Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of “Don’t Try to Walk before You Can Crawl” (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (01/17/08)
TITLE: Sawdust and Ashes
By Gregory Kane
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I had just turned 23 when I organised my first tent crusade. It was to be a grand affair, winning thousands to the Lord in the small town of Francksburgh. A bequest from my great-aunt provided the down-payment on a tent and I spent the last of my savings on advertising. Divine healing was guaranteed along with anointed, dynamic preaching. I was convinced that the Lord and I were about to re-enact the days of the apostles.
Seventeen people turned up for the first meeting. I assured everyone that they were healed, but the lame still hobbled out into the darkness of the night. I guess the anointing wasn’t too apparent either. I preached to empty seats the following day. A drunk rolled in the third night but he snored his way through the message and ignored the altar call. By the morning of the fourth day, the unpalatable truth was starting to sink in. I went for a stroll in town and distributed the last of my flyers. But my invitations were greeted with ridicule. Everywhere I went people pointed at me, jeering as if I were a diseased leper from some ancient Bible story. In a few short days I had gone from being the saviour of Francksburgh to an unwanted object of derision.
The Italian sought me out that afternoon. I had tried to put his very existence out of my mind. But the day of reckoning wasn’t to be avoided. The man wanted the rest of his money for the tent. And of course I didn’t have it. I had been counting on the offerings. After all, a thousand penitent souls can conjure up a small fortune in no time at all. Only I didn’t have a single convert and my own wallet was threadbare.
The man’s muscles rippled as he advanced towards me. He didn’t even need to ask. One look around the deserted sanctuary told him that my enterprise had failed. The backhanded blow took me by surprise. A savage kick to my ribs left me rolling in agony. “Lie there and don’t move!” he snarled. I was a preacher, not a pugilist, so I did exactly what he said. Aghast, I watched as he and a bevy of accomplices proceeded to tear apart my precious tabernacle. Guy ropes were slackened, pegs yanked out of the earth, and the tarpaulin hurriedly folded away. In less time that I could have imagined, my dreams were as sawdust scattered on the barren ground.
Tears flowed as never before. Sure, I knew how to pray. What preacher doesn’t? But this was a cry of torment from the depths of my soul. How had the Master allowed this to happen? Why had he abandoned his faithful servant? Did he no longer yearn for the salvation of sinners? I had lost everything: my savings, reputation, vision, even hope. Instead of joy in his service, I tasted only ashes.
To this day I don’t know if the voice was audible. But the words were damning in their bluntness: “Your crusade had nothing to do with me.” At once my battered pride rose up to deny this allegation, but I forced it back down. To my deep shame, I recognised that the entire scheme had been the work of my inflated ego, albeit dressed up in pious clothes. Not once had I sought the Master for his direction. In ill-conceived arrogance I had taken for granted that he would bless my labours in his name.
I found the overlooked tent peg later that day. I have kept it here on my mantelpiece ever since, a constant reminder of my human frailty. Over the past decades I have learned to keep in step with the Master - sometimes walking gently by his side, sometimes running powerfully in the Spirit. But I have learned that every activity, every good idea must first be tested on my knees.
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