“Boys, the best thing you can do with death is ride off from it.” ~ Capt. Woodrow F. Call from the movie, Lonesome Dove
Dr. Robert Lewis was teaching pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock for many years. I lived three hours away and wasn’t a member of his church, but Dr. Lewis taught me lots of things.
Like many men, I spent considerable time in my early thirties searching for an identity, a purpose, and God’s plan for my life. Clarity on those bigger things isn’t always easy when you’re simply trying to earn enough money to pay for diapers, formula, and day care. The thirties aren’t easy.
Across the country there were rave reviews in the early 90s about Dr. Lewis’ curriculum called The Quest for Authentic Manhood. Thousands of churches taught the curriculum. Dr. Lewis led the effort at his home church, and for many weeks I left home at 3 a.m., drove to Little Rock, sat in on the session, and returned to Jonesboro for work by mid morning. Quest reinforced four basic tenets for a man’s life:
•And, expect a greater reward.
For 23 years, these four ideas have guided everything I do. There were moments of failure, yes, but fewer than there otherwise might have been without them, I suspect.
One of the most important things I learned from this comprehensive study on manhood was posed by a simple question that catches many of us off guard.
When does a man become a man? At bar mitzvah? When he completes his Selective Service registration? When he first votes? What is this moment in time when a male transitions from boy to man? How does he know?
It all emphasizes the important need for things like ceremony and symbols.
How do we mark a marriage? A ceremony and symbols. How do we mark milestone anniversaries? Ceremony and symbols. In the Christian life, how do we mark the milestone of our most important decision? Ceremony and symbol.
We need these things in our life as an important way of both marking growth, and leaving things behind. Sometimes we underestimate the power of leaving things behind.
About two-thirds through their five-hundred mile walk, modern-day pilgrims representing dozens of nationalities encounter a special place on the pilgrimage known as northern Spain’s Camino de Santiago.
It’s really nothing more than an iron cross atop big pile of rocks, but many consider it holy ground.
For more than a millennia, tradition has encouraged pilgrims on The Way of St. James to carry a small object from their home (most carry a small stone) and as they walk. The object represents the pilgrim’s burden, or her sin, or regrets, however they may wish to characterize it. Upon arrival at this special location known as Cruz de Ferro in the Cambrian Mountains, the pilgrim places the object on the hill at the foot of the cross, offers a prayer, and walks away.
The symbolism of marking such a moment in time is a powerful milestone representing the heart of the gospel truth.
Some say that upon our repentance of sin God cannot remember our wrongdoing. The more accurate and amazing truth is not that he can’t, but that God chooses with a holy intention NOT to recall the past. Through the power of Jesus’ blood shed on a different cross nearly two thousand years ago, we need not wallow in the shame and regret of sin.
You may not walk a five-hundred mile pilgrimage, but you can surely mark a moment representing your repentance of sin.
•Write your regrets on a piece of paper, light a match, and watch your past mistakes go up in smoke.
•Construct a simple cross and nail your paper list to the symbol of Christ’s crucifixion.
•Next Sunday, leave an object representing your shortcomings at your church altar, say a prayer, and walk away.
Remember, God has a purpose for every person, and His work is too important for us to remain bogged down in the past.
That’s why He sent Jesus. For your freedom!