Author Archives: J. P. Rapp

Memorial Day and A Call to Fight for Life

Today we remember the men and women of the United States Military who sacrificed their lives for ours. They freely gave so that we might freely live. As we remember and honor these heroes of life may we be bold to sacrifice for life as they did. May we remember that the freedom we have today is a privilege that we still must fight for. May we fight courageously as they did. May we fight against the tyranny taking place in our own land. May we fight so that the daily bloodshed of innocent children whom these men died to save may cease. May we fight against the abuse of the precious freedom we have today. May we, as the saying reminds, use our freedom not to do as we please, but as we ought. We truly honor the men and women who have died for us by following in their steps and fighting for life. May we actively remember to do as they did – choose life. May we praise and thank God for giving us these faithful heroes who, knowing the cost, laid down their lives in imitation, whether knowingly or unknowingly, of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. May God bless America as we choose and fight for life! Happy Memorial Day!

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Friends in Passing

Samuel awoke to an ordinary, splendid spring day. It was of the kind where you wake up to a shining sun and a cool fresh breeze – the kind that makes you want to sing and sniff the air and dance and drink coffee. And it was one of the kind that makes it very difficult to go spend a day working inside. Samuel stopped at the post office before heading to the train station to drop off a pair of shoes he’d ordered online that didn’t fit.

“Why did I order those shoes online? It would have been way more efficient to just go to the store,” Samuel questioned himself.

He pulled into the station and found a parking spot at the very back of the parking lot, since it was empty in the back and he felt more comfortable doing so. He usually boarded the prior Washington Station, because it was closer to his house. But Windsor Station was closer to the post office, so today it made the cut.

Samuel took a seat on a bench near the tracks, watching others arrive and enjoying tidbits of conversation with strangers and familiar faces now and again. He looked intently at the faces around him – some were happy, some seemingly stricken with sorrows of life, still others he couldn’t quite describe, but maybe plain was the right word. He sat patiently, here and then glancing at the papers in his hand or his phone to check the time, waiting for the train to arrive. Five more minutes until 6:00AM arrival. However, this train always ran early in the mornings; it was usually here at 5:50AM every morning.

“I wonder why it’s not here by now,” Samuel thought.

A few minutes passed, and looking around Samuel could see and feel the growing frustration of the crowd. He turned and glanced down the track as far as his eye could see. No train. No sound. Just the morning breeze and the sniffles and breath of the assembly. Minutes continued to roll by. It was 6:15 now, and finally one man spoke up, stirring the silence to complain.

“They’ve got one job, these guys. Why can’t they just show up on time and do it right?”

The majority of the crowd joined in, with growing frustration about being late for work or about plans being messed up for the day. Samuel stayed silent, so sure that the train would arrive any minute. At the same time, the pressure to conform to the voices of those gathered tugged at his tongue, and at last he caved in.

“Good grief,” he said to the woman beside him. “So much for getting off work early today.”

She confirmed his words “I’m supposed to lead a meeting at eight. At this rate I will barely make it.”

Samuel looked again; the tracks were still silent. Many people began to make phone calls to co-workers and bosses, letting them know that they would be late. Some even began to get in their cars and drive away, the time now being nearly 6:30AM. Samuel sat still.

“Something must have happened,” he spoke at last, before the train master’s voice came through the speakers overhead.

“I’ve just received word that the Northwest Line is now closed due to an accident. You will be notified of it’s reopening in the days to come. Thank you for your business.”

Samuel heard some gasps from the crowd, but still overall the pack complained.

“An accident? Seriously? What did they do this time?” An angry man’s voice could be heard above the throng.

The crowd began to move away from the rails and towards their vehicles or other means of transportation. A bus arrived on the scene and within minutes was full and on its way again.

“Well, I guess we’ll meet again when the line reopens,” the lady next to Samuel spoke softly as she began walking away. “Have a good day.”

“Thank you,” Samuel replied.

A few more minutes passed and Samuel alone remained near the tracks.

“An accident?” Samuel wondered. “That was all the information they gave? An accident that closed the line down?”

