The Bible was almost trembling in my hands as I read Hebrews to my children. The words on the page continued to crescendo as I neared the twenty-eighth verse of chapter 9. The anticipation and intensity of those words came out almost as a whisper as I sat in awe of God’s wisdom and heart. “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”
I stopped reading, letting it soak in. Verses paraded across my mind, Philippians 3:20, 2 Peter 3:13, Matthew 24:30. Mark 14:62. My imagination was filled with a vision of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords riding at the head of a great host, victorious, majestic, coming to collect those eagerly awaiting a Savior from heaven. Jesus, God-man, perfect sacrifice, priest in the order of Melchizedek, resurrected, ascended to heaven, at the right hand of God, always interceding, entering the true Holy of Holies to make provision for my sin, rebellion, weakness, frailty—and coming to bring me to be where he is.
I was astounded as the reality hit home in my heart: there is but one thing, one person, standing between me and eternal damnation: Jesus. I have no righteousness that can make wrong right. I have no power over death. I have no means of assuaging the wrath and judgment of a holy God. I have only Jesus and he is sufficient. There is but one that stands in the gap—for me and for you. The One who stands in that place will appear a second time, not to bear sin (that work is finished), but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”
What does this have to do with pastoral health? Everything.
When you lay your head on the pillow at night, what visions march before your eyes? When you consider the end game, what it is you want to see come to pass in your lifetime? What dream shimmers in the theater of your mind?
Maybe you see yourself, spotlight on you, in the middle of a great crowd being showered with great adulation. If this is your dream, then your stability, security, and confidence will disappear when the crowd turns against you. Your response to difference of opinion, rejection, even conflict will be frantic activity to restore . . . your acceptance. Desperate grasping often brings disease and a fidgetiness that drives you to seek a different crowd.
What if your dream is less an image than an expectation? What if your expectation is that in ministry, marriage, friendship, conflict, even relaxation God will make you a “winner,” always coming out ahead of others, always having it your way? What happens to your fruit-bearing and impact in these seasons? If you cling to this dream, you will wither and die the slow death of bitterness and resentment.
Maybe there is a better dream. In this dream see yourself as one person standing with your back to the crowd. You are pointing to something happening out in the distance. All eyes are fixed not on you, but on the horizon. In this dream, you are pointing others to the one person in the entire universe (and beyond) that can give them a dream worth living, a vision worth sacrifice. In a flash of recognition you realize that it is Jesus on the horizon. You are jittery and twittery with excitement. You grab others: “Look, it’s the Lord. He’s on his way. Can you see him?” Can it be? You are stoked, pumped, catalyzed, motivated, and exuberant. You move and speak with genuine purpose.
Longing . . . living . . . lauding the day and speeding its coming. . . not such a bad dream, eh?