I want to, I need to be more like Jesus …”
The song was still playing, and inexplicably I felt like crying. I had tried to be like Jesus, but it hadn’t happened.
… Or had it?
I sensed the Lord’s presence and tried to “get” what He was telling me. I had prayed to be more like Him, so what exactly did that mean?
It then occurred to me how long I had been oblivious to God’s presence in my life. He had been right there, loving me, carrying me through all the tough times, longing to spend time with me, and I had been clueless. For years He had patiently waited for me to wake up and realize He was there. And now I knew – on a very small scale – what He must have felt like.
I’m still not much like Jesus, not nearly as much as I’d like to be, but I’m glad He didn’t give up on me. And He still hasn’t.
Prayer: Father, I do want to be more like Jesus. Mold me into His likeness, whatever that may involve. In His name, Amen.
*”I Want To Be More Like Jesus” copyright 1980 Keith Green