It's A Gratitude Thing
Here I am in Opelika, Alabama doing a Christian evidences seminar for the 10th Street congregation of the church. I drove here right after speaking five times at the West End congregation in Knoxville. I won't be home until midnight Thursday at the earliest and will have to leave again Sunday afternoon for Columbus to teach at Ohio State University on Monday.
And all of that from a guy who hates traveling and hates public speaking. No, really. I cringe when I have to go eat with people, or interact at the door, and my family has long known that I run away from any ringing phones. My version of heaven is a quiet cottage somewhere in the Highlands of Scotland with a thatched roof, direct internet connection to Amazon and Christian Book Distributors, no phone, no roads.... just me, my wife, a few parrots, maybe a border collie or two, and eternity to walk, think and read.
So why do I have a life that requires me to be in front of over a thousand people every week -- sometimes much more? Why do I make my living speaking about Jesus from the pulpit, in seminars, campgrounds, retreat centers, universities and hotel convention rooms? Simply put, it is gratitude.
Being in Alabama reminds me of a time long ago when I lived in this state for a few years. I was in my late teens and as confused an individual as one could meet. I had been raised in the church -- in fact, I was raised in the far right wing of the church. I knew the Bible forwards and backwards, was more than passable in Hebrew (but not Greek... even today), had read most of the debate books published and could be as vicious and rapier witted as any of our champions. However, I was unprepared for most of the attacks the devil would lob in my direction and it was here, in Alabama, that I had my greatest failures. Almost the entire time I was here I struggled with sin and, most of the time, I lost. It would be another six or seven years before I fully came back to Christ and deep, lasting changes were made by the Holy Spirit.
I wonder about all those I hurt back then, in the mid-70's, and whether or not my evil behavior drove them from the church; from the Lord. I have no idea where they are now or if they would even believe that Patrick changed. It is a dark spot that will forever haunt me -- the time in my life I realized just how bad a man I was and just how much I needed a Savior.
Jesus could have left me beside the road and walked on. Most of my family is on the side of the road and I have very little contact with them. Why He didn't leave me is something I will never, ever be able to explain. Whatever the reason, my gratitude for His grace is something that propels me forward each day of my life. It is the reason I put aside my desires and fears and step up to the plate again and again. I am not brave or holy or good and I do not suffer from delusions of adequacy. I know I am there because He saved me and kept saving me time and again. I cannot help but stand up in gratitude and do whatever it is that He wants me to do until He is finished with me and/or calls me home. Even if it means I have to pull up the tentpegs, stow my comfortable tent, and hit the road again.