I knew him when he was in his middle years. The challenges of a growing family, the responsibilities of a high-demand job and the extra load of a side business seemed to occupy his time. His involvement in church was hit and miss, though I could sense that he had an earlier season when his heart burned bright with hope and vision of reaching his community with the love of Christ.
The metaphor of a siding off a major rail line comes to mind. At one time this man had obviously been going down the track with great joy, but the worries and cares of life (along, perhaps, with the deceitfulness of riches) had captured his attention and he chose to dwell on the siding.
The siding can be fine for very short stays. It's where we can be repaired so we can get back on the rail and into fully serving our purpose. But there is something insidious, even diabolical, about the siding as a permanent stop in our spiritual lives.
The ugliness of the siding was seen clearly by the time I knew the man. As he watched the trains of spiritual life roll past him, he used his considerable influence to discourage others around him from getting back on track. His long tenure in the place where he lived had given him the ear of many who, like him, had taken a respite along the side rail. Like him, they lingered there until they considered the siding the normal place for spiritual travelers and voiced their disdain for any and all who dared stay on the main tracks and move past them.
Tragically, the man I have described was real. Sadly I tell you that I believe his heart once burned with desire to keep moving as he followed Christ. With a broken heart, I tell you that I watched him slow (and sometimes stop) the spiritual progress of an entire church.
Unfortunately, he was also an Everyman of sorts. He represents a bloated and ever-growing number of people who have left their first love for an empty life on the side. The siding is deceptive; make sure it doesn't fool you.
"Don't Stay Where You Are." It's our second value at Stone Ridge Church.