Eventually, he rose and walked slowly towards his car, stepped in, and drove away towards home, making a mental note to call his manager upon arrival in about twenty minutes. He had done this drive at least a thousand times, having grown up here as a child and now having been commuting daily into the city for work. He passed the familiar banks, stores, coffee shops, parks, and drove through the same stoplights he knew the timing of down to the tee. He travelled passed the same signs and streets which felt like home, and with the same railroad line which, though curving at times, ran mainly parallel to the road he took most of the way home.

“What an unusual morning,” he thought. “Why did it feel so strange?” Almost the whole time, Samuel had expected the station master to say those words. It was not at all surprising to him. Why else would the train be so late?

In the distance near Washington Bridge he could see flashing lights and traffic that had piled up.

“There was an accident,” the words played again in his head. “The train must have run into a car.”

The traffic came to a dead stop and Samuel could see people getting out of their cars to see what was going on. Pulling to the right side of the road, Samuel decided to do the same. As he stepped out and began walking towards the lights, he saw the looks of horror on some of the faces of people walking back from the scene of interest. His heart began to beat faster. He didn’t want to ask anyone what happened. He wanted to see for himself. He could see the flashing lights clearly now, and people on stretchers. He saw police tape forming a perimeter blocking the entire road, and he walked straight up to it, out of the line of trees. He stopped in his track, looking up. He knew these skies, but everything had changed now. The familiar sights and sounds of cars and trains were no longer. They were now replaced by the cries of those being rescued, the yells of the rescuers, and the slam in the distance of people getting back into their cars.

Samuel’s eyes filled with tears. The scene reminded him of a story he’ read in the newspaper as a boy. But he could really only imagine it then. Now it was right in front of him.

“How foolish I was to be complaining this morning, joining the murmur of an impatient throng!” He thought, wishing to hear what the man who had initiated the grumbling would say after he saw this. “What were we grumbling for? Such a small thing in comparison. We wanted to get to work, but He didn’t want us there. We wanted our lives to work out so badly the way we expected, but He had something different planned for us, something we should learn from.

Samuel wiped his tears and walked towards a police officer to offer some help. The police officer said he was alright, but then another police officer spotted two limp bodies barely floating on a train seat in the water. Before anyone else acted, Samuel had already entered the water and was swimming towards them. Within a few minutes the passengers were on the shore, but it was too late. They had already passed. Samuel was drenched and cold. Someone handed him a blanket, and he gratefully accepted. He didn’t know what to think. He was still so stuck on the fact that they had all been waiting as Washington Bridge collapsed, and complaining as its passengers were smashed and drowned to death. He couldn’t believe it. All the year and times he passed it . . . every day for years now. And it was only today he was dropping by the post office and came to Windsor, the station after Washington, where he usually boarded. He would have entered the train this morning to sit next to the two passengers he so quickly dove in to save, not just because they needed help, but because he so easily recognized them – his friends in passing.

 

Officially Concerned

This coming weekend the “Unofficial” St. Patrick’s Day revelry takes place at the University of Illinois. I was informed it is tradition to be drunk for 24 hours straight, or at least to consume large quantities of alcohol. I write because I am burdened to condemn the drunkenness that will take place in great extent through the abuse of one of God’s good gifts. I write to those who gladly participate in such revelry. I write because I love all of these and care for where they will end up in eternity. I write because the truth needs to be spoken. I pray that you listen, because the truth needs to be heard.

Why do I condemn, you ask? Am I just trying to spoil everyone from having a good time? No, but I condemn drunkenness because the Creator of the world condemns drunkenness.

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

-Galations 5:19-21

“So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”

-1 Thessalonians 5:6-9

Notice especially in the first passage, that “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Those who do not repent of their sins for which Jesus Christ came to save will be condemned to the lake of fire. I implore you to seriously consider that. Hell is real. God is real. And Jesus will forgive you if you repent of your sins.

