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Fifty Years of Following

When I was young, fifty years of anything seemed like an eternity. 

I don’t think I could have imagined as a twenty-year old what I would do for fifty years.


My dad died at fifty-six. I was twenty-eight. I couldn’t fathom the loneliness my mom was experiencing, and for a time I had difficulty sleeping thinking of her aloneness while I had the comfort of my newly married life. Mom lived alone for nearly forty years until she breathed her last.


Other than my own breathing, following Jesus on a volunteer basis is the longest I’ve done anything. Of course I wish I had done it better. I wish I wasn’t so undisciplined in my disciplines. I wish I had prayed more. I wish I hadn’t been so self-centered. I wish I would have led with more clarity. I could list more wishes here.


One thing I figured out: I never wanted to embarrass Jesus.


And thus, without a hint of “I’m only human”, it is the reality of the human condition that makes me follow him harder. The fact that I believe with my whole being that he loves me inexplicably somehow keeps me in this odd state of grace. For me, grace has been the Velcro between a very pure and perfect Father and a very broken man. Why would I want to embarrass someone who loves me, despite knowing me?


At times God has seemed to be aloof. But I can be aloof as well, and perhaps that’s the problem with my perception. I don’t know. I recall a heart-breaking passage in C.S. Lewis’ journal of his wife’s death….and remember that he was the 20th century’s great apologist and defender of the faith:


“…Where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. …Go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows.”


As time passed, Lewis’ soul settled a bit. In a surrendered state, he writes:


“I have gradually come to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted. Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face? The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can't give it: you are like the drowning man who can't be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.”  A GRIEF OBSERVED, C.S. LEWIS


Perhaps. But I don’t know if I’ve yet experienced that depth of despair.


One thing I do know: fifty years, though a blink of eternity’s eye, feels like a long time. This past Sunday we celebrated Easter. And it was on an Easter fifty years ago that I stood up in a church to signal my surrender to the Messiah. When I sat back down, I wondered what had just happened—the rush of blood to my face and thundering heartbeats. As I drove back to the house where I lived with my fellow musicians, I pondered if I had psyched myself into something—perhaps this was just an emotional breakdown? Was I that fragile?


Nevertheless, I had made a decision. And in the following months, my life began to change in curious ways. I was becoming more human. I mean, human in the sense of some Designer’s original hopeful model.


Sitting at my desk now, I almost typed: “…and I’ve never looked back.” Fact is, I have looked back. Several times. But each time I’ve thought, I don’t want to go back to that. And that was a life of profound aloneness in a crowded world in a cold universe.


I’ll follow the One who offered experiential grace.


Fifty years ago, Hello Kitty came into being. Ernő Rubik introduced his “magic cube” puzzle. The Fonz appeared in the first Happy Days episode. And I began a new life. Of all people, if I can do it, you certainly can.


Don’t give up, fellow sojourner. Give me fifty.



Dave Workman | The Elemental Group


The Elemental Churches Inventory guides your leadership team through a multi-faceted review of strengths and opportunities in four vital elements of your church’s life: Integrity (systems, processes, infrastructure), Passion (commitment to the mission), Servanthood (outward-focus), and Imagination (innovation, openness to change). And because of its unique web-based and curriculum approach, it’s a third of the cost of typical consulting!


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