We just came in from taking a break from paperwork and planting some rose cuttings we were given. These cuttings come from roses at Mission San Antonio, one of the early California missions. There is something deeply "deep" to me about what we did. I'll try to explain, and I think it will bless and encourage you . . .
During the summer, when I was researching and writing the history-cookbook More Treasures Under the Oaks for our youth group (see sidebar, or click on title for a blog post about the book), I read a bit from the account of a man who visited this area in the late 1800s and wrote about one of the first men to establish a church in this region. It was very powerful for me to read his story of the man moving into the same mountains and region I now live and pastor in, and living among the local ranchers and settlers, and establishing the church and reaching out to the lost.
Also during the writing and researching I learned a lot about an early Baptist church here who, in the late 1800s, built the hall that is now our local community hall. Then I did an article about the formation of the fellowship I now pastor and how it started as a lake-side service in the 1970s and how it grew and changed into True Life Christian Fellowship today.
Besides these two paths, the book includes a lot about Mission San Antonio, a testimony to the earliest of man's attempts to bring the Gospel here, including an account of an elderly Indian woman who met the padres when they came and asked to be baptized. When the shocked padres asked how she knew about that she replied that her people passed down the story of a man who, years and years prior, had come to them (through the air!) and told them the story that the padres were telling them!
After the publication of the book this last Fall a man from our area who has long roots here started giving me old pictures of missionaries from here, scans from the Bible from the first Baptist church here, and a picture of an 1800s baptism in the seasonal San Antonio river near here. It is as if, in the past 6–9 months, God has been making me aware of the history of His pursuit of people in this region. Additionally, recently I have been teaching on the mystery of God talked about in the New Testament and how God has had a plan to unify us with Him which was in place before the foundation of the earth. It has all combined for me to be a timely, and powerful reminder and encouragement . . .
. . . often we, and maybe you, feel alone, like we are a random drop in a vast sea, struggling to bring God's light and Word until we fade out or away. It feels like such a huge undertaking, and sometimes hopeless and like it is making no difference. It feels lonely—a few facing an insurmountable task, like seeking to fill a swimming pool with a thimble. It is so easy, in our desire to obey God and to see His glory shine and to see others know Him, to start to feel overwhelmed, alone, hopeless and like you are struggling in futility—a stone tossed into the pool of history that appears, and then will disappear, leaving no trace, with no ties.
But what God has been doing recently is reminding me that I am a part of something much bigger. Since before the foundation of the earth God has had His eye on the people in this region (and in your region) and He has been moving people and circumstances into place to win them. We are not alone, a blip with no beginning or end, appearing only to disappear—rather we are the next to take the baton and run, and we will hand it to the next generation. We are runners in the race of eternity, running in a race begun before the earth itself. We are partakers in a plan of God's so huge it is staggering. We are the descendants of the men and women before us who took the baton and ran, who lived and worked in this region to win the lost. We are not alone. We are not insignificant. We are part of the greatest plan in history, a vital piece, put in place by God . . . and so are you, Christian, wherever you are planted, no matter how alone you feel.
And so . . . the roses. There is something exciting to me that, God willing, in a year or two we will be smelling deeply the flowers of a rose that carries in it the same life and DNA as the roses planted by the first padres—the first of men into this region carrying the cross, men who passed the baton to others who passed it to us. When we smell of these roses we will be smelling the same roses they planted and smelled . . . just as we spiritually are living the same race, of the same spiritual body, connected to them by the same spiritual DNA—the blood of Christ.
Just as we smell the roses they planted, we walk in the race they ran. As these roses are descendants of theirs, we are spiritual descendants of them. I can imagine that over the centuries most every man and women who loved the Lord visited the Mission and smelled the roses, whether the Mission was flourishing, or in decay and ruins as it was for a long time. But each generation continued, carrying the baton, smelling the roses, running the race. Two or three hundred years ago a padre stopped and bent over and took a moment from his work to smell a rose—two or three hundred years later we will stop, bend over, and take a moment from continuing God's work he was doing, to smell the same roses he was smelling.
Our life has meaning and purpose—deep meaning and purpose—and is a part of something so big it is the mystery of the ages. And, Christian, so does yours. Maybe this will bless and encourage you. Maybe it is only for me. But I wanted to share it with you in case it is just what you needed to hear today. God bless you. Thanks for sharing in my life. —Erick