A Journey of Faith
Cross Over Stories from My Imagination
By Gary Piper
After a particularly trying day, leaving me feeling like a balloon filled with stale air and ready to burst I headed home from work. Often I use the ride home each day to clear my mind of everything I need to leave behind and as my work day filtered in and out of my memory I said to myself, “Gary, you don’t live far enough away to completely empty yourself.” Smiling and talking aloud I added, “Look out Smoky Mountains here comes ole GP!”
One of my reoccurring questions to Jesus goes something like this, “Jesus, Why when the economy is favorable does P & L stand for people & lives yet when the economy goes sour it becomes profit and loss?”
I always appreciate the fact the he’s never come back with, “Gary that’s that dumbest thing you’ve asked!” But sometimes I think he should say something instead of leaving me to figure it out for myself.
That same day I’d gotten an email message from a friend who together we were praying for a young mother. Satan had a pretty tight grip on her life but our prayers were being answered and Jesus was becoming a bigger part of her life when suddenly a neighbor began dragging her in opposite direction and today it was almost as if our prayers had fallen on ears that were no longer listening.
Also fresh in my mind were the weight of a close friend and his wife whose “prodigal daughter” had given them a lot of heartache and sleepless nights? And then there’s the little recurring problem of finances.
Well that’s my state of mind but then you’ve had days just like that too. You’ve no doubt heard the comparison of our minds to a computer right? My computer works great but if I open to many programs it’ll run out of memory and lock up. Sound familiar? One more observation no matter how many files/programs you’ve got open you can only work on one at a time. And don’t you wish we humans came equipped with a Defrag program?
I’d better be getting back to where I was before I get to far off base and begin preaching. Anyways, as I drove home I began thinking of being a balloon filled with stale air. So I began praying and remembered that’s what got me into trouble in the first place. After all I prayed, “Jesus, I’m overburdened and need a rest. You said come unto me all who are overburdened and I’ll give you rest so here am I.” I no sooner said amen when I went into a tailspin and WHAM I slammed into the road of life! And found myself having one of them Fordian slips or Freudian slips or whatever you call it. You know you blurt out what you’re thinking! “Darn it,” I shouted, “Don’t I count Jesus? If you’re you, who the heck am I, chopped liver?”
I knew I should have kept my big mouth shut but I didn’t so I waited for a tire to blow, the car to quit, or something worse but instead I saw a man hitchhiking. When I was close enough to read his shirt it said, the tombs empty so you can be full, instantly I felt ashamed. My first impulse was to keep driving but my better judgment kicked in and I pulled over to the side of the road unlocked the door and stared at the road in front of me.
“Empty are you?” he asked, opening the door and getting in.
“Among other things,” I answered sheepishly.
“What other things?” he replied.
“Ashamed?” I muttered in the form of a question.
“Sin did you?” he answered back with a grin that went from ear to ear.
I don’t know what there is about him but no matter how bad I feel when I’m with him something in his eyes puts me at rest and makes me feel valuable and clean. Someday I’m going to ask him how he does it.
Starting to feel a little at ease I replied smiling, “Nope not me I don’t have a sinful thought in my mind.”
He paused for a moment then said, “It’s not your mind I was asking about but your mouth. But now that you mention it!”
“Jesus?” I said sounding serious.
“Don’t worry about it, Gary,” he replied.
“I’m not Lord,” I answered, “That’s why I’m worried. I had some pretty nasty thoughts and said some things I didn’t really mean to say. Shouldn’t I feel something?”
“You mean you don’t feel anything?” he asked.
“Yeah I do, I feel forgiven, I feel joyful, I feel peace, and I feel loved. But I know I shouldn’t,” I was beginning to cry.
“Read the back of my shirt,” he said turning around to face the passenger door. I didn’t really need to because that’s how I knew who he was when I first saw him with his thumb out.
“The tombs empty so you can be full,” I read aloud then waited for his response, which didn’t take long.
“Do you know why the tomb is empty?” he asked.
I wanted to ask him if that was a trick question but I didn’t, instead I confidently replied, “So I could have eternal life.”
Just as he was, about to say something some old person cut me off and after coming to a screeching stop he looked at me and smiled as if waiting to see my reaction. “God bless you pal,” I said hoping he didn’t know what I was really thinking.
“Maybe we better turn into a parking lot and sit while we’re talking that might be safer,” I added. A few minutes later, we were sitting looking out on the St. Clair River.
“Now, where was I?” I asked. “Oh yeah, you asked me if I knew why your tomb was empty and I replied so I could have eternal life. Right?”
After a few seconds of silence, he replied, “To give you eternal life is why I went into the tomb. Why the tomb was empty was because of the power of my faith in my Father who was in Heaven.”
