The summer of 1973 is a fond memory for me. As a young teenager in Maryland, my Dad’s military station at the time, life seemed pretty care-free, and the things that made me smile were simple: riding my bike, sandlot baseball with my buddies, and those long days of summer when we kids would leave the house in the morning and not find our way back until suppertime. An added bonus for me is that it all played out to the soundtrack of Dobie Gray’s sublime hit “Drift Away” which dominated the airwaves that summer. His soulful crooning to “give me the beat, boys, and free my soul” made me want to drift away, too.
More poignant to me still was the line “thanks for the joy that you’ve given me,” which somehow connected to my young soul as I came to grips with the spiritual journey I started the previous summer, saying “yes” to God in response to the altar call of a preacher who rolled through town in a “revival” meeting. It’s the journey I’m still on today—no turning back, right?
The writer of the epistle “Hebrews” in the New Testament reminded early Christians, and all of us since, that we serve a God who is there, and who is not silent. God speaks—many times and in various ways—“but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1-2). On the heels of that incredible thought, however, the writer also provides a warning:
We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away (Hebrews 2:1)
There is something about life, with all its cares, challenges, demands and distractions that can cause a “drift” in our beings. It is often subtle, and can span decades which seem to us like a mere “blink.” Before we realize it, we may find ourselves in a place we barely recognize, asking “well, How did I get here?”
Remember the Message
How do we avoid such drifting away? By paying careful attention to the message God speaks to us through Jesus Christ—a message that has been handed down to us, often at great sacrifice, by “a great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before. With the encouragement of their example, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Thanks for the Joy
My 40-plus year faith journey has certainly involved pot holes and detours, mostly of my own making. And yet, there is an unmistakable joy that has percolated in my heart since that first uncertain and nervous step I took in response to the itinerant preacher’s invitation to follow Jesus. Like the novelist John Grisham said about his own childhood decision for Christ, “In one sense, it was not terribly eventful for an eight-year-old, but it was the most important event in my life.” Me too, and that joy I experience reminds me each step of the way. Maybe that’s why I connected with that line from “Drift Away” back then, and still do today. It’s probably not what Dobie meant when he sang it (or Mentor Williams when he wrote it), but that line has always been for me a prayer of gratitude to the Lord: “Thanks for the joy that You’ve given me. I want you to know I believe in Your song.”