Notice in the second passage that those who are sober have put on the breastplate of love! Drunkenness, on the other hand, is for those who do not love – for those even who hate themselves! For to be drunk is to profane your own body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Do you know that St. Patrick, who is supposedly celebrated with these raucous, ludicrous “traditions” is known to have dedicated and risked his life to spreading Christianity?! He spread the good news that Jesus came to save the world, rose from the dead conquering death, ascended into Heaven, and is reigning now. He spread the truth of history, which is profaned by the drunken stupor of unofficial. Reflect on your actions. Turn to Jesus.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

-Romans 10:9

I urge you to abstain from the sin of drunkenness. Enjoy the good gifts of God, but do not profane the Author of Life by being drunk. Repent of your sins. Choose life. And please take the time to listen to the following words of St. Patrick.

Sincerely,

An officially concerned student

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

“I bind unto myself today
The strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.”

“I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.”

“I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet Well done in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, apostles’ word,
The patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.”

“I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.”

“I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The Word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.”

“Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.”

“Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.”

“Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.”

“I bind unto myself the name,
The strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.”

A Prayer for Remembrance

Dear LORD,

I pray this prayer asking that you would use it to help me to remember life. This day please use and enable me to love those whom you have placed under my care.

By loving to protect. By loving to guide. By loving to remember. By loving to support. By loving to live unto You and die to sin. For to live is Christ and to die is gain.

The worst mistake I’ve ever made is one I least expected. To remember is to give. To forget is to take. I took and you LORD gave. And now your teaching me to do the same.

Yes, though in time of trouble I stumble and fall, Christ Jesus is always there to save.

Until my last breath I’ve taken to finish the life you have given. For my neighbor’s hand to touch thy side, that thou may be glorified. Yes, that thou may be glorified.

LORD Jesus, thank you for eternal life.

In Jesus name, amen.

Sophia Klesis

In the following play a fundamental question is pondered: does God exist? The implications of the answers to this question are of great spiritual significance, and the play seeks to follow the roads and thoughts to which certain of these answers lead.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

Aletheia: Truth – sister of Plastos

Distazon: Waverer – cousin of Aletheia and Plastos

Plastos: Falsehood – brother of Aletheia

Sophia: Wisdom

ACT I.

SCENE I.  A cabin room with a fireplace in use.  Light Rain outside.

Enter Distazon and sits by the fire.

Distazon. Sinful actions, Aletheia says?! Sinful actions!? – when I have struggled to be good – to do good! Whatever does she mean? All I’ve ever been told is that it’s greener on the other side. But wherever I seem to be she’s always calling me out. I told her I believed her and still she said it wasn’t enough. She raddled on about being able to see fruit or something. Yet if by fruit she is referring to that which is pleasing to taste, I see fruit in many places where she does not.

Sophia. Oh Distazon. Beloved Distazon. Even weeds have flowers and the looks of fruitful beauty. But beware, Distazon! Beware lest the seeds of weeds stretch themselves across your mind and dig their way into your soul. If you could see with eternal eyes Distazon – with eyes that transcend time – then distinguishing one fruit from another would be a light and easy task. Yet your flesh begs you to taste all you see and to love whatever pleases you most. But surely from one tree to another, from all that you have tasted, certain fruits tend to taste better! Distazon, beware! Beware lest your taste become dull – lest your pallet become dark and cold.

Distazon. Oh that I would know for sure the way I am to go! Oh that someone would tell me what to do! Oh that I would become wisdom and yet taste what Plastos tastes! For if I follow Plastos, Aletheia will not cease to bother me, and if I follow Aletheia, I am subject to painful withdrawal and the mocking blows of my beloved Plastos. Oh the fire grows cold and wastes away as does my soul and mind with all this pondering.

Exit Distazon to sleep his worries away.

SCENE II. A broken road. Clouds and sun overhead.

Enter Plastos walking towards the city.

Plastos. There it is! Ah, such a beautiful, fruitful city! – So full of fruits lovely to see, and taste and touch. Fruits that so many never taste and fruits that so many only suck. Oh that my sister and cousin would experience the joys I experience. But never the matter. Let them waste away in their holiness – their fruitless pondering and pleasureless living. Let them judge. Let me taste. Let them die. Let me live. For they know not the folly of their ways. They know not that their supposed righteousness leads not to everlasting joy, but rather to bitterness. They are at war with themselves, Aletheia more than Distazon. Distazon at least has some reason to taste, but Aletheia never wants even a glance, though she acknowledges that part of her supposed sinful self does. She will never see that it is actually sin that profits.

