Honestly, I’ve been struggling the past few months and concerned about “what shall I do with my life!” I don’t think age stops us from thinking thoughts like this. I cannot really call it a “mid-life crisis” because frankly, I’ve always thought about this, which could be one reason why I find myself doing a vast number of things. I’m still trying to find myself, so to speak! Not only do I struggle with inner turmoil, I look around my home and everything seems in disarray and in desperate need of repair. It’s overwhelming! So much brokenness yet life still yanks me around as if I am a ragdoll in the mouth of a playful pup. Tossed. Chewed. Strung along. Trampled. A plaything. Used...only to satisfy the needs of others. The sharp teeth are not intended to hurt but yet damage happens. This week alone, my refrigerator went out, the sunroof on my car will not close, and the toilet seat broke! I know. Go ahead and laugh. I did! Seriously?! All parts of my life have been affected. Sustenance, transportation, emotions, and “personal” business! Oh yes, and I’m in desperate need of a haircut! My emergency fund is now drained and honestly, my car moves along by a wing and a prayer every time I drive! That’s angel wings of course! I know that is not the heart of the Father to yank me around, for His intentions for me are with a pure love and a desire for me to know Him more intimately. That is why I try to see joy in all circumstances. I promise that it is not easy. As John Ortberg says, “It’s morphing time!” God’s plan is not to simply repair what is broken within us, but to make things NEW! And as I look around at all of my mess, it is nothing compared to what others have had to endure. I am seriously thankful for that! ...and rejoicing!
“It can be helpful to see how God brings about transformation in the lives of ordinary people, so I would like to introduce you to a friend of a friend of mine. Her name is Mabel. This is what my friend Tom Schmidt, wrote:
The state-run convalescent hospital was not a pleasant place. It is large, understaffed, and overfilled with senile and helpless and lonely people who are waiting to die. On the brightest of days it seems dark inside, and it smells of sickness and stale urine. I went there once or twice a week for four years, but I never wanted to go there, and I always left with a sense of relief. It’s not the kind of place one gets used to.
On this particular day I was walking in the hallway that I had not visited before, looking in vain for a few who were alive enough to receive a flower and a few words of encouragement. This hallway seemed to contain some of the worst cases, strapped onto carts or into wheelchairs and looking completely helpless. As I neared the end of this hall, I saw an old woman strapped up in a wheelchair. Her face was an absolute horror. The empty stare and white pupils of her eyes told me that she was blind. The large hearing aid over one ear told me that she was almost deaf. One side of her face was being eaten by cancer. There was a discolored and running sore covering part of one cheek, and it had pushed her nose to one side, dropped one eye, and distorted her jaw so that what should have been the corner of her mouth was the bottom of her mouth. As a consequence, she drooled constantly. I was told later that when new nurses arrived, the supervisors would send them to feed this woman, thinking that if they could stand this site they could stand anything in the building. I also learned later that this woman was 89 years old and she had been there, bedridden, blind, nearly deaf, and alone, for 25 years. This was Mabel.
I don’t know why I spoke to her-she looked less likely to respond that most of the people I saw in that hallway. But I put a flower in her hand and said; “Here is a flower for you. Happy Mother’s Day.” She held the flower up to her face and tried to smell it, and then she spoke. And much to my surprise, her words, although somewhat garbled because of her deformity, were obviously produced by a clear mind. She said, “Thank you. It’s lovely. But can I give it to someone else? I can’t see it, you know, I’m blind.” I said, of course, and I pushed her in her chair back down the hallway to a place where I thought I could find some alert patients. I found one, and I stopped the chair. Mabel held out the flower and said, “Here, this is from Jesus.”
That was when it began to dawn on me that this was not an ordinary human being. Later I wheeled her back to her room and learned more about her history. She had grown up on a small farm that she managed with only her mother until her mother died. Then she ran the farm alone until 1950 when her blindness and sickness sent her to the convalescent hospital. For 25 years she got weaker and sicker, with constant headaches, backaches, and stomach aches, and then the cancer came too. Her three roommates were all human vegetables who screamed occasionally but never talked. They often soiled their bed clothes, and because the hospital was understaffed, especially on Sundays when I usually visited, the stench was often overpowering.
During one hectic week of final exams I was frustrated because my mind seemed to be pulled in 10 directions at once with all of the things that I had to think about. The question occurred to me, “What does Mabel have to think about-hour after hour, day after day, week after week, not even able to know if it’s day or night?” So I went to her and asked, “Mabel, what do you think about when you lie here?”
And she said, “I think about my Jesus.” I sat there, and I thought for a moment about the difficulty, for me, of thinking about Jesus for even five minutes, and I asked, “What do you think about Jesus?” She replied slowly and deliberately as I wrote…
“I think about how good he’s been to me. He’s been awfully good to me in my life, you know… I’m one of those kind who’s mostly satisfied… Lots of folks wouldn’t care much for what I think. Lots of folks would think I’m kind of old-fashioned. But I don’t care. I’d rather have Jesus. He’s all the world to me.” And then she began to sing an Old Hymn:
Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my joy, my all. He is my strength from day to day, without him I would fall. When I am sad, to him I go, no other one can cheer me so. When I am sad he makes me glad. He’s my friend.
This is not fiction. Incredible as it may seem, a human being really live like this. I know. I knew her. How could she do it? Seconds ticked and minutes crawled, and so did days and weeks and months and years of pain without human company and without an explanation of why it was all happening-and she lay there and sang hymns. How could she do it?
The answer, I think, is that Mabel had something that you and I don’t have much of. She had power. Lying there in that bed, unable to move, unable to see, unable to hear, unable to talk to anyone, she had incredible power. Here was an ordinary human being who received supernatural power to do extraordinary things. Her entire life consisted of following Jesus as best she could and her situation: patient endurance of suffering, solitude, prayer, meditation on scripture, worship, fellowship when it was possible, giving when she had a flower or a piece of candy to offer. Imagine being in her condition and saying, “I think about how good He’s been to me. He’s been awfully good to me in my life, you know… I’m one of those kind who’s mostly satisfied.” This is the 23rd Psalm come to life: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
For anyone who really saw Mabel-who was willing to turn aside-a hospital bed became a burning bush; a place where this ordinary and pain-filled world was visited by the presence of God. When others saw the life in that hospital bed, they wanted to take off their shoes. The lid was off the terrarium. Then the turn came, with the catch of the breath, and the beating of the heart, and tears. They were standing on holy ground.
Do you believe such a life is possible for an ordinary human being? Do you believe it is possible for you? This is promised in the gospel-the Good News proclaimed by Jesus: “The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” The good news as Jesus preached it is that now it is possible for ordinary men and women to live in the presence and under the power of God. The good news as Jesus preached it is not about the minimal entrance requirements for getting into heaven when you die. It’s about the glorious redemption of human life-your life. It’s morphing time.
And so, I’m growing. Yes, there are growing pains but my perspective and passion far surpass wallowing in the mire of brokenness and in hardship. New is on the horizon. New is here. New is a certainty for believers. He makes all things new. In this hope, we grasp joy and hold on tight!
The Lord’s loving-kindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
Live a Passionate Joy-filled life!