Monday, September 14, 2009

What Was and What Will Be

Think of what you were when you were called (1 Cor. 1:26).

At first it sounded like thunder. After a few seconds I realized it wasn’t thunder at all, but the Wheeler High School drum line.

If I could blaze a trail directly to Wheeler, cutting through my neighbors’ yards, I could walk there in less than five minutes. My house sits almost directly behind the school, and the sounds of the drum line mark the fall season as surely as the leaves that are now being scattered about on my lawn. September means high school football and high school football means marching bands and drum lines.

The sounds evoked memory. Those distant rumbling cadences on Friday morning became a bridge that took me back to my own days on the drum line – only it wasn’t called a drum line back then, at least not at my school. I loved the drums during football season, but I wasn’t so enthusiastic about being a “band geek.” It was far cooler to dress out for football even you never got on the field except to do pre-game stretching. Our band uniforms were, for lack of a better word, goofy. But I tolerated that for the sound and energy of the drums. To use current vocabulary, we rocked.

“I can’t do that anymore.”

At some point remembering my drumming days morphed into acknowledging present reality. My drumming days are done. Truthfully, I don’t think I ever played as well as what I heard coming from Wheeler High on Friday morning. The bar seems to have been raised a good bit higher. Other thoughts followed. “What if I could do that again? I’d work harder. I’d be better.” And almost as quickly – “I’m so glad to be done with high school.”


In his letters to the Christians in Corinth Paul is continually holding up before them who they once were and who they are becoming.

“Remember who you were when you were called” (1 Cor. 1:26). In Christ they are a new creation. “The old has gone, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). When Christ returns they will be “blameless” (1 Cor. 1:8).

Our thinking easily drifts in these same directions, looking back to what was or looking ahead to what will be. The looking back sometimes raises all the “what if” questions: what if we had chosen differently or tried harder or understood more. The looking ahead raises all the “what’s up” questions: what is God up to, where is this headed, what’s up next?

For Paul, and for us, the answer to the “what if” questions and the “what’s up” questions is found in Jesus. God is at work forming Christ in you and that redefines everything, past, present and future.

From time to time you may hear the rhythms of a distant cadence echoing from days long gone. You may look back with regret. You may look back with longing. But you are not who you once were. And sometimes you may feel a restlessness that pushes you to your future, the next thing out there that isn’t clear to you now. You are not yet who you will be.

And what holds it together – what holds us together – is grace: All that was, all that is today, all that yet will be is God’s relentless work to form the image of Jesus in you. As the familiar hymn says, “’tis grace hath brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.”

What is God using these days to shape the likeness of Jesus in you?

Our hearts are filled with thanks, O God, for what has been and what will be. Redeem our yesterdays as you prepare us for days yet to come. Use all that this day will bring to shape the likeness of your son in us, we pray. Amen.

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