“Morning, Granddad!” Euan and Zach greeted me with a sunny smile, a cheery hug – and loud voices, immediately followed by, “Shhh! Speak quietly.” from their still sleepy father. It is around 7am, and it is clear that Tom would rather be in bed. The boys have been early risers since they were born, particularly Zach. While they were in cots, it wasn’t too bad – they were just left talking to themselves, but once in beds, they had a tendency to get out and play at 5am. A compromise has been reached, where they rise at 7am weekdays and 7.30am weekends, with their parents taking an alternating responsibility and sleep-in.
In large part, the more reasonable time was achieved by a ‘Gro-clock’, which shows stars at night on a blue background, then morphs into a yellow sun when it’s time to get up. Even that has been a slight problem: the boys learnt to reset the clock to 6am, so now it lives on the top of the wardrobe, out of their reach. The 7.30am weekend time was achieved fugitively, but now that Euan can read the time, he’s realised that they are getting up half an hour later and there’s muttering in the ranks.
Inspired by their ‘Gro-clock’, Diane and I bought a ‘daylight’ clock. As the term progresses, we get more tired and find getting up in the dark a little abrupt and unsettling; the alarm rings, you leap into wakefulness, struggle to switch the alarm off, and then the light on, blinking in the glare as your eyes adjust. With the daylight clock, half an hour before your alarm call time, it begins with a very low illumination, progressively increasing it until at your rising time it is fully illuminated, flooding the room with light. It is a much gentler way of rising, and works surprisingly well; you don’t usually need the optional buzzer as well.
I was reflecting on these two alarm systems. Both get the same end result; you’re out of bed and ready to work, but the process is radically different. It’s the same with our walk with Christ Jesus. Some have a dramatic moment when their world is turned upside down, and they see everything differently from that moment on, a point of conversion, of enlightenment, of transformation. For others, the experience is utterly different; a slow progressive dawning of realisation, a number of steps, leading to an end point where they know Jesus as their friend and Saviour. Like an alarm clock and a daylight clock! Or if you prefer a different metaphor, and given the abundance of rain we’ve experienced recently, it’s the difference between caught in that torrential downpour that arrived and disappeared in a few minutes, and going out in that light but persistent drizzle; in both cases, you end up soaked to the skin, one instantly, the other over time.
In the Bible, we see this in St Peter and St Paul. St Paul (then called Saul) is pursuing Christians to imprison them, when on the Damascus Road he sees a bright light and hears a voice asking, “Why are you persecuting me?” When he realises it is Jesus speaking, Saul immediately began to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God (Acts 9.1-20, The Bible). He will often refer to that moment in his subsequent ministry, as he faithfully served Christ. For Paul, the alarm clock rang, and he leapt out of bed. Peter was more of a gentle riser. As a fisherman, he was already keenly following John the Baptist, who pointed him to Jesus. When Jesus called, he followed. His understanding and commitment waxed and waned, from high points such as when he declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” receiving Christ’s praise, to low points shortly afterwards when, trying to stop Jesus from going to the cross, he earns the rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matt 16.16, 22 The Bible), from the shame of his 3-fold denial to his reinstatement (John 18.15-27, 21.15-24 The Bible) to the promise of his faithful end, ‘Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.’ (John 21.19 The Bible) Significantly, the verse continues, ‘Then he said to him, “Follow me!”’
Of course, God was working in Paul’s life before the point of conversion, and in Peter’s progress, there were key points where Peter’s understanding took a step change. Like any relationship, their relationship with God in Christ – and yours – is highly individual, even if it shows common patterns. What matters is that, whether by steps or at a key point, we hear that voice, ‘Then he said to him, “Follow me!”’ (John 21.19 The Bible) and then do it. Whether we jump or gently rise, it is to follow him.
Praying that you may hear the call to follow and rising – or jumping – may find in Christ Jesus your hope, your life, your future, your purpose and your joy.
Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,