“When I called, you answered me…

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe…

Your right hand shall save me…

You will make good your purpose for me.”

Probably the closest thing I do to work is mow. As in mow grass. We have some horses and they spend most of their time in pastures and we have to keep the pastures mowed. It’s more than mowing a lot in town as the pastures take up several acres. Two or three years ago we got a zero-turn mower so it doesn’t take as much time to mow as it used to, We still have a regular mower for parts of the pastures and the yard where there are a lot of trees. We were down in the pasture mowing on the riding mower when the trouble started.

The engine started dying, we’d re-start it, go a little way and then it would die again. We tried to push it but it’s a little too heavy for me to push. Finally, I gave up and called the mower repair shop to come and pick it up. They said they would get to it.

A week or so later they called back and said they were sending someone out that day to get it.

The man they sent out was not the fellow they usually send.

We walked down into the pasture to the mower. With him supplying most of the muscle we pushed it up to his truck and then up on to his trailer.

On the way we talked.

This was just a temporary job for him. He would be going back to school. He had served eight years in the military; six in the Marine Corps and two in the Army, serving in the Infantry in both. In the course of that time he had served in two overseas deployments. He had been injured and now received a check. He was using that to go back to school, hence soon would be starting at UCA. His ultimate goal was to go to UAMS. He wants to qualify himself in some way in medical services so “I can help people.”

Along the way he had encountered some other problems.

As I’ve thought about our conversation, it occurs to me that he really wanted to talk about some things that have been on his mind. Maybe I have an honest look or a willing ear. Maybe I look like someone who will keep quiet long enough for him to say what’s really on his mind. And I think he wanted to say out loud – to somebody – what had been on his mind for some time.

Whatever it is, I think he is at that place in his life where he knows there is a purpose for him in his life.

Why would he think that?

I suspect he has been in deep and serious conversation with himself about where he is going in his life. And then I think he realized that his was not a conversation solely with himself. – and maybe the Other One in that conversation was asking him these questions. And that this One truly loved him, wanted the best for him, and walked with him even when he did not realize it – maybe especially at those times.

“When I called, you answered me…

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe…

Your right hand shall save me…”

I think these words – a rough paraphrase of some words from Psalm 138 – sort of describe his situation. In his young life he has gone through a lot of stuff. And in the going through of all that “stuff” he has been asking himself what have I been going through all of this for?

But now maybe the light has begun to dawn for him, the realization maybe has started to sink in:

“When I called, you answered me…

You will make good your purpose for me.”

He’s beginning to figure it out – there is a purpose for him in life. And it is more than a feeling, a hunch, some good thoughts he can have for a while but nothing comes of it.

Something real has come of it. He can now say.

I’ve signed up for UCA. I’ve signed up for some specific courses. Once I complete that I”ll go on to specific health services courses at UAMS, then I’ll…..He has listened to the Other in this on-going conversation. He now has a purpose. He now has a plan to accomplish that purpose. Some of the details may change. There may be adjustments. But he will accomplish – he will make good the purpose for him in his life.

I don’t think all of this applies only to a young person in the first years of what hopefully will be a long and blessed life – one of joy and accomplishment – and of service in helping others.

In a job I had many years ago I’d be traveling down the road going somewhere on business with a certain associate. As we would be driving down the road in the country he’d notice an old man sitting on a porch in a rocking chair. “Well, there’s someone waiting for the Reaper,” he would say. He was referring, of course, to the Grim Reaper.

Now I guess I would have to say I’m not the younger man going somewhere on business as I was then. Now I’m an older man. Sitting on the porch swing at my home sometimes I think of Charlie’s comment about the old man waiting for the reaper.

We’re going through some difficult times. Soon there will be a contentious election. Regardless of the outcome approximately one-half of our country will be very unhappy about the results. Our politics are toxic. We don’t know how long this pandemic will last. Our world is radically different from the one of only a few months ago. In some ways it seems like all the rules have been changed – and not necessarily for the better.

I guess I’m having a conversation with myself about what should I be doing now? How can I be of help to my family, to those around me, to the church? I’m trying to listen. There are a lot of loud voices out there. Some are saying we should do one thing, some others say we should do something radically different. Who’s right, who’s wrong, or are all of them wrong?

I think Paul in portions of his letter to the Christians in Rome was trying to deal with some of these same sorts of questions. And I think his answer, his advice, is to live our life as a child of God. He put it this way – if you will forgive a rough paraphrase of his words:

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, to present yourselves as a living sacrifice. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed in the renewing of your minds so that you may figure out what is the will of God for your life. So that you may figure out what is a good and acceptable and perfect life for you.

Think seriously about these things, Paul was saying. Be honest with yourself – do not think more highly of yourself than you should. You know yourself. You know yourself – your talents, your strengths, your weaknesses…You know your likes, your dislikes…

We are all part of the body of Christ. We all have our unique and special gifts. Some of us can analyze where we are and where we are going. Some of us have gifts in ministry, some in teaching, some in speaking the word and evangelizing, some in sharing with others, some in leading, some in cheerfulness…Have that honest conversation with yourself – and with God about what you should be doing. It’s called prayer.

Matthew records in his Gospel some conversations on one day after they have come into the region of Caesarea Philippi. He doesn’t say what time of the day it was or exactly where it was. In my mind’s eye I would say it was at night. It has been a long day. They’ve all eaten, they’re tired, they’ve wrapped their cloaks around themselves, they’ve found a place on the ground with the fewest rocks…

They’re talking among themselves…the night is still. And in that quietness Jesus asks them, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

The quiet conversations that had been going on stop.

Finally, one answers, “Some say John the Baptist.”

Quiet again.

Then another says, “Well, I heard someone say Elijah.”

“I heard Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

The conversations drop off.

It is quiet again.

Those who are not asleep look up at the magnificent arrays of stars in the night sky.


And then the voice of Jesus. “But who do you say that I am?”


Richard Robertson