I am still very much that kicking, screaming, crying child on my first day in kindergarten, wanting Lizzie Mae, my black nurse. So many years ago; so little change. Now, seventy years later, I have so much to learn and now, so little time to do it in.
That day we had lunch at the Greek restaurant you asked, “Paul, tell me all about yourself!” Since I blindly took your question at face value, I proceeded to do just that, and your eyes glazed. Don’t trouble yourself with that, my eyes would have glazed, too. I am an audience of one. I like to entertain myself with memories of my own life.
Despite my narcissism, my entrepreneurship, my self-promoting, there is indeed within me, an utterly irresistible impulse, a primordial urge, to be a channel of God’s love. It has bedeviled me since I opened my heart to Jesus. Mind you, not just a channel, but I wish others to feel deeply loved by God, because they feel love from me.
I have had many opportunities to do this very thing. But there I go again. I don’t mean to say that I had anything to do with these opportunities; it’s just that I am grateful. Truly grateful.
I read a story this morning that caused eddies to swirl in the deep reaches in my brain, if indeed, there are such places . . .
Both wise and good, a kingdom’s ruler sent an ambassador out to the far countries to show the world his goodly wisdom. Time passed and the ambassador returned to the good ruler. “What did you learn my friend?” he asked with high hopes and an inviting smile. The ambassador slumped, scratched his high brow and looked confused: and then he grew insulted. He said tersely, “Are you going to ask me who called me ‘teacher;’ who I taught, how many and where?” The good ruler sadly put his head in his hands. “You are still blind.” He said,” I sent you to discover obedience, not to be obeyed. You were to teach because you had much to learn. You were to serve to know the wisdom of serving.” The king’s heart weighed heavy as he sat upon the throne. The scholar scowled.1
This is, no doubt, an imaginary story. But its message has the ring of truth. I am that ambassador, and Christ is my goodly King.
Many years ago, as a young pastor fresh out of seminary, I had preached an uncommonly fiery sermon. As I stood in the narthex shaking hands and congregants filed out, one woman stopped, held my hand and said, “You must be a very holy man.” The words she said, her round, matronly face, are seared in my memory forever. The moment these words fell from her lips, I felt waves of shame sweep over me. I knew better. God knew better. I allowed her, however, to continue believing what she said – if, of course, she really believed it.
But the message I received on that Sunday is the same as that above, “You are still blind . . . and have much to learn.”
I struggle now with how to end this. There are several cliché’s at my disposal; trite, dog-eared, banal expressions you hear from pulpits everywhere. I should know. I’ve used them enough. So I leave it at this: Let us see what reactions come, whether frustration with the darkness of this piece, or the joy of being one who learns.
1. Hardesty, Heath, To the Lion, The Christian in Tension, Renown House Publishers, 2008, p. 5.
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