“Faith is not about everything turning out OK; Faith is about being OK no matter how things turn out.”
As a 5 year old I was diagnosed with a disease called “legg perthes.” Legg perthes is a childhood hip disorder initiated by a disruption of blood flow to the ball of the femur called the femoral head. Due to the lack of blood flow, the bone dies and stops growing. So for several years I wore a leg brace (picture: Forrest Gump). It was during this time that I had my first encounter with what I’d like to call a defining moment. Over the course of one’s life there will be many of these, but this was The One that had the first lasting impression:
I was 6 years old and had just come home from my day as a first grader. As I sat with my mother and enjoyed several of her fresh, baked cookies, I began to complain (again) about my brace and the restrictions it seemed to place on my life. At that moment, my 27 year old mother placed her hands around my fat little face and looked straight into my eyes, and said, “Stevie, you will never control how long you will wear this brace. But it is your attitude and the way you conduct yourself as you meet each day that you can control. If you are negative, you will have no friends. But if your attitude is right and you find a way to make this difficult situation your ‘friend’ then you will inspire others and you will do wonderful things in your life.” It seems strange, but I understood what she meant. I went on to ride a bicycle, swim, and play baseball that summer. In time, the brace was removed (a miracle) and I played college football, making All-American teams for three years. Oh, and my mom? After our conversation she went into her bedroom and cried. Sometimes loving someone the right way is deeply painful.
So on February 19th of this year I finally grew tired of the pain and inconvenience of an arthritic right hip that was caused by the legg perthes and playing college football and I was also involved in a truck, train collision (the train hit the truck and the truck rolled over me). My hip was replaced and the recovery lasted much longer than expected. In that time when my plans didn’t go according to my expectations was I ok with that? Not really. Very few people that I know love pain and depleted strength and isolation. But in the pain and depletion and isolation is there peace? Is there the acute understanding that it is ok not to be in control and that it is ok not to be doing projects that validate and is it ok to wait? A friend recently sent me a subtle, but profound text that said, “Are you… responding to The Lord or are you just doing projects?” I believe that the overflow of a life abiding in Jesus (John 15) will express itself through visible expressions of service. But the fine, delicate line is this: “are we listening to the Holy Spirit or are we just “doing” for the sake of “doing?”
Reflecting (often) on the words of my 27-year-old mother I am reminded that often I cannot control my circumstances, but I can control my attitude toward my circumstances and learn to embrace them as a friend…
“Having faith often means doing what others see as crazy. Something is wrong when our lives make sense to unbelievers.”Francis Chan
(*Due to the sensitivity of this story, the names used are aliases.)
I have a very good friend (*Ellison) who began his career in the Aerospace industry. Over time, God redirected his path into Gospel centered counseling. His focus is primarily marriage. A year ago I introduced him to another
wonderful friend (*Michael) who invited him to visit The Persecuted Church. Ellison went. Ellison has returned. But in ALL that Ellison has seen in life, I am not sure I have seen him so moved. Why? Because he saw and touched and spoke with those precious ones who have discovered that Jesus is, indeed, enough. He met six women and four men who are house church leaders. He heard their stories, but one story stood out:
She is in her early 30’s. When she became a follower of Jesus she was brutally beaten, raped, and falsely accused of criminal acts. She told Ellison that when she returned to her country she would stand trial for those crimes and then be sentenced to one year in prison. She would be allowed one month of freedom before she would serve out her sentence. The time-off was granted in hopes that she would leave the country and destroy the impact of The Church’s witness in her country. But she declared to Ellison that she would not leave, but remain and serve her year in prison. A young man across the table from her then spoke up. He said that when she finished her time in prison he would marry her. In his culture it is shameful to even associate with a woman who has been raped.
Why would she return to this place of “shame?” Why would he marry a woman who is “shameful?” It is because God’s love is transforming and to not go and to not embrace the shameful would be, in fact, shameful. Jesus wrecks our lives in wonderful ways because He destroys sin and shame and makes us new creations.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
I will be returning to The Middle East this fall because I, too, have seen and touched and spoken with those precious ones who have discovered that Jesus is, indeed, enough.
An excerpt from “The Insanity of Obedience.” I highly recommend this book
by Nik Ripken:
The house church leader explained that the Holy Spirit woke him up in the middle of the night and told him to gather the fruits, vegetables, and meat that the house church had stored up to care for people in need. The Holy Spirit told the man to take this load of food, by horse and sled, to a pastor’s family who had been left to die in a one-room hut in the frozen tundra.
The man reminded the Holy Spirit that it was thirty degrees below zero outside and that there was no way that he would survive the trip. The man reminded the Holy Spirit that the wolves would probably eat his horse and then eat him.
Then the words of the Holy Spirit rang in his ears: “You don’t have to come back; you simply have to go.”