Friday, December 5, 2008

The pressure to save God's face.

When something unusual such as a sickness or a financial struggle hits us, my wife says, she feel hesitant to express her true feelings to others, especially to those who think that we are a kind of 'weird' Christians. She, in a funny way said, she feel pressured to save God's face. In other words, she don't want to face people's "where is your faithful God?" question. I too struggle with this. I am afraid to be vulnerable and real with those who really don't know where I stand in my spiritual life; to those who don't know that I too have struggles.

Our son (2.5 yrs old) has Vitiligo and it has become very visible and noticeable on his face in past few months. People have started asking about it. Medical Science considers this as a condition passed through hereditary but as far as we know there isn't anyone in our family history who had this disease. So, we don't know why our son. Humans haven't discovered any real cure for this disease. This is a very unique illness which can have a very difficult emotional and psychological impact on the patient as well as on his/her family. We are not afraid of this and we are doing everything we can in terms of finding alternative medicines etc and hoping and praying that God would heal him. But the healing hasn't happened yet, in the mean time we are faced with questions. I can foresee some questions coming in our way challenging our faith even.

My wife says, she is afraid to express her concerns about this to someone because what if they think that she has no hope and faith? How can she send a paradoxical message that she has hope in Jesus but at the same time worried about her son? Who would buy such a fragile hope? Though I haven't really put my thoughts into words like her, I too kind of feel the same way. Most of our relatives are very very religious but have no clue what Jesus, grace or faith means to us, and have a notion about us that we are deceived in our spiritual life by removing ourselves from the traditional family religions (Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy). It wouldn't surprise me if they even blame our leaving from the church is the cause of our troubles.

Do we need to save God's face from their accusations? We restrain our struggles from them in an effort to not to give them a chance to criticize our God and faith.

I told my wife, don't be afraid to be a fool. Don't be afraid to chock up and cry, if needed. We live by FAITH and faith is not faith if we know everything. Faith is not faith if we have answers for all our questions. When Bible says 'now we see but a poor reflection in a mirror', that's something to think about. It is this fact what underlines the significant principle of faith. The next statement says it, 'And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.' We need faith and hope now and here, but then, as we live with Him in eternity, the necessity of faith and hope are fulfilled and the greatest thing, love, reigns for ever.

Now, faith cannot be lively when we are rigid, insensitive and stagnant.

There is something farmers do before they cultivate any crops in the ground. They will till the ground by plowing and harrowing. Some use a tiller to disrupt the smooth ground and make it uneven, messy and irregular. My Dad used to own oxen and he used those animals to do the tilling in our farm. This was before today's industrialization.

The seed wouldn't grow well in a smooth rigid ground. The roots have to travel deep into the soil and for that the soil has to be vulnerable, sensitive and wounded. Only plowed soil can respond well to a growing seed.

The fear to be messy is rooted in my fleshly ambition to be "a good guy", "a perfect spiritual person" or more like a "religious showinist".

There is mess in our life here on earth whether we admit or not. It happens when our worldly securities are shaken and challenged. Then, faith comes in. Jesus talked about child like faith. A child would cry when he fall, but he will eventually stop as he is held tight. It is the faith what sanctions us to be in a muddle but at the same time allow our loving Father to held us tight until our whining silences.

I think it's okay to cry, to be vulnerable, to be confused, to have unanswered questions, to be an object of ridicule, to have faith which is hard to explain to others, to have hope which is meaningless to many, ... and if necessary, to be a fool to others.

13 comments:

RJW said...

You are beautiful, you and Smita.

We will stand with you in believing for your son's healing to be made manifest. And when you get tired, we'll hold you up, too, OK?

Your unequivocal faith in God's love is what changes people's hearts. Because life doesn't always look the way we think it should and people like to ask, "Where is your God now?" Our God is in the same place He always is whatever our circumstance; He is seated on the throne of Heaven. And I choose to believe He is good and faithful.

Thank you for being humble enough to admit you don't know everything or have all the answers, in effect, putting God in a box comprised of your understanding. And thank you for being bold enough to state that faith is enough. It is beautiful to see someone resting in Christ's sufficiency, not their own strength, wisdom, or super-faith.

