come to the well

There is a story about an atheist who had developed quite a reputation for sitting out on his front porch and shouting insults at the Christians who passed by his home on their way to and from a local brush-arbor camp meeting. One day, after the last passerby had crossed in front of his house, the man decided to take a walk around his property. Because it was dark outside and his mind was focused on concocting his next batch of insults, he completely forgot about the old abandoned well at the corner of his property. With one miscalculated step, he broke through the rotten wood that covered the opening and plunged into the darkness below.

Unhurt, save for a few cuts and bruises, it took a few moments of thrashing around in the water and gasping for breath for the man to gain his bearings. He quickly realized that while the walls were too slippery for him to climb back out, if he stood on his tip-toes, he could just barely keep his nose above the water enough to breathe. Stuck frozen in this state, unable to speak or yell because his mouth was underwater, the man found that out of the surrounding silence, he could clearly make out the preaching of the local evangelist at the nearby camp meeting.

Over the course of the next few hours, the man heard a combination of preaching, teaching, and personal testimonies that opened his heart to the power and presence of God. As the camp meeting drew to an end, the man silently prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and lament. Grateful for the new life that he had found in God, he nonetheless regretted that he had been so stubborn as to avoid it up until what he now assumed would be the day of his own death. Fortunately for him, some of the Christians noticed his conspicuous absence on their way home from the meeting that night, and began to investigate to make sure that he was alright. It wasn’t long before they discovered the well and the man was rescued later that evening, little the worse for wear.

The former atheist quickly became one of the most passionate Christians in the area, telling many of his nearly forced conversion experience in the well. Over time, the man developed a new reputation. Today, if you walk by his home, he is likely to ask you whether or not you are a Christian. If you say yes, he’ll bless you and send you on your way, if not, he’ll push you into the well…

Just like the story of the blind men and the elephant, the God of your experience is bigger than your experience of God.[1] Isn’t it interesting that we so often try to confine God to our own experience, and then we force others to fit into the mold that we’ve created? God loves you enough to guide you toward the saving power of God’s grace in the place and time that God knows is right for you. The Good News of God in Jesus Christ is that God does exactly the same thing for each and every one of us.  If you want to find a little more peace this year, then try giving up control over the salvation of other people. You never had the power to save them anyway…only God has ever been able to do that.

[1] James B. Torrance, Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace. (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1996), 34.

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