Sophia. Plastos! Plastos! Plastos!

Plastos. Be calm, my mind. Why worry about death and what lies beyond? There is no thought in heaven above or earth beneath. Why worry about that which is not seen? No one watches you, but those you see. Some say life is a gift, but life is not given. Life is had, and that is all. All that we see we attempt to explain, yet none perhaps can fully understand.

Sophia. Plastos! Plastos! Plastos!

Plastos. No, there can be nothing more. There can be nothing outside of what we see. For what then do we search? We search to understand how to further ourselves. We search not to understand ourselves, but to please ourselves. For if what is visible is all that is true, and if what we see is all that is pleasurable, and if meaning is found in all the brings pleasure, then what can we search for but to lengthen our joy and expand our pleasures? Oh that all would see as me! Then fuller pleasure would be had, and there would be no need for fighting.

Sophia. Plastos! Plastos! Plastos! Listen to my voice!

Plastos. I hear voices in the city. They bid me come.

Exit Plastos into the city.

SCENE III. A stream surrounded by trees and green grass. Blue skies and sun overhead.

Enter Aletheia to sit in the grass and rest her feet in the stream.

Aletheia. Behold the works of wisdom! For God in heaven is wise, and all we see He has created. His wisdom is deeper than the ocean, and His love higher than the heavens – both soft as this stream and yet at times seemingly fiercer than all that we can compare it to. Blessed be your name, O God! May your kingdom here be as it is in heaven above! May all people here praise and serve you as the angels in heaven! Be our God, I pray, and provide for us Your people. Give us opportunity to speak truth to those in our lives and to forgive them as You have forgiven us. LORD forgive us! Protect us from the snares of the devil, and deliver us from sinful ways. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Sophia. Eat honey, my daughter; “for it is good and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.”[1] Forget not the LORD your God. “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”[2] Pray for your enemies, and hold back those who are stumbling to death. Do not fear to speak the truth, for that is what I have called you to do. And in all that you do I will deliver you.

Alethia. Blessed be the name of the most high God! Praise the LORD all that has life and breath! Amen and Amen.

ACT II.

SCENE I.

House of Aletheia. Aletheia and Distazon are holding serious discussion. A large doomed room with couches in the middle and a kitchen and other rooms surrounding it. Sun outside.

Distazon. You claim to know the truth. But how can you know?! How can you distinguish one truth from another?

Aletheia. It is not my truth, Distazon, but God’s. I do not claim authorship, but only stewardship. Tell me, Distazon, is there anything that explains everything like Christianity? Can you find meaning even in the smallest of details and even understand the purpose of the most beautiful stars? Is there anything so comforting as a God watching your every step to lead you and guide you and pick you up when you stumble? Is there any man in history like Jesus Christ? Tell me that he did not do what we say, and I will find you eye witness accounts in more number than the words of Plato and Aristotle.

Distazon. But cousin how can you be sure? I see that if one believes Christianity the whole world makes sense, but to say that the world cannot be explained in any other way is to become an enemy of so many. Can it not be mere chance? For every creation must there really be a god?

Aletheia. I understand your frustration Distazon, for at one time I knew not the truth. But if life is mere chance, where is purpose? Is it only in transient pleasure? Tell me, Distazon, what other way can you explain life? What other meaning is there to be found for us but that we are children created by a kind, almighty and loving God. Have you not yet tasted and seen that He truly is good?

Distazon. Your soft tongue persuades me Aletheia. Your kindness tugs at rusty doors in my soul. If what you say is true, then I must change. And if I change, I fear for my life. And in that I see only sorrow and pain, for the joy you experience and see I am blind to. Will I see it, too? If I believe with all my heart and confess that Jesus is LORD will I see it, too? – That blessed, eternal, peaceful joy?

