Memorial Markers: An Exercise in Joy
It’s been 25 years since I first went through Henry Blackaby’s best-selling Bible study, Experiencing God.
Despite that passage of time, a particular aspect of it stands out in my mind: the need to establish memorial markers in our spiritual lives.
Namely, to recall the highlights of where we have seen God move in unusual or even miraculous ways.
Such an exercise helps remind us of how He has come through before when the chips were down, and thereby encourage us whenever things look bleak.
Ironically, just reflecting on the timing of our first journey through the material immediately brought to mind a significant spiritual marker.
It took place in the middle of Experiencing God.
Each of five daily lessons included a short assignment of some kind.
This particular one involved taking a prayer walk. Not only were we to speak to God, we were also to listen closely to see if He had anything to say to us.
This was right before I was flying to California to attend the nation’s largest Christian writers conference. One reason I chose to go: the keynote speaker was Jerry Jenkins.
This was the year before Jenkins’ first Left Behind book, which went on to become part of one of the best-selling Christian fiction series of all time.
I was familiar with his monthly column in Moody magazine and had read a couple of his previous New York Times’ bestsellers.
At that point, I was a long way (and still am) from bestseller status. I had been a fulltime freelancer for four years, after seven years of on-and-off, part-time status.
As I reflected on how Jenkins—only a year older than me—had advanced so far while I wasted my 20s with partying and aimless living, a wave of regret washed over me.
I found myself unexpectedly asking: If I hadn’t been so foolish, would my career be a lot further along now?
“I Love You”
Then I listened. A voice the size of a whisper spoke words I have never forgotten.
“I love you,” it said. “Please believe that. So what if you haven’t done things Jerry Jenkins has done? You’ve done things he hasn’t done. I have other things for you to do.”
Those words felt like salve being applied to a wounded spirit.
They were also prophetic. At that conference, I talked with four editors. Three agreed to look at a proposal for a book I had coauthored with an evangelist from Anaheim who became a lifelong friend.
Just finding a receptive audience was an accomplishment after two years-plus of getting nowhere.
While the first editor turned it down, a couple months later a major publishing house appeared to be on the verge of making an offer.
That’s when the third editor called to ask if the manuscript (a simultaneous submission) was still available.
When I told him of the pending offer, he said he didn’t want to get in a bidding war and to let him know if it didn’t work out.
It did. The next year my first commercially-published book made its debut.
Since then, I have worked on dozens of books as either a coauthor, collaborator, or editor.
One devotional I contributed to, God’s Man, released a 20th anniversary edition last fall.
While none have been bestsellers, I have learned that books come and go. What remains are the friendships I have made with numerous authors, editors, and other freelancers.
Most of all, I cherish the relationship with the One who spoke those words of healing 25 years ago.
Reflecting on what He did then is not a matter of living in the past, but remembering He also makes the present worthwhile.