“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
A couple of years ago, my wife and I made the painful but necessary decision to drastically downsize and move to a senior retirement community. Our home of 43 years had two levels with 2,000 sq. ft on each level. Our new home is one level and has a little over 900 sq. ft. total living space. We rejoiced that our daughter and son-in-law had just built a lovely home a mile away. They were gracious and were able to take many family treasures that we couldn’t take with us.
The garage of our new patio home became the repository of things we could not fit into our cozy-but-small living area. Within months, any thought of putting our car in the garage was abandoned. We also rented a small storage unit until decisions on what more to keep could be made. Now, two years after the move, most of the boxes have been sorted through, and more stuff has been jettisoned. A lot of shelving has been added, but still the garage is nearly full. I gradually resigned myself to the necessity of me and my ‘special’ stuff being relegated to the garage. I have successfully carved out room for a small table, a chair, and a lamp. They are surrounded by book shelves, sermon files, artifacts from sixty years of ministry and family remembrances. These are items I don’t necessarily need every day, but things I want to keep close by.
Now that I am “kind of retired” (I preached 24 times in a 30 day span this summer, and I still preach every Sunday), I have more free time than in previous years. I needed a quiet place to pray, read, and work on sermons with my resources close at hand. My garage ‘sanctuary’ is a place where, like Winnie the Pooh, “sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits”. I now realize that I have not been relegated to the garage, but elevated to a sanctuary.
The many pictures and mementos that fill the area where I sit are for me “a great cloud of witnesses”. They challenge me to “run with perseverance the race marked out for me”. It is easy for people, as they get older, to get so entangled in the cares of this world (Mark 4:19) that they become unfruitful, unproductive. Aches and pains, financial concerns, and other problems of daily life can rob a person of an awareness of God’s love and grace. Thoughts tend to turn inward. Spiritual myopia often blinds people to the bigger picture. Believers may cease to “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14, NKJV).
We all need a place like a garage sanctuary, a prayer closet, or a little corner where our cloud of witnesses can cheer us on. We need to finish well. We must not stop short of obtaining the prize Christ Jesus sets before us. Let us follow Helen H. Lemmel’s advice:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in his wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of his glory and grace
~ Brother Roy