Archive for March 19th, 2008
When I was in elementary school, my parents dressed me in a gray, three-piece suit every Sunday. I was frequently referred to as preacher-boy. I hated that moniker. Besides, it was a very itchy wool suit.
When I was in high school (in the ‘60′s), I carried my Bible to school – right there on top of the stack of books I carried everyday. It was a part of my “witness” – a way of stating that I was a Christ-follower. My “witness” did more to separate me from the crowd than it did to attract others to Christ. While I believe I genuinely had the respect of many in my class, I was not invited to most parties or other gatherings of my peers.
As a college student I worked part-time in a supermarket. My “witness” was more effective. I was able to have numerous spiritually meaningful conversations with co-workers but I also knew I was not a part of the crowd and often felt marginalized.
I sat alone at the bedside of my dad as he died. Eighteen months later I stood with my sister over my mother’s bed as she breathed her last.
I have experienced the uncertainty that comes when losing a job. I also know something of doing with little. I began working away from home at the age of 13 in order to by my own clothes.
I have experienced loss, disappointment, sadness, and grief. Those are the common experiences of life – the experiences that all people face – painful but they can hardly be associated with suffering. A friend of ours lost a son (age 11) to leukemia; her husband died at 55; her daughter is going through a bitter divorce from an abusive husband. She would certainly tell you that she has experience pain but not suffering.
Perhaps suffering is somewhat relative. When I think of suffering, I think of stories of believers in China who have been imprisoned and in some cases executed for their faith. Or I think of those who have endured enslavement or those in parts of Africa who have been driven from their homes, separated from loved ones, women raped and millions wounded and killed.
Then there are the images from the Passion of the Christ that are still quite vivid in my mind. I only know of suffering through stories and news accounts.
Today, my wife and I were talking about some things we wish we could do. Then we both said, “But, we are incredibly blessed.”
I remember listening to a Chinese pastor who had spent more of his ministry in prison than behind a pulpit. He looked in the camera that was filming his story and told of the growing number of believers. With a big smile he said, “Persecution, good!”
I rejoice that I have only experienced sadness, disappointment, loss and grief. Here was a pastor rejoicing in persecution. I think I am blessed in the absence of persecution. He feels blessed in spite of the persecution because he sees the faith of others sprouting a growing.