How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?
-- Proverbs 6:9
If you've ever overslept and been late to church or work, maybe someone has called you a Rip Van Winkle.
The name comes from Washington Irving's famous 1819 short story about a man who fell fast asleep one pleasant autumn day in the mountains. When Rip finally woke up, years had passed and his world had changed completely. His wife had died, his friends had either moved away or had been killed in a war against the British (the Revolutionary War)--and he now sported a foot-long beard. Then came his final great shock: There was another man in town who answered to his name. It turned out to be Rip's son, who had grown to manhood while his father slumbered unaware on the hillside.
Washington Irving's story was fictional, but there are several documented cases of real-life Rip Van Winkles. In 1984, a young man named Terry Wallis was in a serious automobile accident that left him in a coma. When he finally awoke 19 years later, he thought that Ronald Reagan was still president. He knew nothing about the Persian Gulf War or the 9-11 terrorist attacks. What's more, his six-week-old daughter had become an adult!
Much can change once we close our eyes--and not only with our surroundings--but also with our spiritual condition. The transition can be imperceptible if we're not on guard for it. And sleepwalking through life can lead us to some startling revelations once we finally come to our senses.
For example, what will it take before we finally wake up to the fact that we've pushed God away from certain areas of our life? Losing a job because of alcohol or drug abuse could certainly be an alarm about the immediate changes that must be made to prevent further damage. Another spiritual red alert might be a spouse's or child's growing alienation and withdrawal. Whatever it is, the signs and symptoms are there all along. The question is whether or not we'll wake up in time and do something about them.
An alarm's effectiveness is in direct proportion to how much we don't want to hear it. In Old Testament times, God often sent prophets to tell the people to stop sinning against Him and start living their lives His way. The people sometimes responded to His call in true repentance. But too often, they made excuses about their behavior, denied there was a problem or convinced themselves that everyone was doing it. Have things really changed in our day?
Centuries later, the problems remain. And the siren still blares away.
If that's your situation--or if it's facing someone you know--there's no time to waste. Ask God to open your eyes and ears (or theirs) to clearly perceive the message He's sending. And whatever the issue might be, God's prescribed life-changes must be made as soon as possible...no matter how unpleasant the wake-up process may be.
Is the alarm clock shrieking in your ear this morning? It's no time to hit the snooze button.