Aletheia. The fruits you have tasted are bitter and sour, and I can say no other than a resounding yes. You will taste it. You need first believe and confess with all your heart, mind, soul and body and you will know the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding. Believe, Distazon, and find rest for your soul.

Enter Plastos loudly through a front door.

Plastos. What is this?! Aletheia talking and Distazon in tears?! Listen not nor be convicted by her words Distazon. Aletheia speaks only to hamper your pleasure and weaken your joys. Her words do not bring comfort, but condemnation that only she and those like her truly deserve.

Distazon. I see truth, Plastos. I see truth in her words. And life, too! My heart yearns for what she has, and I have seen where our joys together have led. They have led me only to want more the next time. My longings are temporarily satisfied and eternally expounded. I need peace for my soul, Plastos. Do you not see the truth?

Plastos. Distazon! Don’t you see the fool you are becoming? Peace for your soul? There is no peace for your soul but transient satisfaction. That is why we must work, Distazon. We must work for satisfaction until we save up enough for our whole lives and our children’s lives. That is the struggle of life – to find bodily rest. Aletheia’s philosophies only work against our way of life.

Distazon. Your way of life, Plastos. It is mine no longer.

Plastos. Aletheia! Look what you have done. You are wormwood to this world. You are the hater of good and the lover of falsehood. You say you speak truth, but your truth is lies! You say you seek our eternal good, but what is eternity in a life that doesn’t see it? What about now? What about the present?

Aletheia. Plastos, there is beauty and pleasure now – fruits of all kinds to be tasted, and love of all forms to be made. But can you not see that there is sin that mars our pleasure? – That life is more than pleasure?!

Plastos. (Pulls out a sword and walks towards Aletheia) I have spoken to the authorities. Your life is in my hands. Answer your ultimatum. Revoke your Christian stupor and live as we or die the death of an infidel. Times are changing, and we saints of true pleasure will have no more of your condemnation or judgement. Life is to be lived to the fullest and those that disagree must die. Repent of your sin and I will spare you, Aletheia. Repent and you will live.

Distazon. No, Plastos! She is innocent! There is no blood on her hands! She speaks only what she knows to be truth!

Plastos. Distazon, you know the fruit of her ways. If you seek to save her life you will only lose your own. Your life is in my hands. I have the power to do you good or ill. I have the power to take your life or to keep it. Be silent!

Aletheia. You have not the powers of which you speak. You cannot take life unless it is first given to you by God to take, neither can you keep it unless God grants it to you. I will not revoke what I believe, for all that I believe is true.

Plastos. Very well then (raises sword to thrust it through Aletheia)

Distazon. No, Plastos! Stop! NO! NO! NO! (Plastos strikes the sword through Aletheia’s heart)

Aletheia. Into your hands I commit my spirit. I am yours. Save me. (Falls dead)

Sophia. You are delivered, my daughter. This day you are delivered by your death. Come to me. Come home.

Plastos. (turns to Distazon): What say you!?

Distazon. Deliver me, oh God! I believe the truth! Jesus is LORD! Save me for I am yours! Deliver me!

Plastos. (strikes Distazon)

Distazon. (Falls dead)

Sophia. You are delivered, my son. This day you are delivered by your death. Come to me. Come home.

Plastos. I defy the living God! Come fight me, oh God! If you are real then show yourself to me that I may destroy you!

Sophia. Plastos! Plastos! Plastos! Your blasphemy will not deliver you, and wickedness does not profit long. You will be overthrown in your evildoing, as My Word declares.

Plastos. (Falls down to his knees feeling the sting of death come over him)

Plastos. I kneel out of weakness not because I have seen and believed.

Sophia. Do you now believe only because death knocks at your door?

Plastos. Is my pleasure over so fast? Is my destruction so sudden? What is the pain I must endure? How I have lived so wrong! How I have lived in a moment and shall suffer for eternity! My reward is justice. True justice is my reward.

Plastos. (Falls dead)

Sophia. Plastos, eternal darkness awaits you, and weeping and gnashing of teeth. For I have delivered my righteous ones. And precious is their death in My sight!