He paused again for several seconds, “Do you know what is at the top of the list of sins that grieves our Heavenly Father?” he asked.
Immediately I began thinking of the dirtiest rotten things we humans can do, “There’s so many how any one of them can be at the top of the list,” I finally replied.
“Lack of faith,” he replied, “There are more empty lives today because of a lack of faith.”
“But I believe and I still feel empty,” I answered back.
He must have been ready for me because there was no hesitation, “There is no power in what you believe. In fact, many times faith contradicts belief. See that river out there?” he asked.
I nodded my head in the affirmative, “Do you believe I could walk on the water to Canada,” he questioned me.
“Yes, Lord I know you could,” I replied.
He smiled, “Do you believe you could?”
I wasn’t ready to answer him because I believed if I tried I’d drown yet with him at my side I knew I could. After a few minutes of internal struggling I said, “Without you I believe I would drown but with you by my side I know I could.” I felt pretty confident about my answer or at least I thought I was but all that changed with his next question.
“Want to go for a walk?” he asked.
He had me! Suddenly I felt the power of my beliefs once rock solid fly right out the window. I faced many confrontations in my life but this put the icing on the cake. “Cat got your tongue,” he asked me with a big grin on his face.
“The cat don’t have it you do,” I echoed in return.
After a few more moments of deliberation I decided to call what I thought was a bluff, “Okay let’s go!”
Still grinning he promptly replied, “What do you mean let’s go?” Silence again filled the car.
“I can’t do it without you,” I quickly answered.
“Were you with me on the cross? In the tomb?” he asked.
“No,” I quickly replied!
“Who was then?” he replied.
“God?” I asked.
“God doesn’t have a body so he couldn’t hang on the cross and he’s eternal so he can’t die,” he answered back.
“Well his Spirit was with you then,” I said.
“So get out of the car walk to the river’s edge jump and walk to Canada my Spirit will be with you,” he was wearing that grin again.
After a few minutes of silence he asked, “Which is stronger your belief that you’ll drown or your faith that my Spirit will be with you?”
Somehow, in the back of my mind, I began getting a picture of what he was trying to tell me or at least I thought I did.
“Before my resurrection what filled the tomb?” he asked.
Hoping he wouldn’t press the issue of jumping into the river, I breathed a sigh of relief when he changed the subject of walking on water, “darkness, and death?” I answered back.
“Absolutely and even though my body was entombed in it, it was empty,” he replied, “What happened in that tomb after three days did not happen because of anything I did after all I was dead! It took me a long time to build enough faith for me to dedicate myself to the cross because once there I couldn’t change my mind. When those nails were going into my wrists I believed I was going to die yet my faith in my Father in Heaven reassured me that it wouldn’t last and it was his power that emptied the tomb and filled it with light.”
Tears were running down my cheeks as he looked into my eyes and I knew he was seeing much, much deeper. Suddenly I knew my life’s journey is like Jesus’ journey to the cross and beyond.
The cross became a symbol of life even though I still believed it to be a symbol of death. I realized the cross is the junction between life and death, to accept it and dedicate myself to it is to choose life, but once I do, I must completely depend on Jesus because the cross leads to the tomb. Not to accept the cross is to seal myself in a living tomb from which there is no return and isolated from the One who can save me.
The tomb became a symbol reminding me it’s Jesus who fills the emptiness of death left in the aftermath of the cross; a symbol reminding me it is the power of Jesus that fills me with hope when the burdens and adversities bring emptiness and despair. The tomb is empty so we can be filled with the faith that Jesus’ Spirit is with us when life tries to make us believe otherwise.
Just as I was about to put my thoughts into words Jesus spoke first, “You’re thinking in the right direction but never forget the junction of life and death is a daily choice and even an hourly choice at times.” I could tell he was getting ready to leave.
“Please don’t go,” I said. “There’s so many things I’d like to ask you.” But I already knew the answer because he had started to go anyway. “How will I know you the next time Lord?” I asked.
With that big ear-to-ear grin of his he replied, “How about I surprise you with a poof I’m here visit the next time?”
I wanted to say, “No way! Suppose I’m doing something I shouldn’t be,” but I knew better than that so instead told him okay.”
“Maybe I should surprise you,” he replied, knowing my thoughts, “It would keep you on your toes wouldn’t it? Without giving me a chance to answer him, he was gone!
As I started the car and headed for home I suddenly realized I was filled with joy, hope, love, and peace the emptiness of my former beliefs had become over powered by the renewal of my faith in Jesus. Pausing at a stop sign, “Lord Jesus may everyone experience your reality and know the tomb’s empty so they can be full,” I prayed aloud.