“Imagine waking up and looking in the mirror and seeing yourself as you were years ago!”
That TV commercial advertising some kind of facial makeover has been airing recently. It's accompanied by two “before and after” photos of women and men. The first frame is in black and white depicting a depressed-looking person with sagging features. The second is in full color, smiling, with wrinkles and sags erased. “Call this number for information about a 'Lifestyle Lift.' Hurry! Operators are standing by.”
It's not possible to turn back the hands of time. I might be able to do some camouflage temporarily with softening creams, cosmetics, and by holding my head up and developing the habit of a frozen smile. But nothing permanent. Nothing to wake up and look surprised at in the mirror. Those “hands of time” do their gravity pull all over my body as the years roll by. Healthy living and a positive attitude might slow down the aging process just a wee bit, but the ravages of mortal life on this planet are relentless.
Something can be done in the spiritual realm, however. Not a “lifestyle lift” but a heart-warmup. A restoration of what I left behind, a retrieval of what I lost somewhere, sometime. That loss may have been due to my neglect, or carelessness, the busy life I lead, the cares of this material world, or the mundane, ordinariness of everyday living. Any or all of the above.
One day I do wake up and look in the mirror to see my spirit reflected. I search for my fervent "former self" in relation to God as I was years ago. Where is my burning heart? I see only cold embers. The Holy Spirit doesn't abandon me. He too is relentless to remind me from whence I have fallen. He uses various means to draw me back to where Jesus wants me to live as my spiritual lifestyle.
He recently used my own voice to speak to me from the past. I'm in the midst of transferring from the obsolescence of cassettes to CD’s some of the still relevant messages I have spoken in past years to Christian Writers' conferences and keynote messages at other Christian gatherings. In the process I have been reviewing each tape to evaluate whether it has continuing worth. I listened to a message I gave to a group of Christian ladies upon returning from a three month journey in Asia where I researched the authenticity of the renewal of the Holy Spirit's power which was sweeping throughout the world a few decades ago. My own spiritual thermostat was on high as I spoke from a burning heart of what I observed and my own genuine experiences. I was convicted by my own voice, my own words of testimony on the tape recorded many years ago.
I looked in the mirror and confessed that I am in danger of being in the condition of faithful believers in the church at Ephesus to whom Jesus directed His accusation, “[You have many good and commendable works] but I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen and repent...” (Rev. 2:2-6).
I kept looking in the mirror. Have I ever been more fervent in my love for God than I am now? Could I be among those Jesus foretold in Matthew 24 that in the last days “the love of many will grow cold”? To warm up my former love for Him just a little is insufficient. In Revelation 3:15,16 Jesus declared His displeasure and distaste for those who are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold.
It seems to be a characteristic of those of us in advancing years that our bodily thermostats become defective. We get cold feet and hands due to poor circulation and diminishment of body heat. Our metabolism gets out of kilter. We reach for a sweater or blanket sooner than previously, and turn the thermostat higher.
Spiritually I must stay warm and watchful through the means God has provided to maintain a burning heart of love for the Lord by continual meditation on His sacred Word, walking close to Him in prayer, listening to His voice with obedience, and availing myself of the Sacraments.
If I follow Jesus at a distance in my summit years, my heart will invariably grow cold, and I will yield to temptation as the apostle Peter did while Jesus was being tried before Pilate. He huddled in the courtyard near the fire and tried to warm his hands to no avail. Nor can I warm my heart at the fires the world offers. Jesus Himself lit the charcoal fire for the fish and bread breakfast He prepared on the shore after His resurrection. Through questioning Peter after breakfast, He drew him back to his first love.
That's where Jesus wants me. Not trying any temporary “lifestyle lift” but living in first love relationship to Him in the final season of my earthly life. Just as I did in the first flush of His embrace when, as the hymn writer expressed, He “walks with me and talks with me and tells me I am His own.”