The other day I asked a friend who is going through menapause, "So, how have your flashbacks been lately?"
We both laughed outloud. I meant "hotflashes." She said, "Great! Are flashbacks something else I have to look forward to with menopause?" (Don't you mean 'look back to'?) Anyway...I got to thinking...we have a lot of "flashes" in life, don't we?
Flashes in the pan.
What do they all have in common? They are all a part of life - various things that perplex, plague and perturb us. I think they also describe three very distinct things that affect our Christian lives.
Flashbacks - These are things that have happened to us in the past that cause us to want to give up the faith. Past sins. Failures. Painful memories (Where was God?) "Christians" who have hurt us, let us down or been outright "un-Christianlike" in how they have treated us. These all pop into our minds at various times and makes us wonder, "Do I really want to follow Christ?" There sure are a lot of bad memories in the past! There sure have been some dark times! I sure have done some really terrible things! And others have done some really terrible things to me - some in the name of God!
Hotflashes - These are moments where we are overcome with emotion and passion for God. We hear a sermon, read an inspiring passage, receive comfort from a friend, see God at work through answered prayer, and WOW! We are flush with joy! We are overcome with the warmth of knowing that we are not alone, we have a purpose and we are loved! We reach out in love. We glow. We grow. We are on fire.
Then the moment is gone.
Back to reality. The rosy redness disappears from our face. The grind kicks in. We wipe the glow off our brow and move on. Our faith goes pale. Red hot love simmers down to lukewarm. We'll show passion another day. The next time we feel inspired, that is. Until then, we're pretty bland. Just pushing through. Maybe another flash will come along soon, but it will take something - someone else - to bring it on.
Flashes in the Pan - We read God's word. We go to church. We give back to our community. For a little while. And then, flash! We're gone. Back to our pursuits. Back to our wants. Back to focusing on this present world and all that comes with it. God's world? We'll pop in and out of that one as the years go by and as our schedule allows. Oh look, there she is again! Oh look, is he back? Give a little, take a little, disappear. Read a little, fall asleep. Pray a little, forget to pray. Show up and serve, make a difference and then vanish. I'll get back with God when I feel like it, when the time is right, when things settle down, when it's convenient. Just like that - FLASH - we are there and FLASH we are gone.
God can handle all of our flashbacks, hotflashes and even our flashes in the pan. The good news is he loves us and wants to "create a new heart" in us (Psalm 51) so that we can serve him devotedly, passionately, consistently and faithfully.
He can help us let go of the things in our past that keep "cropping up" and keeping us from a close relationship with Him and with others.
He can make us more than flashes in the pan. We mistakenly think the "pan" we flash in and out of is ours - actually, he holds it! He holds the world - it is HIS. Our lives? His! Not our's! We just think we hold the pan handle.
He can help renew our passion for Him, for others and for service, so we have more than just "hotflashes" of faith and devotion based on emotional experiences. He can create a steadfast faith in us that lasts even when the emotional high of a good sermon or a great moment has passed.
And we don't need to serve him in flashy ways. We can serve Christ right where we are. The mission field is right outside our front door. There is no need to go "flashing" off to another country. There is no need to go "loud and proud" in our service of God. (When we go that route, it is more about us than about God anyway.) He simply wants us to serve with our whole hearts and not to be lukewarm. (Revelation 3:16) This does not mean that we can never relax or take time for ourselves. It does mean, that whatever we do, we do it heartily on to the Lord. (Colossians 3:23). It means we see each day, each word we say, each person we meet as a gift, an opportunity to spread the gift of God, which is love. We echo the words of Isaiah, "Here I am Lord, send me!"
I know one thing. I cannot fight my spiritual hotflashes, flashbacks or my inclination to be a "flash in the pan" on my own. I need God's help to be all he has created me to be - a reflection of Him. And He WILL provide, guide and encourage me as He has promised to...for He is no flash in the pan; He is the same yesterday, today and forever.