The following is part one of a series entitled, “The Dialogue.” The Dialogue is a series of, well, dialogues between a young man and an old man. The dialogues consist primarily on matters of faith within the context of biblical Christianity. They begin with simple matters of faith and doctrine and escalate to the more complex theological issues. The young man represents us and our many anxieties, struggles, and inquiries. The old man is a sibylline of sorts as is demonstrated by his arresting sapience.
Young Man: Tell me old man, Why is it so easy to skip the morning devotion?
Old Man: Easy you say? Before I respond, may I know what you find difficult to skip?
Young Man: Well, one thing I find difficult to skip is a favorite show on television. I also don’t like skipping a night out with friends. I find that most unpleasant.
Old Man: Why?
Young Man: A favorite show is something that I enjoy watching. It is engaging. The theatrical skill arouses my intellect and emotions.
Old Man: Why do you think a television show arouses your emotions and intellect?
Young Man: I never really thought about it! I suppose it is due to my investment in the story. In other words I am emotionally and intellectually fused to what is happening. When the protagonist suffers, I suffer. When he triumphs, I likewise triumph. In addition, when the plot is an enigma of sorts I feel a sense of mystery – a desire to discover that which is obscured.
Old Man: Very well. What about a night out with friends? Why do you get so upset when you have to miss out on that?
Young Man: Well it is simple. I work all week and am busy with life. A Friday or Saturday night with friends is a welcome change of tunes. I also value memories thus when I miss out, I miss out on a memory.
Old Man: What is it that creates memories?
Young Man: I would have to say experiences.
Old Man: Then, I would not be stretching it too far if I say that you despise missing out on a night out with friends because you know you are missing out on an experience.
Young Man: Precisely.
Old Man: Now talk to me about your morning devotion. Do you get upset or angry when you miss out on that?
Young Man: No. I do often sense that something is missing. However, that sensation is no different to when I leave home on a long trip and feel like I forgot something even though I did not. It seems that my sense of the missing could be due to habit as much as it could be due to conscience. Nevertheless, these sensations are usually not very strong. It is much easier for me to be absent on my devotions than it would be for me to miss out on a good show or a night out with friends.
Old Man: Young man, I believe I know just what your problem is. Now, I don’t have all of the answers. Only the word of God does.[i] However, I would like to point out a few concepts in the form of questions.
Young Man: Sounds good.
Old Man: You enjoy a favorite TV show correct?
Young Man: Yes.
Old Man: Do you enjoy your devotional time?
Young Man: Somewhat.
Old Man: Hmm. Allow me to probe a bit deeper. You enjoy a favorite TV show because you are engaged emotionally and intellectually correct?
Young Man: Absolutely.
Old Man: Could you say the same of your devotions?
Young Man: No, I cannot. I do not feel engaged during prayer or Bible study. I feel like a baby being spoon fed when I read my devotion or I repeat the same thing I said the day before in prayer. Unless something significant is going on in my life, my prayers are pretty much a repetitious conglomeration of religious phrases.
Old Man: I will now probe even deeper. You enjoy a favorite TV show because you are engaged. You are engaged because you are invested in the story. In your own words, you are, ‘emotionally and intellectually fused to what is happening,’ Am I right?
Young Man: Yes.
Old Man: Well, the question begs to be asked. Are you invested to Gods story? Are you emotionally and intellectually fused to what He is doing in this world?
Young Man: I don’t quite comprehend.
Old Man: Very well then, allow me to elaborate. I was once a soldier. As a soldier you have a choice upon enlistment to be either active duty or part-time. The part time soldiers are known as Reserve. We refer to them as weekend warriors. Ha! We made fun of them quite a bit!
Now, the Bible presents a story of a battle between God and Satan[ii] over the souls of men.[iii] Are you an active participant in that battle? Are you in the fight to save souls?[iv] Or are you a Sabbath Christian? Better said, a weekend warrior?
Young Man: I suppose I would more readily fit into the category of weekend warrior.
Old Man: Well, if you are not actively engaged in that story then how could you possibly enjoy the morning devotion? If I remember, Army physical training – which takes place in the early morning – is only enjoyed by those who have a realization of their part in the war. Likewise, you cannot enjoy your morning devotions for they are as army physical training – enjoyed only by those who realize their part in the war for the souls of men.
Young Man: Ah! I see what you mean. My devotional time is meant to be the time I recharge with God so I can continue the fight, but if I am not engaged in the fight then the devotional time becomes a mere rut. A religious ceremony if you will, with no real purpose.
Old Man: Agreed! As one author so eloquently put it, ‘Those who do nothing but pray will soon cease to pray.’[v]
Young Man: Therefore, if I were engaged in the story of redemption I would suffer when God suffers, and rejoice when He rejoices. The rebellion of men would break my heart as it breaks His and thus lead me to my knees in prayer for their salvation. I would pray with renewed urgency and interest for my prayers would be not a repetition of yesterday’s self-centered requests but a heart cry for strength to do His will! Likewise, my study of God’s word would be welcomed for I will be hungry for more truth just as a soldier craves a good meal after many days in battle.
Old Man: You have spoken well young lad! Very well! And when you are thus engaged in the story your devotions will no longer be pointless religious ceremonies but experiences of rejuvenation with God.
King David alluded to this when of his morning devotion he said, ‘O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.’[vi] Now that does not sound like a religious rut. It sounds a whole lot more like an experience you will remember as a night out in town with good friends.
Young Man: Memories
Old Man: Memories…
[i] Psalm 119:105
[ii] Revelation 12:7
[iii] Zechariah 3
[iv] Matthew 28:19
[vi] Psalm 90:14