Thursday, March 1, 2012

Lent Day 8- A light or an Stumbling block?

“Do not cause anyone to stumble…” I Cor. 10:32

Sometimes comparisons can be striking. Two of my patients died on the same weekend. Now I’m a hospice social worker so that in itself is not a rare occurrence. What has so captured my attention and my thoughts is the extreme difference in the two. One was black, the other white. One was fairly young, the other in her eighties. One male, one female. One is now in heaven with the Lord, perfectly healed and forever praising the Lord she loved with all her heart. One is in hell.

Did that make you catch your breath? I hope so. 

 Most people, even if they have not been devout during their lifetimes, turn to God when facing death. It is human nature to turn to a ‘higher power’ in desperate times. Consider the country after 9/11. Churches were filled with people; shocked, seeking, scared people, needing to make sense of what had happened, and needing comfort and security that their world no longer offered.

A diagnosis of terminal illness can feel like that terrorist attack. It turns your world upside down. When I meet a patient, especially one like this man who had been diagnosed less than a month before, they are almost always open to a visit from the chaplain, and many are seeking peace with God after a lifetime of wandering and rebellion. When that patient not only declines spiritual support, but vehemently refuses to talk about God or religion in general it makes me wonder why. In the case of this man, I didn’t have to wonder for long. He wanted to make very clear that he wanted nothing to do with God and he wanted me to know why. 

“I had God shoved down my throat when I was ten,” he said sharply. “I’m not interested.”

I don’t know who did the “shoving”. It doesn’t really matter. Whoever it was, the result was this man growing up apart from God, living his entire adult life separated from God, and in the end, dying without God. Unfortunately the tragedy does not end there. This man has a beautiful daughter in her early twenties, in school to be a nurse. She is a lovely girl, inside and out, respectful to her parents and honoring her father in his last days. She has a wonderful sense of humor and an engaging laugh. And she loves her father with all her heart; so much so that without a miracle working of the Lord, she will follow her father straight into hell.

As I left that patient’s home that day the Lord turned my thoughts to my own life. How many times have I acted in a way that was ungodly? How many times has my life been less than a light pointing the way to Jesus? Too many to count, unfortunately. I pray that no one turns away from God because of having known me or having seen how I conducted myself.

I contrast that patient with Ms. P. You didn’t have a visit with Ms. P., you had church with Ms. P. She lived her entire life, a difficult life in many ways, loving the Lord and trusting him. What she had was not a lot, it wasn’t fancy, but it was hers and it was a gift from the Lord and she was content in him. She loved Jesus! Every visit, no matter what we needed to discuss just ended up in prayer and song. “He is sweet, I know.” I am so sad that I will never hear her sing that song again. Not here on earth, anyway. I will sing it for her until I can sing it with her again in heaven. And there is no doubt that Ms. P. is in heaven. One of her favorite sayings was this. “Baby, God is so good! If you don’t got him, get him.” What a testimony!

Imagine if that was the news we took into the world with us every day! God is so good! If you don’t got him, get him. And what if we really showed them that God is good and God is love? Talk about turning the world upside down!

I sat at Ms. P’s bedside for several hours on the night she died. My heart was so full as I watched and listened to her “baby son” hold her hand and sing to her the songs of faith that she had taught him as he grew. I listened to him speak words of comfort to her, reassuring her that she had “fought the good fight” and had done everything that the Lord had required of her. This man of God grieved for the mother he would lose in a matter of hours. But he grieved as one who had hope in an eternally faithful God who would one day reunite them in glory. God wasn’t shoved down his throat. He was lived in front of Ms. P’s children all of their lives.
That is such an amazing thing to witness. It is more of a blessing than we will ever be able to comprehend. I had praise meeting with God in that little room that night, thanking him for my Christian parents who live out their faith every day; in good times and in bad. Thanking him for Ms. P and her life and legacy. Thanking him for his love and goodness to me.

I also asked the Lord to help me be the kind of Christian that makes people want what I have in Jesus. I never want someone to turn away from God because I was so ungodly or so ‘spiritual’ that I could not be the loving arms of Jesus on this earth. I want to be like Ms. P, and just take this simple testimony to a hurting world. “Baby, God is so good! If you don’t got him, get him.” And I want them to know that God is good, because they see him in my life, and because God loves them through me.

Take a few minutes with the Lord. Ask him to search your heart and show you anything that needs to change so that your testimony and witness to the world does not cause anyone to stumble. We are all witnesses every day. People watch us and they know when our words don’t match our actions. Ask God to make himself very real to you, and allow him to change you to be more like him. People in darkness are drawn to the light. People are hurting and need to know that God loves them and that he cares.

Is your message to the world one of God’s love, or have you taken it upon yourself to convict others of their sin.  That is not our job. That is God’s. It is ours to simply point the way to the cross with every word we speak and every action we take. Let God convict and change. We love, we pray, we support, and we lovingly guide others back to him. That is the kind of active faith that, like Ms. P, brings fruit for the kingdom for generations to come.

 “Baby God is good! If you don’t got him, get him.”
 If you do have him, don’t keep him to yourself. Go out and light your world!
You are the light of the world…let your light shine…” Matthew 5:14a, 16a. (NIV)

I am praying for you today.


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