It really is enough to let Him keep us, not us keep Him. :)

Terry Rayburn said...

Bino,

You did it again. Broke my heart with the pathos and beauty of your expression of our brokenness and God's strength in that brokenness.

Indeed we don't have to save God's face. We only have to seek it.

Blessings my dear brother,
Terry

Joel B. said...

The same people who look down on others for their supposed 'lack of faith' are only fooling themselves if they think they've got it all together! :)

I've had various health issues in these past few years, things that will be with me for life unless a miracle happens. You can't "undo" certain surgeries, such as gallbladder removal. =) I also have a Barrett's Esophagus (an advanced form of erosive esophagus), and they say it can't be reversed. It can only be 'maintained' and I can only try to keep it from getting worse and turning into cancer.

I pray for healing. I pray for the discipline to do what is needed to keep from getting worse. So far, part of my stomach is still stitched around my esophagus to keep acid from getting up there (another surgery that can't be undone). So far, the Barrett's cells are still there every time they check, every couple years or so. So far, I still eat too many of the wrong things that could possibly make things worse.

So far, no "big" miracles to show that my faith in a big God is valid.

But... I have Life. I have hope. I have peace that I don't think many "people of faith" really have.

I use my life as an example here to agree with you on all of what you're saying here! Just because we have health problems, or financial problems or job-related problems, or whatever, doesn't mean that our God isn't HUGELY ENORMOUS!!! Our faith is well-placed. Our faith isn't in healing. Our faith is in Him, and we know He can heal. We know He can restore. We know He has done all kinds of things like that over the centuries. But the main thing that I've learned in dealing with life's diseases is that God is our Life no matter what. Period. :)

Amy said...

Bino,
I just love, respect and cherish your honesty and sharing your son's illness. I will pray for him and you and your wife. Despite his appearance, I have a full sense he is a wonderful boy. Papa loves Him, deeply, as you know. Perhaps this disease will grow him in a beautiful character and compassion.

I loved your illustration here of tilling the soil. Excellent and relevant to brokenness and Father's power and strength in our weaknesses and humility. He loves when we come to Him. As well, His glory can shine through our weaknesses the more we place them before Him and bring them to the Light.

Blessings,
~Amy :)
http://amyiswalkinginthespirit.blogspot.com

Aida said...

Beautiful post, Bino, especially since right now I’m going through my own crisis of faith and wondering if God really does answer prayers. Of course, I know that he does since he’s answered many of mine but at this moment I’m really discouraged about prayers that have remained unanswered for years.

Joel said, “Our faith isn't in healing. Our faith is in Him . . .”

I love that. Although my particular situation doesn’t involve healing, before I read your blog, I decided that I no longer believe that prayer is about getting answers but it’s about relating to my Father through the circumstances of my life. I guess I’m giving up on believing that those particular prayers will ever be answered but I’m not giving up on seeking to know my Daddy better. I’m not sure where this is all headed but time will tell.

I want to thank you for this encouragement and the many wonderful thoughts you’ve shared.

You said, “When something unusual such as a sickness or a financial struggle hits us, my wife says, she feel hesitant to express her true feelings to others, especially to those who think that we are a kind of 'weird' Christians.”

To be quite honest, I think there’s wisdom in doing that. I don’t believe we have to protect God’s reputation but I do think we need to protect our hearts.

We need to have people who we can share with openly. However, when I’m struggling, I personally wouldn't go out of my way to share with people who I know will tear down my faith. Proverbs says to guard our hearts and often the people we have to guard them against are family and “friends”.

jul said...

What a beautiful post. I think you have captured something of what most of us have felt or will feel at some time. I'll be praying for you and your wife and your son.

Aida said...

Bino, Father is really amazing! After I posted my first comment, he led me to another blog post that really settled and calmed me.

It's difficult when your child is suffering but I'm going to believe that he will do the same thing for you and your wife.

Gary Kirkham said...

I am not sure what I could add that the others haven't already said...I will pray for you and your family.

Love you brother!

Gary

lydia joy said...

Ditto!

My prayers are with you as well!!

Much love.........

Leonard said...

All things considered, Your son is a very fortunate young fellow.

I cant wait to meet you.

