WATCHMAN, WHAT OF THE NIGHT?

Living an hour and twenty minutes from O’Hare Airport was equivalent to being within shouting distance of a front-row seat to the world.  On the down side, it sometimes required setting the alarm for four a.m.  When we would awake, after a night of sleep—or, more often, a three to four hour nap—it was time to begin our journey.  A new day was dawning.  There was work to be done, places to go, people to see; time to get moving.  And miles to go before we sleep. 

Night.  Often it is a time of perplexity, fear and apprehension.  When is night returning?  The question recorded in Isaiah 21:11 asks of the watchman, or prophet, “what of the night?”  Watchman, what prophecy do you have about this night or the next morning?

Life is like that, a flow from one interlude to the next.  For some, a morning of youth and health is followed by a night of sickness or the infirmities of age.  A morning of the familiar may be followed by a night of change.  After a long sleep in the security of the familiar, life hands you a different agenda.  What is your hope in the new day that dawns?

Over the last two years, I have lived a life of transition.  I moved from a life in which all my questions were answered and the difficult prophecies were interpreted for me—to a new place.

My transition into a new life has actually been sequential.  The first year, I began the process of sorting my husband’s life’s work—his papers and writings.  I packed for a long-distance move and put my consulting business in temporary hiatus.  The “me” who loved jetting to D.C. for meetings at the Pentagon suddenly vanished.  I had a waning enthusiasm for being the feisty, independent entrepreneur I had been for twenty-five years. I needed a quiet place to sit and think.  Going to bed at night knowing people supported their families based on decisions I made had become burdensome.

The passing of my husband’s physical presence radically altered the landscape of my life.  Indeed, the spiritual climate of everything around me changed.  The night, the darkness, the change was a life without the priest of my house, the king of my family.

It had been my privilege to walk alongside a great man of God in the service of His people for forty-one years of ministry and fifty years of friendship.  His array of pulpit gifts were shining.  Even after the space of two years, I still contemplate how enormous, indeed, has been my loss. Knowing that I could call him or simply turn to him and ask him anything was comforting, sustaining and steadying. I knew that he was there.

His life was an epic—a golden tale woven by God Himself.  I am confident today that Floyd Prude’s marvelous gifts of preaching, teaching and leadership were directly connected to how much he was willing to give up for the cause of Christ.  He was willing to give up everything!  Jesus’ parable of the Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:45-46) had a profound influence on the ministry we shared.  We heard that passage preached eloquently many years ago by the late Dr. Kelly Miller Smith, Sr.

As someone who has loved the preached word since I was a teenager, I was blessed by our shared life; it was a great and marvelous experience.  Floyd was president of preaching.  As the angel of God’s church, the pulpit was his platform and he made it ring with the good news and glad tidings of God’s Word.  Above all, when he mounted the steps of the pulpit, paramount in his mind was that Christ be lifted up and that he would disappear.

He took preaching seriously.  In that sacred place, the holiness of the Lord would so shine through His presence was all one could see.  My prayer is to adopt Floyd’s legacy; if I am nothing, then Christ can be everything.

In this new space, I am honored to know that God still directs our affairs. He has seen fit to give me a new assignment.  For many years, at pastoral anniversary time, Walter Ingram would set the keys of the baby grand piano afire with sounds of the hymn, God of our fathers, whose Almighty hand.  God’s hand guides.

Isaiah recorded the question, “What of the night?” and the watchman’s answer was this:  “the morning comes, and also the night.”  You made it through the night without any harm.  The light of a new day is coming.  Nevertheless, there will be occasion for further inquiries.  We will need to continue to ask God what to do.

I have so many grave and solemn considerations at this time…and so many sublime and splendid recollections.  I’ve been given a universal message of healing, fearlessness and joy.  My job is to get it out to the universe.  Heal the world.  Change lives, reach millions of people.

We can face any night with the great words of Jude’s marvelous benediction:

24 Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

25To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

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