“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” –John 16:33 (NIV)
Theresa stood behind the counter going over my purchases when a friend of hers walked in and said hello. We three chatted a little about the heat and I made some comment about being a runner but having to stay indoors for my runs because of the humidity. Theresa’s friend teased her about her upcoming triathlon, and they both laughed about that as a future prospect. But Theresa quickly became serious and said that the hopes of any triathlon were nonexistent because “we don’t have much time left.” She looked away as she totaled my order.
As a Christian, I hear that a lot. As a matter of fact, I’m quite certain the whole world heard about that not too long ago with the false prediction of the end of the world on May 21st. Just in case, I checked in on the other side of the world at 5pm and it was still intact, so I knew we were okay–at least for one more day. There have been other predictions, and there are more to come with a huge community of people who have formed focus and support groups, many believing that the world will end in 2012. A simple Google search for “2012” and “the end of the world” brings up nearly 300,000 hits. And YouTube hosts more than 65,000 clips informing and warning viewers about their fate in 2012.
Theresa’s prediction was based the earth’s core shifting, something she watched on TV, and no doubt, researches in the Internet. She also believes that we have less than a year left. I tried to make light of her seriousness and encouraged her to do that triathlon before the final countdown. Her friend chimed in and said she should make a final announcement on Facebook. Theresa didn’t like that either. “Oh,” she said, as she handed me my change. “That’s not good either. Anyone in their right mind should get off Facebook right away.” I immediately thought of the resources and friends I would miss.
As I drove from the store, I began thinking in hindsight how I missed the opportunity to ask Theresa what she plans to do in her year left on this earth. Or better, encourage her to live in joy, not fear; to know Christ and love and serve Him. I could have invited her to lunch to discuss her future plans for the next 365 days. And then I began thinking of all the counter clerks who fear the world. I imagined they work their eight hours, count the change, close the store and go home to another episode of Discovery Channel. They review the calendar and pencil in important things to do before the end of days. They feel a rumble under their feet and wonder of the impending doom. They know it can’t be reversed, so they warn us between transactions because, deep inside, they’re scared. And in a way, they’re right.
Honestly, I don’t like getting philosophical with counter clerks I don’t know, but I think I missed an opportunity to share Christ here. Whether or not Theresa knows Christ is unknown to me, but it is apparent she is thinking of human mortality, and if she’s willing to say these things out loud to a perfect stranger then I can only imagine what unspoken questions she has when the lights go out each night.
I thank God that I don’t fear the world and all its danger. I don’t even fear death, but I’m not foolish enough to think that the world could not stand still on its axis or that the days I plan have an expiration date. With God, anything is possible. In the meantime, I do ask that God make me strong enough to remember those who are lost and live in fear. They live without peace or hope, and whether they have one day left or a hundred, they are not far from truth which can set them free from the bondage of fearing the world. This world has nothing to offer and nothing to promise any of us. Jesus tells us in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Even in trials, Christ is near. He left His Holy Spirit to give us comfort and hope when the world offers shallow responses to questions contemplated and left hanging over the counter.
It is the soul reconciled to God which no longer lives in fear. Our only hope for these days–one or a thousand–is in Christ. We anxiously wait for His coming, but He patiently waits for us to share with those who still need to hear. This is a race but it’s also more than that. It’s a responsibility. And if we are ones who are reconciled to God, then we are given the responsibility to share Christ with those who live in fear.
When I return to the store in late August I plan to stop by and say hello to Theresa. And this time, I’ll invite her to lunch.