Wake Up

April 01, 2011

I remember the earthquake vividly. Ceiling tiles cascaded; walls crumbled. As I tried to run, the floor rolled violently up and down, then gave way. I felt myself falling, falling.

With a deep shuddering breath, I opened my eyes to darkness. My heart was pounding, yet all else was quiet. I was alive and in my own bed. "I just had a horrible dream about an earthquake," I murmured to my long-suffering wife. "I'll bet you did," she said with a sigh. "You were snoring so loud, I had to bounce up and down on the bed to get you to stop."

While I smile at that memory, I'm confronted with staggering images of Japan's recent devastation, with miles of coastline buildings, boats and bodies churned into a sickening slurry. Television reports benignly beamed into our homes thousands of miles distant can never adequately convey the stories of personal loss and lives forever changed. While relief agencies scramble to help in this tragic trifecta of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear radiation, we who remain are left to ponder our own mortality. Our beautiful Northwest, with an inscrutable techtonic schedule, is due for its own date with destiny.

No doubt this earth, as the Bible says, is "waxing old like a garment." Many of us will see this latest disaster as yet another measuring stick of prophecy. But let's not miss this present "teachable moment." This is a wakeup call to our immediate need: everyday, Christ-centered living.

For sleep, while necessary, can go on too long. The 13th chapter of Romans cuts straight to the core. "Make sure you don't get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off, oblivious to God. The night is over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing! ... Get out of bed and get dressed!" (Romans 13:11–13, The Message)

Both physically and mentally, it's good to get a benevolent spousal shake when our snoring gets too loud. Spiritually, an earthshaking experience provides an opportunity to re-engage and replace our own status quo with priorities of eternal value.

A disaster like that in Japan sobers us all. But every day there are individual earthquakes, too, when relational or financial tsunamis come in like a flood; when our faith hangs in the balance; when personal defeat seems more than we can bear. From my hard experience, one thing is certain — Romans 8:28 is true. Satan's worst efforts are God's best opportunities. Faith, when stretched, gets longer and stronger. Like Jacob, we wrestle with God in our most intimate challenges, and cry, "I will not let You go without Your blessing!"

And because of this daily, weekly crucible of faith, when the final minutes of this tired earth tick away, when the ultimate wakeup call comes, we'll be ready to heed the joyful summons of Scripture: "Look up; lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh!" (Luke 21:28)

It's a wakeup call I refuse to miss.

"I just had a horrible dream about an earthquake," I murmured to my long-suffering wife.