Survive or engage?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dear Linwood Friends,

Before I get headed off in a different direction let me remind you that this Sunday evening we have –
• Lake Erie Baptisms – 6:00 p.m. – meet at the west end of the park/playground
• “Concert of Prayer” Vespers Service – 7:00 p.m. – the Chapel.

Now, the different direction ….

I was at Costco and saw a man with a t-shirt that said, “I survived physical therapy.”  I found that to be a strange thing to advertise on a t-shirt.  When it comes to being a physical therapist patient, I consider myself to be a pro – bordering on expert!  After four replacement parts (and two more on the way – use your imaginations to figure out which ones!), I have spent numerous hours in rehab!  Those hours and experiences could be described in many different ways, but I never would consider using the expression “I survived physical therapy.”

I wish now that I had stopped the gentleman and asked, “What happened?”

I consider my physical therapist to be one of God’s special gifts to me.  I was told before I got started 4 years ago with a knee replacement that she was “good and tough.”  She is!  I was also told by my surgeon, “The success of this surgery depends about 50% on what I do, and 50% on what you do.  And,” he added, “I do my part really well!”  I would actually amend his statement and say, “50% depends on what I and my therapist do.”  There is no way I could do rehab on my own.  I need someone who understands the process of rehab, who knows my body better than I do, and knows what is needed to be healed.

So, I wonder, did this poor guy have a bad therapist?  Did he think it was too much work?  Was he expecting a fast, pain-free fix to something that is by its nature a lengthy, complex process?  I don’t know, but my speculation is that he may be like many of us who have bought into a culture that advocates “quick and easy.”

There is nothing necessarily wrong with increased efficiency.  Think, for instance, of microwaves and internet searches.  I can reheat leftovers and find information in remarkably little time.
That’s good.  The problem comes when we expect most everything to be “quick and easy.”  This concerns me in a number of arenas, but especially when it comes to our spiritual lives as Christians.

It used to be that a church could offer a one or two year course on the Scriptures, or on discipleship.  Now, if it is not packaged in 6 weeks or less (and made available on the internet for those times when you can’t be there) no one will come.

A friend has been the leader of a Bible study that has met for years.  They asked for recommendations as to what to study next.  I suggested The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonheoffer.  It is a great book written by one of the most remarkable 20th century Christian martyrs.  But, it is not easy!  The report back is that some have hung with it, but overall attendance has really fallen off!  I understand that.  It takes a lot less effort to read USA Today than the New York Times or Wall Street Journal.  Guess which one I usually read?  Right!  USA Today.

However, Christian discipleship (like physical therapy) is not easy!  It challenges and stretches our minds.  And, that is not the hardest part!  It opens up our lives and demands that we consider who we really are and where we fall short and where God wants to intervene.  It disrupts our routines, our values, and our preconceptions of what makes life good.  It calls us to let go even when we don’t know quite what we are reaching for.

The goal of physical therapy is not “survival,” but to move freely, be strong, and engage in life without the pain and limitations of the old, broken parts!   The goal of Christian discipleship is also not “to survive,” but to engage life fully and freely, without the burdens and weight of the old broken parts of our lives.  This too is by necessity a lengthy, complex process. It is never quick and easy.  It is never without pain or effort.  Yet, it is worth whatever it takes to live more fully and freely with Christ.

Footnote:  It is amazing how many Christians think they can “rehab” themselves.  Perhaps there are a few that can.  For most of us, we need someone who can both guide and share with us in the journey.  I praise God for the physical therapist that He brought me to, and I praise Him even more for the “spiritual therapists” that He has provided through the years.

God’s richest blessings on you on your discipleship journey.  May God bring to you “spiritual therapists” who are good and tough – just as God Himself is good and tough!

Yours in Christ,
Hu Auburn
Linwood Park Pastor

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