It is the eleventh hour. My yellow pad is covered with false starts and vain ramblings all fallen short because they lacked integrity. The problem? Right now integrity is calling me to face the ugliness and deceitfulness of my heart and I would rather write around it, not at it. Better yet, I'd like to wait until tomorrow; then perhaps these painful insights will have blown over. But I can't wait. There is no tomorrow for this: it's the eleventh hour . . . for many things.
My insurance policy is a telling example. I've committed myself to provide for and to protect my wife, but I let my life insurance policy lapse for nine months and only reinstated it at the last minute because I was about to step onto a plane headed for South Africa. If it had not been for the trip and the reality of danger, I would have let the policy go indefinitely (unknown to my wife), but I had to do something. It was the eleventh hour . . . as it is for many important things.
It is the eleventh hour for my marriage . . . I have also promised to nourish and cherish my wife, but I'm so busy with myself that I don't even notice her or her needs. When we talk, I'm the
center of attention. She gladly and selflessly gives me that attention. She lavishes encouragement upon me again and again, only to watch me walk through yet another day of compromise, another day of not following through, another day of stopping short of what I really want to do and be in my life.
It is the eleventh hour for my pride . . . I don't really want to do this. No, not here. Is this book an appropriate place to unravel my pride? I ask. In front of all these people? I add. "Is there a more appropriate place somewhere else?" comes the reply. So this is the beginning of integrity. Am I to be honest only when it's pleasant? I can't wait for a less humiliating time to face this question, because there is no time to spare.
It is the eleventh hour for my Christian faith . . . A faith that has been so comfortable, so safe, yet so abstract for so long. Now when it has to mean something, will it stand the test? The largest responsibilities in my relationship with God are all His: His grace, His love, His forgiveness, His faithfulness, and His mercy without these, it would be impossible for me to know Him. But many duties are also mine: my faithfulness, my whole-hearted love, my obedience, my honesty, my confession, my repentance. No one, not even He, can do them for me. I have treaded upon His grace, used it as an excuse for laziness, and I have taken my responsibilities lightly. Expecting God to make up the difference, I have only gone halfway. I've counted on Him to bail me out after all, someone's always done it for me before. But in spite of His great patience, even He must be growing tired.
I also realize, all too clearly, grace and mercy are for those who have tried and failed. Well, I have failed, all right, but sometimes I wonder if I've ever really tried. If I haven't tried, then I haven't earned the right to fail. Instead, I've qualified for grace with cheap failure. Never intending to do anything about my problem, I have run to grace as a disobedient son runs to his mother, to be consoled with a kind, "There, there. Everything is going to be all right."
I've also twisted my theology to incorporate my selfishness. Knowing that failure and sin lead to grace and forgiveness, I have not fought, aware that grace will be there to cover me over, I have compromised again and again. I'm hardly a Jacob. I haven't wrestled with any angels until they would bless me, and I
feel my blessings are thinning out. It is the eleventh hour for my faith.
When I boarded the plane for South Africa, it was the eleventh hour for my heart. Traveling to a land that faces its own eleventh hour, I did not want to be a pawn of apartheid. I did not desire to sing nice songs about Jesus while ignoring a political system that oppresses and dehumanizes men and women who have been created in God's image. I was worried that television cameras might show me smiling with blacks while the government smiled down on the oppressed and told the world, "See. There's no problem here. Look how happy the blacks and whites are together." I would have dishonored and even degraded the Gospel by being more impressed with myself on national television than with the heart of the God who sent Christ to preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind, and release to the oppressed.
It's the eleventh hour and the clock is ticking. Time is never on hold. Time is almost up. It's time to act.
Chapter 23 || Table of Contents