Curtains close.

Enter Sophia.

Sophia. ‘“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says, “Come eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”’[3] “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”[4] Amen and Amen.

[1] Proverbs 24:13

[2] Proverbs 3:6

[3] Proverbs 9:5-6

[4] Psalm 2:10-12

The Graveside Letter

Sometimes, my love, it was in the hardest of times that I loved you most, because I saw the fruit of your love so clearly. Sometimes it seems that in the sting of defeat we can better taste the sweetness of victory, because what seems to us as demise God works for our good. It’s been a wonderful life I’ve lived with you, my love – One about which I have my share of regrets for my failings, but one through which I have grown to love you more than I ever thought possible. As a young man I wondered what the future would hold. Now, as the final chapters of my life draw to a close satisfaction that comes only from Christ overwhelms my soul. You, my love, have already blazed ahead and the joy of thinking about meeting you again brings me to tears. Do you think we’ll remember our wedding day? – Or perhaps even the day we first met?  Do you think we’ll remember those nights by the fire when we stayed up late reading and laughing with each other? – Or the times when we argued about petty things and then realized how selfish we were? Do you think we’ll remember? We’re part of a great, big book, and I wonder how there could ever be time to sit and read it and remember it all, especially since it’s one that doesn’t have an ending, or at least not an ending like the endings we know.

Whatever the days ahead hold, my love, I enter the grave a better man having known you, and I enter it a loved man, too – a loved man not because of my loveliness, but because you saw me as Christ saw me, and were willing to go every step of the way to see me home. Thank you for that. As I breathe my last I shall think of you, and do my best to see our children off to fulfill what they have been called to do – to live their lives in many ways the same as ours, yet all unique in their own ways. I will love you always, my love – always. Until we meet again then, goodbye, my love. Goodbye.

Learning to Walk

The voice of the Holy Spirit cries out; the voice of God calls out for the simple and youths to receive wisdom and instruction.

It seems that the pride of youth is in ignoring the possibility of failure, and by failure I mean not heeding wise counsel. We strive to look independent when we are completely dependent. We cover up failure because failure needs a Savior. We cover up failure with our strength and past victories, only to keep looking as Youth would have us look.

In a letter to me on my thirteenth birthday, my grandfather told me to pray and ask God to help me to never have to live with the regret of making wrong choices. At the time I remember thinking that this advice was strange.

“Regret of making wrong choices? I don’t think I’ll ever do that.”

I still did pray it when I remembered, but I never developed a habit of doing so. As the years have passed, I find myself praying that more often and not finding it strange at all. I realize now that I found his counsel strange because I had no fear of making wrong choices – I had, even while not fully realizing it, assumed I had no need of a savior.

Now, having my own pile of regrets, and by the mercy of God, I see my need for the saving grace of God. Thus, it seems that God matures us by letting us stumble – as a father lets go of his son’s hand as he is learning to walk. The boy’s legs tremble as he stands, and after taking a few steps he stumbles, falls to the ground, and begins to cry, until he realizes his father set him back on his feet again.

My brother-in-law occasionally asks a question of his kids during a dramatic scene that has stuck with me. “Did you hurt your pride?” Isn’t that the reason failure is so painful and devastating? Jesus crushes our pride, and it hurts. Yet our stumbling is His answering of our prayers for humility with a loud resounding “YES!” For the Holy Spirit fills the place of that pride, and God sets us back on our feet having created in us a spirit of repentance – a broken and contrite heart. This is how Paul could see Christ’s strength in the midst of his own weaknesses.

In closing, I exhort you to heed instruction, for that is the way of wisdom and humility. Whether that is the sharpening instruction of a friend, the loving counsel of parents, or pure honey from the Word of God, receive it and obey it with joy, for it is life to your soul and strength to your bones, as the Scriptures declare. And when you fail look to Christ and learn from your failure, instead of covering it up or becoming angry. Jesus Christ died, rose and ascended for you. Receive the gift of His salvation and “keep on keeping on.” One day you will fail no more.