As the aircraft gently lifts off from Chicago, it leaves behind one of the busiest airports in the world. At first, it heads out over Lake Michigan before turning sharply around and flying back over Chicago. It is already dark outside, as I sit with my head pressed against the small window. Below, the city unfolds its pattern of lights, cars and skyscrapers.
We pass over the downtown area, barely missing (so it seems) the tallest buildings, including the Sears tower, a monument to one of the largest retail companies in the USA. At night, it is easy to see the streets laid out below me. They follow the same pattern and symmetry found in many American towns. Streets are laid out in straight lines, numbered logically, even numbers for those streets that go from north to south, and odd for those going from east to west. City blocks are square and surrounded by four streets. I work in Boston, and have to confess a certain amusement whenever I see tourists from the Mid-Western states having a hard time finding their way around a city which evolved without any such pattern or symmetry!
It seems that I can see millions of lights in every direction below me. Houses, street lights, car headlights, buildings, shops … all lit up, burning millions of kilowatts of power every hour. Each light is there to dispel the darkness for the people under it. But what of these people, the three million souls living in this city? As I look out of the windows, the lights seem to merge into one, into a glowing mass only occasionally broken by the blue flashing lights of a police car, What of these people? Where do they come from and what do they do? Where are they going? How many will die tonight, and how many will live to a ripe old age? To me, they are like that mass of light, glowing, pulsating, alive, but amorphous! But not to my God. He knows them all individually. He directs their lives, whether they are willing to accept this or not. Like the rest of America, I suspect that over 50% of these people attend church every Sunday and over 90% claim to believe in God.
As the lights diminish until they become a faint glow in the distance, I wonder how many of these people have settled their eternal destiny? How many lights will go out tonight, never to be lit again? Will they go to be with the Lord or is their destiny eternal perdition? In my heart, I cry out to the Lord for these people. Where are the preachers, the teachers of men? ‘How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?’ Let us ‘lift up our eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!’