A few weeks ago my family and I spent an afternoon at a park that had, along with its wooded walking trails and sandy softball fields, a colorful playground set made of heavy plastic complete with a deck from which various slides sloped down. One of the slides was attached to a tall platform, spiraling down in a long tunnel until it opened again above a pile of mulch.
My younger children very much enjoyed climbing to the top of the “tower” only to disappear through the tunnel. My daughter especially loved sitting at the top of the slide, unable to see below, while I would call to her through the tunnel. Although she could not see me, she loved to hear my voice speaking to her from some unseen location below.
I thought of that afternoon this past Wednesday when chatting with a dear pastor friend, Lyle. He and I had gone on a mission trip together in the fall of 2002 to Ghana, a country in West Africa. We spent nearly two weeks there, encouraging and training pastors who do not have access to opportunities for formal education. While on that trip, we became burdened for these pastors, and were given a vision for something more than the occasional pastor training conference. We saw a need for a place where pastors could come and spend an extended period of time in intensive training in an environment that would supply pastoral mentoring, preparing them more adequately for the rigors of spiritually shepherding a congregation.
On our flight back to the U.S., we discussed the vision, scratched out ideas for a curriculum and even drew rough plans for a building that would facilitate it. Even as we considered it, somehow we knew that the Lord would cause it to come to pass. But it took nearly four years for sufficient funds to be raised so that construction could begin and about three years since then for sufficient monies to be raised to nearly complete it.
As Lyle and I were touching base about the project, he remarked, “It’s come to the point now that I feel like we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”
When I considered that conversation, I was reminded that not only is the life of faith itself a journey through unknown lands, but is made up of various opportunities to choose to obey the leading of the Lord in our lives, and thereby experience His love and power in intimate and profound ways.
That particular mission trip itself was one such experience for me. It was an extremely inconvenient time to take a trip like that for many reasons and doing so was difficult on a lot of levels for my family. But the participation of Lyle and myself in that trip was a key aspect in the development of a pastors’ training center that I believe will make a huge difference for the Kingdom of God. Based on the queries voiced by people who are waiting to be put on a waiting list for enrollment, the center could nurture and assist churches not only in the rural villages north of the cities of Accra and Kamasi, but in all the countries surrounding Ghana as well.
Only now, however, are we “seeing light at the end of the tunnel.” Did you know that much of what awaits you in your pilgrimage with God will be a little bit like my experience? He is inviting you to trust Him and calls you to “step out in faith” in a relationship with Him that will lead you through many narrow valleys that feel like tunnels that have no end. Ultimately, He calls you to trust Him with your eternal destiny.
Incidentally, my conversation with Lyle on Wednesday was prompted by the recent passing of a mutual Christian friend named Pete. Pete, with whom Lyle had been especially close, was also a man of generous spirit, great vision, and humble devotion to His God. This past week he stepped through the shadow of death into an eternal inheritance kept for Him by His Savior and Lord.
Death, which Jesus has conquered, is the ultimate “tunnel” through which we each must pass. But whether one is speaking of that final step into eternity or of a test of obedience that our God has placed before us here and now, His voice calls to us more certainly than did mine to my daughter as I encouraged her to slide down to me.
But I guess that that’s what makes faith the beautiful thing that it is. God invites us to walk with Him and experience His faithfulness. If we accept His invitation and place our hand in His, He leads us safely through dark valleys of sorrow, over tall peaks of impossibility, and right on through bogs of discouragement until we reach the other side and all His promises are fully vindicated. It’s true that much of the time we just can’t see the “light at the end of the tunnel” but the voice of our heavenly Father calls to us through His Word, the Bible. Our God is faithful and we will see it if we just don’t give up.
“Love never fails…. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:8a, 12 NIV).