My oldest brother, Doug, made an enlightening comment that I haven't been able to shake...he talked about salvation in the metaphor of a sunrise. The slow, steady light creeping up from the horizon, minute by minute, split second by split second, growing into vast expanse over the entire sky until the earth is lit with all it's orange goodness and glow. This fiery flame set ablaze to light our world each morning...no one can quite say when it "happens". First it's just a hint, a thin line of luminosity rising...but then it's larger and brighter and it's beaming rays begin to hurt the eyes if one stares too long. Pretty soon, a person can hardly recall it's beginning entrance, for it has totally immersed itself with cloud and blue, and it rises and rises in magnificent glory.
When was the exact "moment" the light came? When did sky surrender and give way to the sun? When did night fall and light enter in? No one can precisely pinpoint that moment, because it is this entire delightful drama unfolding before our eyes, flowing with grace and ease. Just as a novel reads, streaming seamlessly from one page to the next, no one can attest to "when" the story happened, because it was happening all along! And so it seems, sometimes salvation is like that for our weary souls, travelers treading on this earth. When did it begin? When did saving grace fully take sway over our hearts and spirits? The momentous work of salvation ringing like a sweet song with note after note, miracle after miracle, blending mysteriously and lighting our lives as it tells the powerful tune of a giving, victorious God.
The one thing we absolutely know is that the sunrise's light is a pure gift to the earth, to the eyes. It is the power of the sun which bursts forth and causes this whole unfolding brilliance...neither the power of earth nor viewer nor clouds nor anything else caused it- these are only recipients of the gift. And thus, it is the power of the Son of Man behind the drama of our salvation, that epic hope which emerges in our hearts, founded in His love, His gift, His sacrifice. It cannot be purchased or earned, for it, too, is a pure gift. Yet, sometimes, it is not the sudden spark of a flame nor a single moment in time we can recall, but the One Flame has been burning the entire time, through all eternity, and it just took the journey of a sunrise for it's rays to make way into our heart.
Last night at the local rescue mission where I lead worship once or twice a month, I witnessed a few men step forward, surrendering their lives to Jesus, kneeling and receiving the blessed gift of Salvation during the ending altar call. Pastor Jack knelt and prayed with them, hands upon their stooped backs, encouraging them in this moment of decision. Was this a one moment, instant surrender, a lightning-rod piercing the human heart with transcendent love and singular meeting with the Savior? Or was this one point on the course of hope's trajectory- one second in the middle of an eternal flame, during the rising sun of these men's souls? A part of the fire's journey skyward in the morning dawn's continual story? I do not know, for I didn't get the chance to speak with these men. All I know, is my story was more like a sunrise...but the sweet thing about salvation is this- once the sun has risen, it never sets. It lights the soul day and night, night and day, for here and ever-after, flaming our course through mortal life and ushering us into eternity.
“...stooping very low, He engraves with care
His Name, indelible, upon our dust;
And from the ashes of our self-despair,
Kindles a flame of hope and humble trust.
He seeks no second site on which to build,
But on the old foundation, stone by stone,
Cementing sad experience with grace,
Fashions a stronger temple of His own.” - Patricia St. John