The movie Apollo 13 is a “must see” on my list – in fact, I would find it hard to believe that anyone who reads this has not seen at least a part of it. Some love it because of Tom Hanks. Others are drawn in because it is a true story. However, what won me over was the drama of Apollo 13’s re-entry into earth’s atmosphere (I won’t tell the story here, just in case there is one of those “hard-to-believe” people reading this).
A few decades ago – in what seems to have been a previous life – when youth were a primary focus in my ministry, re-entry was always a topic when away on a retreat. Mountaintop experiences (like retreats) are great, but re-entry into family and life afterwards can be difficult. Because we feel changed, we think everything around us should be different as well. The reality of “nothing else has changed” easily becomes a frustrating downer that not only sucks but can also suck away the value of the retreat and more.
This week, upon returning from a three-day pastors’ conference at Boyne (a mountaintop experience in more than one way), I faced a different set of re-entry issues – namely four days of an over-packed schedule with little to no time to breath. I have made it through day one – anticipated to be the most difficult of the four – and things are looking up for days two through four. It is amazing – once again – to see how God opens doors to make sure that what is most important and urgent in his kingdom takes place. My experience was like that of the psalmist: “I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” (Psalm 118.13-14)
Re-entry in other circumstances can appear to be even more difficult – even impossible. Experiences of betrayal, death and failure often stymie us. We feel isolated … cut off … helpless … with no clue (it feels like no hope) or desire to re-enter. Of course, there are certain relationships where re-entry is not the proper course, but this is never true in our relationship with Jesus.
And because of this, he gives us a re-entry prayer custom made for those days: “Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord. This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we pray, O Lord! O Lord, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! … You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalm 118.19-29)
I understand that this prayer may be a little long for some of you, but it’s worth the time to pray at the beginning of every day … for each dawn brings its own re-entry experiences to us all. And, even though some are better or easier than others, our Lord Jesus has a singular identical goal every time – that we enter each new experience with him, empowered by his Spirit to say, “This is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it.” Your “re-entry backout” may be longer than the six minutes experienced by Lovell, Haise and Swigert, but the ending Jesus offers will far surpass your expectations.