This is the time of year when intrepid teenagers having survived the stresses of A-level exams, now embark on gap-year adventures. It has become a rite of passage, for testing resolve, resilience and mastery of the unknown.
Mindful parents, having made provision for every known pitfall, plead hopefully, “Call me, won’t you? Let me know where you are.” The occasional text message will not suffice. Tuned-in parents can interpret every nuance of tone in the familiar voice, happy, anxious, afraid, excited “Call back!”
In pre-television times when entertainment was home-spun and community based, little mission halls around the country would host what came to be called ‘Testimony Meetings’. Speakers would step to the front and captivate audiences with personal reports of the faithfulness of God in provision, protection, guidance, healing and redeeming grace. Human nature being prone to limelight seeking, these well-intended meetings might at times, degenerate into competition for the most spectacular report. Nevertheless, these dramatic recounting were ‘call back’ stories of those who had passed along a track in life that led to encounters with God who interacts and intercedes.
The principle remains worthy of practice, that we who have experienced ‘the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living’ should call back to those who follow in our footsteps through the tough situations of life. The most effective comfort and reassurance comes from the empathy of one who has survived the same thorny way and can share advice and encouragement and thanksgiving to God. In testimony we bear witness to God who offers cleansing and forgiveness, who guides and provides, who hears and answers prayer and whose mercies are without end.
Charles Simeon, that great Cambridge luminary, after decades of teaching and preaching amidst hostile opposition, found himself so weakened in physical strength, that he could not deliver two sermons in one day. Conversations were often reduced to whispered exchanges and for thirteen years he suffered bouts of extreme exhaustion. Reaching sixty years of age, he anticipated the relief of retirement from these strenuous labours and retreat from battle. But it was not to be. On his last visit north in 1819, he found himself miraculously renewed in strength and re-commission for active service for a further thirteen years. His call back advice is still relevant to us today, with regard to prayers of intercession. He said, “Sometimes an extraordinary sense of want may beget fervour in our petitions, or a peculiar mercy enliven our grateful acknowledgements, but it is scarcely ever that we can intercede with fervour unless we enjoy our habitual nearness to God.” Thus, he echoes the advice of the writer of Psalm 91 who urges to make our habitual dwelling place in “the shelter of the Most High”.
Call Back (writer unknown)
If you have gone a little way ahead of me, call back.
Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track;
And if, perchance, Faith’s light is dim, because the oil is low,
Your call will guide my lagging course as wearily I go.
Call back and tell me that He went with you into the storm;
Call back and say He kept you when the forest’s roots were torn;
That when the heavens thundered and the earthquake shook the hill,
He bore you up and held you where the very air was still.
And if you’ll say He heard you when your prayer was but a cry,
And if you’ll say He saw you through the night’s sin-darkened sky,
If you have gone a little way ahead, O friend, call back
Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track.