Monday, September 25, 2006

A Rerun

This was something I wrote and posted in August of 2004. A lot has changed since then. Amy's health has improved dramatically. Doctors were finally able to put a name to some of the ailments she had suffered from for more than a decade. Today she's grown stronger physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our finances are in much better shape, and we've played "host" to any number of people in our "upstairs mission field."

We grow increasingly convinced that we are in God's will in doing so.

We've also committed ourselves to go to Moldova and taken on some exciting business challenges.

Sometimes, it's good to look back and remember how far we've come. Admittedly, sometimes it's painful to realize that what were once large influences in our lives have lost their importance and relevance.

Occasionally though, such pain is very beneficial.

For a variety of reasons, I thought it timely to remind myself of that again.

Donuts And Discipline

For a year or two when I was attending college, I lived across the street from a donut shop. I worked morning radio in college too, so I was an early riser even back then. On an occasional weekend morning I would go to that donut shop and sit with the "old men" who gathered there. Two of these men were World War II veterans who invariably spoke of how the young people of the day (the 1970's) didn't understand what was important in least that's what they spoke about whenever I sat with them. I was an unruly sort in college...long hair, shabbily dressed, and thinking myself unconventional while surrounding myself with folks who were almost exactly the same. It was easy for these men to look at me and see, rightly or wrongly, what they envisioned were the flaws of the next generation of America. It was equally easy for me to overlook their wisdom.

The discussions were always friendly, but quite often they'd end with one or both men reminding me that "discipline" was the key to life.

My thoughts of discipline centered on being swatted on the rear by a high school coach wielding a board, or some other form of punishment. It wasn't until years later - far too many years in fact - that I came to understand what those sages truly meant.

Today I sat down with my Pastor for lunch. Gordon and I have lunched together often, but normally our conversation revolves around sports or writing or the general strange observations we have of the world. Today's lunch was requested by Gordon, "my Pastor", some days ago. He essentially wanted to know how I was doing, and also make certain I knew that he was willing to help me shoulder the burdens in my life. I knew that of Gordon already, but it was good to sit face to face with a dear friend and acknowledge I needed help as he admitted he felt called to help me.

So I vented, and blubbered and rambled. I told him about the amazing number of ways I have seen God at work in the past month and that spiritually I was floored by it all. There are so many things that have happened, in such ways that they defy all explanation except one: God.

I should say that although I am someone who often can interpret a message from God in the smallest incident, I am not what I have referred to as a "wooie Christian" who gives God credit for the everyday happenstances of life. I mean if I'm driving to work and the first few traffic lights I come to are green, I don't pull to the side of the road, fall to my knees and shout praises to the Lord for it. I don't see God in clouds or crystals. That's not my theology or my nature.
I would really almost be more comfortable describing myself as something of an embarrassed believer. I know God is there, I believe in His promise of salvation, but I am not overt in expressing my faith in most circumstances. I believe the best witnesses for Christ are people who live Christ-like lives. I know those are the people I saw and said, "I want to be like them." I don't succeed often enough at being that man...but I'm getting better.

I also told Gordon of my strategy for coping, not only with our recent struggles, but with life and stress in general.

I adopt disciplines.

Lately those disciplines primarily boil down to two: I walk...everyday - to focus my mind off of myself, and in all honesty off Amy, for a little while; and I write...every day - in hopes of giving organization to my thoughts and perhaps find meaning in them.

This is not new. In years past I have adopted many quit smoking, to quit abusing alcohol, and drugs. Those are disciplines I have maintained so long they are now simply my nature.

At one point in the conversation Gordon said something along the lines of, "Considering all you've been dealing with, you seem to be doing remarkably well."

That's when I told him about what also helps me cope, a gift I received long ago...the gift of suffering.

My parents died when I was 14. I suffered. I believe that loss led me down some very dark paths for a very long time...paths that led to more suffering, most all of it self imposed. I have been through hard times, times I did not think I would survive, but I did.

While I may not praise God for an easy commute to work, I will give Him credit for guiding me through those dark times, even when I didn't acknowledge His existence. I also can now recognize that quite possibly God was preparing me for future struggles by giving me this gift....the gift of suffering for it now provides me with something invaluable...perspective.

A tiny glimpse of time...of perhaps God sees it.

I'm certainly not the first to see it...long ago 12 men also saw it. In fact, almost all of them suffered and or died exactly because they saw it, but they knew what they saw was real. They believed...those disciples.

It's real to me too, and I stand before you now pointing to the view.

If you'll take the chance and look with me, you'll see that there is only one thing visible: hope.

...we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. -Romans 5:2-4