One of my greatest joys in summer is sailing on Lake Michigan. Now that Synod 2009 is history, there is time to relax in God’s beautiful creation and at the same time reflect on the decisions of synod and on the Christian Reformed Church.
Recently, as I was enjoying a sail along the Lake Michigan shoreline, I noticed three young people climbing one of the magnificent sand dunes. It was a beautiful, warm afternoon, and I imagine that climbing the dune was not only hard but also a bit frustrating. If you have ever climbed a sand dune, you know that as you move forward, the sand gives way and you find yourself slipping back. It can be a tedious process.
Yet, ever so slowly, these climbers were moving up the slope. In spite of slipping sand and a steep climb, they progressed toward the crest.
From their perspective on the side of the dune, I suspect they saw little progress. At times, they may even have felt like they were actually sliding backward. From their point of view, the climb was long, hot, and tiring.
But from my perspective on the lake, I could see them inching forward and upward—making great progress. What they could not see, pressed against the wall of sand, was very clear to me.
As I watched those young people climb, I thought back to my previous week at synod. At synod I had been climbing the dune of church life. It was a good climb—even invigorating—and still I wondered how much progress the church is really making. God has called us to climb, to strive, to work, to run the race, to press on toward the goal. Yet as we climb we often see little progress, and at times we become discouraged.
As a church we have committed ourselves to strengthening local congregations; we have pledged to become a more diverse family; we have promised to be agents of transformation in lives and communities worldwide. Yet sometimes we grow weary. We see the sand of life’s journey stretching before and above us. The peak seems so far away and unattainable. We feel our feet sliding from beneath us and wonder if we will ever reach the crest.
It is in those moments that we need to stop, turn, and look back over the path we’ve taken. When we do, we discover that we have moved forward and upward. The spectacular view of the water stretches before us. Below us, we see the progress already made. And if we could, just for a moment, see ourselves from a distance, we would recognize that in God’s grace and strength we are making progress. Lives are being transformed, churches are becoming healthier, and our denomination is growing more diverse and beautiful.
We are not yet at the top of the dune; we have not yet “arrived,” and there is much hard work ahead. There will be challenges as well as opportunities. Our bodies and our souls will grow weary and doubts will creep in, but together in God’s grace the Christian Reformed Church will continue to climb forward and upward.
At some point we shall reach the goal and experience the prize. We will stand with the great multitude gathered before the throne of the Lamb and cry out, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Then we will know that our labor in the Lord was not in vain.