Linda Zebell, wife of Forerunners’ staff Timothy Zebell is today’s guest blogger, having written this in collaboration with her husband.
Adrenaline flooded my body as I stood in line with my family. I was moments away from participating in a once-in-a-lifetime experience. All that stood between me and my destination was a metal detector and several secret service agents. Little did I realize at the time what God was preparing to teach me.
For nearly three hours, we had been standing with thousands in a line that stretched several blocks before completely doubling back on itself. An estimated thirty-thousand people had convened in Elkhart, Indiana to see both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence speak at Northside Middle School. However, the school gymnasium could house no more than 7,500 people. Not anticipating such a turnout, my family had arrived at 4:00 sharp because that is when the doors opened for the 7:00 event. As the hours passed, I had begun to worry that we might not have shown up early enough to get inside … but more on this later. First, I must provide some background.
We were Johnny-come-latelies to the party, having only secured our rally tickets the day before. Despite my husband’s obsession with politics and talk radio, somehow, he’d missed hearing about the event. Instead, we only learned about it during a local Bible study two days earlier. Nevertheless, we had no trouble registering for tickets. No consideration was given to our social status, political affiliation, demographic, or income, and the tickets were absolutely free.
This is especially meaningful to me because such privileges are relatively new for me. I am an immigrant to the United States, having been born and raised in China. Growing up, I was acutely aware of how unimportant I was to my government leaders. Never would I have been invited to come listen to my president speak because I was ordinary. But now, standing in line as a citizen of the United States of America, I was about to be ushered into throwing distance of both the president and vice President. And not only me, but even my young daughters and three-year-old niece who were continually asking with eagerness, “Are we going to see the real, live president?”
Now, my nearly three hours of faithful penguin-waddling in line had brought me to the security check at entrance gate number one. To my surprise, a secret service agent explained to me that I could not bring my empty Nalgene bottle into the building, nor could I leave it outside the building. My options were to return to my car to deposit it or throw it away. Returning to the car wasn’t an option because I could never return to my place in line, but it pained me to throw away a perfectly good bottle that had been nearly inseparable from me for years. Having grown up in a mountain village consisting of four other families with no shops and no electricity, I find it particularly challenging to waste good items. Nevertheless, I wasn’t about to allow a water bottle to stand between me and the president, so I begrudgingly tossed it into a nearby trash can and sauntered through the metal detector.
Despite having arrived as soon as the doors to the event opened, I was among the final wave of people permitted inside the building. Relieved that I had just made the cut, I was directed to the final few bleacher seats in the top right corner. This meant that I could only see the back of the president. Nevertheless, I was simply grateful to be present. The atmosphere was electric with thousands enthusiastically cheering, “U.S.A!” and delivering thunderous applause. The long wait and the loss of my precious drinking bottle were now forgotten as I thanked God that we had just made the cut to get inside the building.
It was at this moment that I realized how analogous my experience was to the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught that there is coming a day when, like the door to the president’s rally, the entrance door into the Kingdom of God will be shut (Luke 13:25). Thousands were left standing outside the gymnasium where the president was located in Indiana. In fact, far more were left outside than were permitted inside because they thought they still had time. Many had good reasons to arrive as late as they did, while others simply hadn’t taken the event seriously. Regardless, they were left wanting. However, others had arrived early in the morning—some as early at 4:00 a.m.—and they were granted access to the president.
The tickets to the event were freely distributed to anyone willing to accept them. Some, like myself, were among the last to receive a ticket, and yet I was granted access alongside those who had secured tickets long before me. What mattered was my commitment. Those who took the event seriously were granted access.
This prompted me to question how many are taking the Kingdom of God seriously. “Tickets” to the Kingdom of God are being freely distributed to anyone willing to accept them, and Jesus taught that some who were among the last to receive tickets will be granted access to the Kingdom alongside those who were first (Luke 13:30). Anyone, regardless of age, income, or status in life can come to God and acknowledge Him as their Savior and Lord.
Here are few of my thoughts:
- I nearly missed participating in the rally because I hadn’t been told about it. How grateful I am that my friends told me! But am I being faithful to tell my friends about the Kingdom of God (Rom. 10:14)?
- Many used their time standing in line to purchase campaign buttons, hats, T-shirts, posters, and ribbons—anything that would show them to be true supporters of the president. How am I using my time as I await entrance into the fullness of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 6:19–20)?
- I nearly missed entrance into the rally because I almost didn’t show up early enough, believing I had plenty of time. I wish now I had put aside my ever-important to-do list that day and had come as early as possible. Am I helping others to understand that their “good reasons” for delaying their commitment to God will be deemed meaningless by comparison in hindsight (Luke 9:59–62)?
- I nearly forfeited my ticket for something as menial as a water bottle! Fortunately, I was surrounded by family who urged me to make the obvious choice and throw it away. God demands that we be willing to relinquish everything in our commitment to Him. Unfortunately, some can’t look beyond what they must sacrifice in order to pass through security and enter into the event. Am I urging those around me to make the wise choice (Luke 18:22–30)?
- The sacrifices I made to enter the rally were quickly forgotten in light of the event. Likewise, our sacrifices will be quickly forgotten in light of the glorious nature of the Kingdom of God. Am I becoming overly focused on what I’m forfeiting for the Kingdom rather than focusing on the excitement of belonging to the Kingdom (Rom. 8:18)?
Who would have thought that a political rally would result in such spiritual insights? Regardless, I’ve walked away from my experience with a fresh perspective. It’s time to become more committed to the Kingdom of God than ever!