Straight Paths

I’m deviating from my typical hospice patient story this week to share a personal experience. I left the house around 6:30 that morning for my one-mile trek to work at Mercy Hospital. I rounded the corner and headed west on Grant Street for about three blocks and then turned north, cutting through Greenlawn Cemetery. The morning sky to my right was painted with those beautiful pastel pinks and blues that herald the sunrise on a clear morning. It was downright breathtaking, so I stopped for a moment just to try to take it all in. The sun was glowing deep amber as it slowly peaked over the roofs of the houses on Baird Avenue, casting shifting shadows all around me as it rose. I wanted to stay longer but I had to get to work.

As I continued walking north a blinding light emerged at ground level on my left. If you didn’t know better you would think that another sun was rising in the west. As I continued walking, my perspective changed, and I saw that a white marble tombstone had been reflecting the sun. Then I heard that unexpected and unmistakable “still small voice” (I Kings 19:12) that has the power to instantly turn a person right side up and inside out: “You are like that tombstone. You can only reflect my light by maintaining a right relationship to the Son.” I immediately wept in worship and praise. God’s glory and grace has a way of catching us by surprise, doesn’t it?

I’ve come to believe that since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, that mankind has been desperately striving to redeem and vindicate itself. Tim Keller, in his book “Counterfeit Gods”, shared an excerpt from an interview by the pop star Madonna in which she describes her lifelong search for redemption, for self-vindication: “I have an iron will, and all of my will has always been to conquer some horrible feeling of inadequacy … I push past one spell of it and discover myself as a special human being and then I get to another stage and think I’m mediocre and uninteresting … Again and again. My drive in life is from this horrible fear of being mediocre. And that’s always pushing me, pushing me. Because even though I’ve become somebody, I still have to prove that I’m somebody. My struggle has never ended and it probably never will.”

Paul Tournier, the late Swiss physician, wrote, “I believe that there is a great illusion … that there are two kinds of human beings, the strong and the weak … All men, in fact are weak. All are weak because all are afraid … They are all afraid of their inner weaknesses being discovered. They all have secret faults; they all have a bad conscience on account of certain acts which they would like to keep covered up. They are all afraid of other men and of God, of themselves, of life, of death.” (“The Strong and the Weak”)

Are you sick and tired of your vain lifelong struggle to redeem and vindicate yourself; to prove to yourself and to others that you are “Somebody”? If so, I have some “Good News” for you. What you couldn’t do, and can’t do for yourself, Christ Jesus has already done for you, for He is The Redeemer. When He gave up His spirit on the cross He declared, “It is finished,” paid in full. So you no longer need to be afraid of your “inner weaknesses being discovered,” for He already knows and accepts you just the way you are. In His eyes you are already “Somebody.” In His eyes your heart, soul and mind are holy ground.

Don’t you see? True redemption, deliverance, freedom, life and power, aren’t psychological, intellectual, emotional, occupational, social, financial or even behavioral. They are spiritual, attitudinal, relational, and prepositional; in, through and by Christ Jesus; by establishing and maintaining a right relationship to the Son.

“Shut out every other consideration and keep yourself before God for this one thing only — My Utmost for Your highest. I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and Him alone … Whether that means life or death, no matter! …God’s order has to work up to a crisis in our lives because we will not heed the gentler ways … He produces a providential crisis where we have to decide — for or against — and from that point the ‘Great Divide’ begins. If the crisis has come to you on any level, surrender your will to Him absolutely and irrevocably.” (Oswald Chambers, “My Utmost for His Highest”, Jan. 1).

Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at lorenhardin53@gmail.com . You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course,” at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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