REFLECTION: Expired HOPE

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Expiration Date
I received a joke from AJokeADay.com today.

Wife: “What are you doing?”
Husband: “Nothing.”
Wife: “Nothing…? You’ve been reading our marriage certificate for an hour.”
Husband: “I was looking for the expiration date.”

I just got married on February 2015, so I am not even close to feeling like the husband in the joke. However, the joke got me thinking about my Christian life. If you have been active in church ministry for the past few years WHILE juggling your career, the thought of “when will this all END?”, at some point, may have crossed your mind. I know I did. I remember once I fell sick after a few months packed with church van driving, choir practice, bible study class and cell group. I wasn’t getting enough rest and I wanted it all to end.

Your Prayer Has Been Heard
Coincidentally, there is a very familiar story in the bible that relates to this that many of us may have missed. It is the story of the birth of John the Baptist in Luke 1. It is a rather classic fairy tale-ish story of an old couple who prayed (not “wished”) very hard that God will bless them with a child even though the wife was barren. Then one day, an angel of the Lord (not “fairy godmother”) came and told them they would be with child and the child will do great things. However, the father doubted and the angel caused him to not speak as punishment of his little faith.

The bible says that Zechariah (the father) and Elizabeth (the mother) were “well in years” and some scholars have interpreted that they have passed their child-bearing years (menopause). So, it is quite normal, even logical, for Zechariah to doubt and question the message of the angel. I have always wondered why God was so unfair to Zechariah as opposed to Mary, mother of Jesus, who also questioned God, “How can this be, for I am a virgin.” Then one day, during a sermon at church, it struck me: the angel said “your prayer has been heard”.

Force of Habit
If you have not caught onto the point, let me elaborate. “Your prayer has been heard” implies that Zechariah and Elizabeth have been praying for some time to have a baby. If you have been praying for something for a long time, shouldn’t you be overjoyed by the prospect of getting what you asked for instead of saying “really? You aren’t kidding, right?”? The bible says Zechariah and Elizabeth belonged to the priestly division of Abijah, so praying must have been in their to-do list every day. So, why did Zechariah respond in doubt, rather than in joy when the angel gave him the good news?

I believe I was feeling the same way he did – serving for so long until what is relational became mechanical. A service that was once born out of love and joy has turned superficial and habitual. A hope that was previously burning with passion and anticipation, has expired into word chanting. Let us
all continually ask God to renew our passion and hope in Him in the midst of our waiting and serv-
ing of the Lord lest we become the brides who did not have enough oil for their lamps when the
bridegroom came.
by Leonard Lu
Grace Methodist Church, Miri

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