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Pastor Glenn McDonald: Always Before Me

When we decide to follow Jesus, we won’t necessarily begin to do a lot of new things.


Our call is to do the same old things in a whole new way.


In his book Reaching for the Invisible God, Philip Yancey tells us about one of his friends – a hand surgeon who reattaches fingers that have been completely or partially severed.


It’s an exceedingly demanding job. His friend typically has to squint into a microscope for six to eight hours, “sorting out and stitching together the snarl of nerves, tendons, and blood vessels finer than human hairs. A single mistake, and the patient may permanently lose movement or sensation.” Along the way he gets no coffee breaks. No bathroom breaks, either.


On one occasion the surgeon’s phone rang at 3:00 am. He was needed immediately in the operating room. He could hardly face what lay ahead.


That’s when something occurred to him. He decided to dedicate the surgery to his father, who had recently died. He imagined his dad standing alongside him, his hand on his shoulder, offering words of encouragement.


Inspired by a renewed sense of focus, he began to dedicate his surgeries to people he knew. He even called them in advance, sometimes in the middle of the night: “I have a very demanding procedure ahead of me, and I’d like to dedicate the surgery to you. If I think about you while I’m performing it, that will help me get through.”


Then another thought occurred to him.


Why not imagine God standing alongside him, no matter what he was doing? His daily tasks didn’t change. He still read journal articles, updated medical records, and met with patients. But his awareness of God’s presence transformed the mundane into the sacred.


He began to treat nurses with deepened respect. He spent more time with patients. He stopped fretting so much about finances.


Choosing to follow Jesus doesn’t usually entail a sudden inbreaking of supernatural power – the arrival of a whole new world.


It’s more like a reorientation of the world we already inhabit.


That’s not to say it’s easy. We’re so used to thinking primarily about ourselves that it can feel odd to bring God into the picture. British apologist C.S. Lewis observed:


That is why the real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up every morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day…


We can do it only for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our systems because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us.


I need to brush my teeth every morning. That’s not going to change. But what if I begin to see brushing as a daily chance to renew my awareness of God’s presence?


According to the New Testament, even while I’m putting Crest on my toothbrush, God the Father is before me, God the Son is beside me, and God the Spirit is within me. Who knew there was such a crowd every morning at my bathroom sink?  


My call is to remember that – and to realize that the same thing is true whenever I’m cooking, driving, reading, swimming, paying bills, talking with friends, and eating corn on the cob.


David writes, “I keep the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (Psalm 16:8).


It’s so easy to get distracted – to think that I have to face the world all by myself every day, relying solely on my own cleverness, stamina, and courage.


But the more I “keep the Lord always before me” – intentionally cultivating an awareness of his presence – the more I will come to grasp, in my heart of hearts, that I am never alone.


And never on my own.

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