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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

thinking about suffering and obedience

I cried this morning when I read an email I received from a young sister who had written me when she was needing help and prayer and a little godly advice. I answered her back after some time spent waiting on the Lord for something to give her. Her message this morning was in gratitude for the words of counsel. That sounds a little stuffy and a little sanctimonious, but I don’t mean it that way at all. It is just that the words to say it differently aren’t available in my head. When the Lord gives me something to say to someone who needs His Help, the words flow out so smoothly and without any thought on my part. When I try to describe my own feelings in the process, the words awkward and, more than a little, ignorant. I write it with all humility, acknowledging in every fiber of my being that what bit of help I can offer her only comes from the Lord. Over the last few years since I’ve been retired with plenty of time, I’ve been surprised at the number of people I’ve met online and in person who are looking for help and counsel. I’ve never answered them lightly or tossed out advice off the top of my head, but only when I felt the definite leading of the Lord. Some of them the Lord has led me to talk with over a long period of time as they worked through hard times in their life. Others, God has said clearly, “This person isn’t looking for ME, he only wants to be pandered to and have his own sinfulness excused.” I’ve had a hard time in those situations. Part of me wants to soft pedal the message since I’m normally a pretty diplomatic person; but God has said, “Say this.” And I’ve had to say it,  being as gentle as I can while still delivering a message of judgment from Him. And maybe that is why He sees fit to use human messengers—He realizes the message of judgment is hard and cutting. Only a loving human can deliver it with the element of gentleness and kindness He wants. I don’t know.
A couple times I’ve wondered why they are being sent to me ( of all people!) or why they have felt led to me. And finally it has come to me. Paul tells us in Hebrews that Jesus, “though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” If Jesus! Our Lord and Savior learned obedience through suffering why should we be any different.  Here's what I mean...maybe it makes sense.

Shortly after Louie died, perhaps a year, someone in our congregation came to me and asked if I would visit a young mother who had just lost her husband and was having a hard time dealing with the grief. When I visited I found this overflowing well of empathy and compassion. I was surprised at the words that came out of my mouth. They did stem from my own grief and the loss of Louie, but more than that they poured out from all the hours of holding on to God for help and direction and strength! That was when I began to understand the scope of Paul’s words.

During those years of trial, of the heartache losing Louie, of being castigated by a false minister, of having to stand for the Word in the face of apostasy, of lies and bitter words from those I considered brothers and sisters in the Lord, of other battles with pain and verbal abuse, of losing friends and family to distance and apostasy and death—during those years I didn’t have much time to counsel anyone else… I was working on my own spirit. But suddenly with age I find in me through the Lord, the source of counsel. I’ve learned obedience to the Holy Spirit and now, after so many years of tears, I have something to pass on to others in need.

I’ve sometimes met young men and women who feel they have great spiritual insights that they need to give others. And a few times they do have that insight when they have been raised to know the Lord and His Will and have walked in it carefully seeking to grow closer to him. But with others I’ve looked that their countenance and found nothing of the Savior and I’ve wondered just how they got that insight and counsel. I won’t gainsay their spiritual standing, but I will say that generally speaking that kind of understanding and insight and depth only comes with heartache, pain and, yes, age.

I’ve known many men and women of God in my life. I could name them yet today. I was never raised to look at ‘role models’ as is such a popular concept today. I was asked once who my role model was and it stopped me in my tracks. I was raised according to Peter’s direction because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: ( I Peter 2:21) It had never occurred to me that I should have a ‘role model.’   I already had Jesus.  But because of this question (it was on an application of some sort) I started thinking about just who I would choose if I had to specify a human being as my role model.

I concluded that there were two pastor’s wives who I would most like to be like: Sister Green and Sister Craig. When I was a young woman, those two sister had the greatest impact on me. To me they epitomized Paul’s directions to Titus The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed. (Titus 1:3-5)

I’m not there yet,(and my husband has  been gone for thirty years now so the 'obedient to husbands' part is a little difficult)  but by the grace of God I am endeavoring to live such that someday a young woman can look back and say that of me. If someone must follow a human, and I’ve learned that many honest brothers and sisters need a human “role model,” I want it to be evident that they can only “Be . . followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”

I hope I’ve made sense without sounding self-righteous or proud in myself because 'all the praises most definitely should, must, be given to the Savior. '

1 comment:

  1. Sister Vondi, This is so important for people to understand in the Christian walk. The elder women are instructed to teach the younger women and likewise, young men should have older, wiser men to look to as an example. If every older and "wiser" Christian would take it totally to heart and realize that they are being observed and possibly mimicked, they might be all the more careful.

    The fact remains that so many seemingly solid and established Christians have failed and walked away from their Lord. If we are looking to that person to the extent that when they fall, we allow them to lead us into a ditch, this is tragic. I've seen this happen much too often. I try to remember that I am now one of the older women in my Church and it is a humble and fearful place to be. No less than the responsibility of a shepherd over the sheep. We are all accountable and we should all be in prayerful and careful submission that we can be Spirit-directed in fulfilling our places as more experienced and mature Saints. The Internet is no less important a forum than church buildings for people looking for the way, the truth and the life. Such a blessing when one might stop and take the time to reach out and help.

    Your hesitation to jump on the "role model" bandwagon is noteworthy. Christ is really the only true model but He did leave instruction that we are to be like Him. He expects us to let Him live through us and be the example. And we don't have the choice of whether someone should or will watch us. They are watching anyway. It goes with the territory so we best make our Savior proud! Hugs from NC....Sis Julie