Best
Leonard

I will remember yours in my prayers..

Ike said...

Bino....read Hebrews 11:36-38. You know that this whole chapter is called "the faith chapter". But in the verses I have given you is another group of people. They didn't gain great victories out on the battlefield. They didn't enter the arena of life before large audiences and perform great feats for God. These are the "others," and they are the ones who, if you want heroes, are really God's heroes. They had trials and mockings and scourgings and bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned and they were "sawn asunder."

I want you to notice a contrast here. Back in verses 33 and 34 when talking about victories that were won, it spoke of how they "subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword. They escaped the edge of the sword, but in verse 37 "the others" were "slain by the sword." How do you explain this? One group by faith escaped the edge of the sword, and another group "by faith" were slain with the sword.

My friend, if you can walk up and give your testimony and tell how God has healed you-and I could join in that-or if you can get up and say how successful you have been in business, I want to remind you that there are multitudes of God's saints today who are suffering. They are paying a tremendous price. Do you know how they are doing it? They are doing it by faith. They have lots more faith than I have, and I think they are choicer saints than I am.

The writer to the Hebrews is speaking of a company of people who lived by faith. He simply calls them "others"-I love that! I don't want to forget the "others" who are today living by faith and dying by faith. The suffering has ended for many of them, and they have already gone into the presence of the Lord and will never die again. This passage means something to me that it didn't before, and I hope it means something new to you also!

Bino M. said...

Jamie - Thank you! I am overwhelmed by the love and encouragement of many whom I haven't even met in person!
I think this is possible only by the love of Jesus which is probably the only common factor in all of us.
Yes, our God is still on the throne no matter what our circumstances may be. I know He is good and faithful, which gives me hope, even when we feel otherwise.

Terry - Thank you for coming by and leaving the encouraging comments!

Joel - The people who are blinded by religion usually don't see the heart of others. All they care about is, are we confining to their ideologies. compassion and love only comes next. It's diagonally opposite of what Jesus showed us while He was here on the earth.

BTW, My father-in-law had the same health condition you have (Barrett's Esophagus). But it's good that they found it early in your case so that some measures can be taken to 'maintain' it. I too pray for the discipline to do what is needed to keep it from getting worse. I loved what you said - But... I have Life. I have hope. I have peace that I don't think many "people of faith" really have.

Amy - Thank you for the prayers and the encouragement. I deeply appreciate it. All this is telling me how valuable the friendships I have over here on the blogshpere. I feel so loved! Yes, despite the white patch around his eyes, he is a wonderful boy - otherwise healthy, intelligent, can even shoot some kiddie basketball! :)

Aida - Prayer is one of the subject which I have been thinking a lot these days. Something happened in that 'department' after my 'grace revolution'. To be honest, I pray less now. We used to pray for everything at some point in our Christian walk. One thing I realized was that most of our prayers were motivated by fear. We thought if we don't pray (before starting a trip, for example), something bad will happen. I don't really know where prayer falls in the grace-driven life. I am still unable to put my thoughts around it. One thing I know for sure that it's not our prayers what is holding us safe but it's God and His eternal love for us. Prayer to me, is expressing our concerns, worries, thankfulness etc to our loving Father. It doesn't even need to be seeking 'answers', but a heartfelt, true expression of our heart, leaving the result to God. I don't like prayer turning to be ritualistic. Anyways, I think I have a lot to chew in that area. Thank you for your thoughts!

Jul - Thank you, sis!

Gary - Thank you. I feel so loved by all the responses. This, to me is Christ's love in action.

Lydia - Thank you, sister!

Leonard - Yes, I believe he is fortunate and we are fortunate to have him in our life as well. I thank God for giving him to us. He is such a wonderful gift!

Ike - I like to be a nobody in this world and I am okay with that because I know that I am a child of the Most High, though people can't see it. You brought up a very interesting but true principle from Hebrews chapter 11. It's absolutely beautiful that there are the 'others' who survived the pain, persecution and heartache through faith - the nobodies. It's awesome! I never seen this in that chapter before! Thank you!

Leonard said...

ps.

"The pressure to save God's face"

Neat how you tied saving a face into the subject matter.

Best
Leonard