Monday, December 2, 2013

Moments Of Being Ashamed….To Be A Christian

I wonder if there are moments when Christians, as disciples of Christ, are ashamed to be called HIS disciples? I most surely do, which I will describe in this short essay.

A few days ago the doctor dilated my pupils after which my eyes were to be closed for 45 minutes. It was then I reaffirmed to myself that I preferred sight over blindness! My temporary blindness increased my sympathy and respect for the blind who are living a grateful life! The great hymn writer Fanny Crosby was blinded within two months after her birth. Her response to those who sympathized with her was, “Do you know that if at birth I had been able to make one petition, it would have been that I was born blind? …Because when I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior.” 1 I am unsure if I would have lived such a grateful life, let alone make that petition. I am surely ashamed of myself!

If you relate with me, then grappling with reasons behind this predicament reveals that we are our first enemy. First, we offer preeminence to our selfish desires (e.g. I ought not to be blind). Second, while exalting our selfish desires, we slander God (that God should not have allowed blindness upon me). The reason we sincerely doubt if we will ever respond as Fanny Crosby is because we sincerely believe that we will either continually live thinking that God has wronged us or live a sad life. Let me elaborate. (Disclaimer: Horrendous physical ailments [blindness, cancer etc.] are much worse than any emotional pain [loss of a loved one, rape, false accusation etc.]).

In moments of suffering we respond with, “Why me, Lord?” Sometimes we respond differently by remaining sad through our suffering. There are hidden assumptions in these responses, which are:

(1) Suffering is an unjust punishment: The Bible does not consider suffering as only a punishment (cf. Isaiah 43:2; John 16:33; 2 Corinthians 4: 8-10; 2 Timothy 3: 12; 1 Peter 4: 12-13 et al.). In fact, the Bible is replete with facts of God’s people undergoing extreme suffering. So suffering is not only a punishment, let alone being unjust.

(2) I am good: Thinking of us as good implies an anticipation of good rewards and not painful rewards. Not only is this transactional Christianity (I am-doing-good-so-God-should-only-give-me-good), but this is a very high thought of oneself, either borderline of pride or smacks of pride. Pride is a sin (Proverbs 21: 4).

(3) I have not sinned: Once again this is a high thought of oneself. This is a false assumption for there is no one who is righteous and all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Psalm 14: 1-3; Romans 3: 10, 23) .

(4) There are other bad people in this world: This accuses God of bad judgment in inflicting suffering upon the innocent-me when there are other bad people in this world. 

These assumptions exalt man and denigrate God by disputing HIS wisdom and authority. This is not to say we should not question God or we should not be sad. But we cannot live in persistent questioning of God (rebellion) and/or in constant grief.

Constant sadness and questioning God are spiritually dangerous for it could lead us away from HIM. Going away from God will result in godlessness.  

This real life story of Mabel was told by William Lane Craig about his former colleague visiting shut-ins in nursing homes, “…on this particular day I was walking in a hallway that I had not visited before, looking in vain for a few who were alive enough to receive a flower and a few words of encouragement. This hallway seemed to contain some of the worst cases, strapped onto carts or into wheelchairs and looking completely helpless.

As I neared the end of this hallway, I saw an old woman strapped in a wheelchair. Her face was an absolute horror. The empty stare and white pupils of her eyes told me that she was blind. The large hearing aid over one ear told me that she was almost deaf. One side of her face was being eaten by cancer. There was a discolored and running sore covering part of one cheek, and it had pushed her nose to the side, dropped one eye, and distorted her jaw so that what should have been the corner of her mouth was the bottom of her mouth. As a consequence, she drooled constantly. I also learned later that this woman was eighty-nine years old and that she had been bedridden, blind, nearly deaf, and alone, for twenty-five years. This was Mabel.

I don't know why I spoke to her - she looked less likely to respond than most of the people I saw in that hallway. But I put a flower in her hand and said, ‘Here is a flower for you. Happy Mother's Day.’ She held the flower up to her face and tried to smell it, and then she spoke. And much to my surprise, her words, though somewhat garbled because of her deformity, were obviously produced by a clear mind. ‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘It's lovely. But can I give it to someone else? I can't see it, you know, I'm blind.’

I said, ‘Of course,’ and I pushed her in her chair back down the hallway to a place where I thought I could find some alert patients. I found one, and I stopped the chair. Mabel held out the flower and said, ‘Here, this is from Jesus.’

It was then it began to dawn on me that this was not an ordinary human being…During one hectic week of final exams I was frustrated because my mind seemed to be pulled in ten directions at once with all of the things that I had to think about. The questions occurred to me, ‘What does Mabel have to think about - hour after hour, day after day, week after week, not even able to know if it's day or night?’

I went to her and asked her, ‘Mabel, what do you think about when you lie here?’ And she said, ‘I think about my Jesus.’

I sat there and thought for a moment about the difficulty, for me, of thinking about Jesus for even five minutes, and I asked her, ‘What do you think about Jesus?’ She replied slowly and deliberately as I wrote. And this is what she said, ‘I think how good He's been to me. He's been awfully good to me in my life, you know. I am one of those kind who's mostly satisfied. Lots of folks would think I'm kind of old-fashioned. But I don't care. I'd rather have Jesus. He's all the world to me.’

And then Mabel began to sing an old hymn: ‘Jesus is all the world to me, My life, my joy, my all. He is my strength from day to day, Without him I would fall. When I am sad, to him I go, No other one can cheer me so. When I am sad, He makes me glad. He's my friend.’

Dr. Craig adds, ‘This is not fiction. Incredible as it may seem a human being really lived like this. I knew her; how could she do it? Seconds ticked and minutes crawled, and so did days and weeks and months and years of pain without human company and without an explanation of why it was all happening. She lay there and sang hymns! How could she do it! The answer, I think, is Mabel had something you and I don’t have much of. She had power. Lying there in that bed unable to move, unable to see, unable to hear, unable to talk to anyone, she had incredible power...’”2

A wonderful and an awe inspiring life indeed. I can’t imagine living that life if I were to trade places with Mabel. I am ashamed of myself! It’s not wrong to plead with God to remove the suffering from our lives, but it’s not right to live a defeated life in suffering (cf. 2 Corinthians 12: 8-10).

The world we belong to, longs for, and promotes self-deification. Compared to such wonderful lives of Fanny Crosby, Mabel and the many, I am ashamed to be a Christian (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:6, 11: 1; Philippians 3: 17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). I cannot imagine myself as an equal to such wonderfully lived lives. Fanny Crosby may have received her share of popularity and rewards, but Mabel had none whatsoever. Mabel’s gain was 25 years of constant pain. For Mabel, it’s all about Jesus. It’s not about Mabel, but it’s all about Jesus.

May we long to live such glorious lives by remaining in Christ always. God will surely empower those who long for such glorious lives as we usher in the season to remember our Savior’s birth. Amen.

1 Fanny Crossby:

2 Mabel:

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