One of our Journey brothers in Bakersfield, Don Clark, penned a beautiful word of encouragement to his Journey Group upon their Commencement.  It is a great reflection of what God does in a man’s heart through an intimate, abiding relationship with Christ.

 

THE LAST NUGGET

Here we are at the end of nine months together.

It’s good to look back at where we started—and perhaps even long before that.

Most of us, I’m sure, at some point in our lives, have been exactly where singer/songwriter Billy Joel defiantly still is in a song he wrote about his life.

I don’t need you to worry for me cause I’m alright
I don’t want you to tell me it’s time to come home
I don’t care what you say anymore, this is my life
Go ahead with your own life and leave me alone.

That was all of us.  Controlled by defiant self-will.

I’ll go where I want.

Do what I want.

Say what I want.

Watch what I want.

Buy what I want.

Have sex with who I want.

Drink what I want.

Smoke what I want.

Ingest or inject what I want.

Eat what I want, when I want, as much as I want.

 

One way or another, that’s been all of us.

We’ve spent the last nine months listening to each other’s stories and hearing first-hand about the devastating consequences of that kind of self-will in our lives.

Amazingly, we’ve learned to take off the masks we present to the world.  We’ve stopped hiding the true condition of our hearts and the damaged condition of our characters behind our roles and titles and achievements and possessions.  We’ve dared to come out from behind the fake images we’ve crafted and kept in place for ourselves.

We’ve seen for ourselves that we are only as sick as our secrets  and only as phony and as inauthentic to ourselves and to others and to God as the things we cover up, hold back, and keep out of sight.

Here in this safe space we’ve created for each other,  we’ve discovered—and we’ve seen others discover—the liberating power of transparency, the healing power of openness, the transforming power of admitting to ourselves, to each other, and to our Maker our fears, flaws, failures, pretenses, inner darkness, and secret struggles.

In short, men, we’ve all discovered that, one way or another, we’ve all been our own version of the Prodigal Son.

We’ve all turned away from the Father.  We’ve all left the Father’s house.  We’ve all taken everything the Father has given us and defiantly gone off to some version of the Far Country.  We’ve all squandered our God-given gifts in rebellious living and trivial pursuits and in behavior that has been damaging to ourselves and destructive to others, especially those closest to us, those we should have protected from the kind of harm we inflicted them.

We’ve all ended up in some kind of pig pen, starving spiritually, empty emotionally, trying to find some scrap of nourishment from the dry husks the world feeds us.

We’ve been like those in the cynical rhyme that says, “There are some of us who creep into this world to eat and sleep, devour the cattle, flocks, and fish—and leave behind an empty dish.”

But here we are, nine months later, on a journey that has brought us back from the Far Country, back to the Father’s house.  Like the Prodigal, we know we’re no longer worthy to be called the Father’s sons.  We know we’re not fit have a place inside the Father’s house.  At least that’s what we think we know.  But the Father has rushed to embrace us and run to lavish His love upon us.

He’s covered our rags with Christ’s robes.  He’s placed the ring of royalty on our finger.  He’s spread a feast of celebration for us before all His friends and before all our enemies.  He is heaping honor and glory on us, welcoming us back, lifting us up, placing us on the high ground where He’s always intended for us to be where we were always meant to be.

So the question I ask, now that we’re at the end of this point on this a new journey, are any of us refusing to go into the feast, reluctant to join the party, unable to enjoy the singing and dancing, the laughter and light-heartedness, standing outside with our heads still hung down, with our hearts still filled with shame, with our minds still haunted by how badly we’ve screwed up, with our emotions still dominated by regret over how many people we’ve hurt?

Men, the Lord says to you that it is a terrible waste of your time and a terrible misuse of your life to spend today mourning over the damage you caused yesterday.  Jesus has forgiven yesterday.  Jesus has closed the book on yesterday.

So beyond an honorable attempt to apologize and a reasonable effort to make whatever amends that can be made, it’s not our yesterdays that should hold us.  It’s about God’s new tomorrows that are drawing us onward.

Many would love to see us guilt-ridden and haunted by our past failures for the rest of our lives.  Do not let anyone lay that kind of burden on you.

So be careful about going on and on, telling and repeating our sad stories to the point we become stuck in those stories.  Do not continue to identify ourselves with those stories. Do not fail to move decisively beyond those stories.

Yes, the Holy Spirit will prompt us at key moments to share parts of our stories when He knows those parts can be helpful to others. But those are our old stories.  It’s time to write and to tell new stories.

Men, I know all about telling my little story.  In my TV years, I was invited to tell my story all over this town.  And I did so to be faithful to every opportunity to stand for Jesus.  But here’s the spiritual danger I discovered about repeatedly telling my story:  I told my story so often it became like a script.  I didn’t have to think about it, pray about it, or prepare for it.  I could just get up and deliver it.  It also became a subtle ego trip.  You’re always the center of your own story.

But here’s the deal.  It’s tempting to get cynical about things.  I’m no longer on your television screens, so I no longer get all those invitations.  I’m the same guy.  Same testimony.  But I’m no longer of any use to churches and groups that want someone in the public eye that will serve their promotional purposes to help draw a crowd.

For me, it’s been liberating to no longer keep repeating a story about my past.  I don’t need anyone to know about my past.  I don’t need anyone to know anything about my resume.  I only want to quietly be who I truly am in the eyes of my God.  I only want others to know me, good or bad, based on their own personal experience of me in where I am on my journey right now.   Nothing more.

As for being a so-called “Big Man of the City,” you have no idea how lonely and isolating it is to be put on that pedestal.  I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have found a place like Journey where I can just let down, kick back, shut up, and just be one of the guys.

My all-time favorite line from a movie is from “The Zero Effect,” about the world’s greatest detective, Darrel Zero, played by Bill Pullum, who tells his associate, played straight by Ben Stiller, that the work they do makes them “the good guys.”  Stiller finally stands up to his brilliant boss and says in reply, “Don’t you get it?!   There aren’t any ‘good guys.’  There aren’t any ‘bad guys.’  There’s just a bunch of guys.”

Men, I am so glad just to be part of this bunch of guys.

And let us never forget, let us always remember, and let us be greatly encouraged and greatly challenged by this simple fact:  Our Lord’s original band of 12 men were also, like us, “just a bunch of guys.”

 

AND LOOK WHAT OUR LORD DID WITH THEM!!!

 

So now, as for me and I hope for you, I say again here, as I said on the mountain, it is time for us to join the forward-leaning, face-to-the-wind journey of the Apostle Paul, who with total transparency said, “I haven’t attained what I need to attain.  I haven’t reached the point I need to reach.  I’m not in any way perfect or fully developed like I should be.  I keep on doing things I shouldn’t do.  But as a new man in Christ, on a new life mission for Christ, I focus on only one thing:  Forgetting what lies behind, straining forward to what lies ahead, I’m pressing on toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

 

Men, it’s time to join the party that God is throwing in our honor.  It’s time to sing a new song.

 

This song!

 

Celebration time, come on!”

(Kool and the Gang.  Let it play.)

 

—don clark