My beloved readers, I will return to the series I began–I will. In His will and timing, I hope to continue where I left off. However, I feel it very important to take another detour, back to the day before the Lord began setting me free. 6 May was actually very difficult, but from it sprang a great, enduring, and truly holy lesson. Oh, how great is the ministry of the Holy Spirit!
In these next few remarks, I mean no bitterness–not anymore. I write what I do only to illustrate a point and because there may be people who are going through what I did.
For many years, I had been filled with anguish over the ways in which the Body of Christ was treating me. From church to church, I could not seem to find acceptance or love. Instead, most of the people who greeted me each week were inordinately fascinated by the fact that my Bible happens to be in Braille. How many volumes did it come in? Was it difficult for me to learn to read? Oh, how cute was my little puppy-doggy! And, really, I was just plain “adorable” myself, me and my fascinating Braille. What an inspiration I was! And did I know sign language? Could I sing like a lark, since all people who happen to be blind have exquisite voices–don’t they? Week after week after week. Whenever I asked for prayer during this season, people either told me that I couldn’t possibly have any needs, or focused only on the externals of my life without petitioning God concerning my heart and life in Him. Time and again, those who were closest to me told me to give congregations time, that they would come to see me for who I was eventually. But months, and then years, went by without any change in the questioning. Oh, how I longed to tell them–to explain that, while I do not have an operatic voice, I do love to sing unto the Lord and that my favorite moments of worship involve “Beautiful” and “Arise, My Soul, Arise”. To tell them that, no, I don’t have “so much more insight” because I cannot see, but because I specifically asked God for wisdom in studying His Word–and, oh, by the way, would they like to study Revelation or Ezekiel or even Leviticus with me? I could, in the Lord’s strength, show them passages in those books that would make them fall to their knees and cry out, “Holy is the Lord!” How I yearned for the day when a Braille Bible would be no more appropriate fodder for discussion than, say, a Chinese Christian coming into church with a Chinese Bible. I mean, how many questions about traditional vs. simplified script would said Chinese believer have to answer? I tried going to a pastor, but he, too, said that I should give it more time and that perhaps this question-answering was a sort of ministry. With all due respect, and even in hindsight, I fear I must disagree. It would have been a ministry had I eventually been given the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel, but as it stood, I was merely satisfying curiosity. Besides, there are people who actively involve themselves in disability-rights movements and merge them with ministry far better than I. Joni Eareckson-Tada is among them, and I love what she does, but focusing on my sight to the extent that some of these people were doing had the effect of almost making me feel that they were denying God’s power to heal. Very sad.
Oh, I was bitter–bitter and heart-broken, because all of this was affecting my spiritual life. As I wrote to a group of prayer warrior friends, “If all people see is blindness–if, in fact, that is all that Spirit-filled Christians see, rather than the Holy Spirit, does that mean that He is not dwelling in me as strongly? Am I quenching the Spirit of the Lord?” It was terrible. There were days when I cried out from morning until evening for peace at least between myself and God, days when I bluntly told other Christians that I NEEDED!!!!! prayer, or that their assumptions about my life were misconceptions at best. Nights when I went to bed in tears. Even Sundays when I came to dread church attendance. Where once I had loved my Calvary Chapel, had fought to go there even when transportation was unavailable, had said that I must support this precious church even at a time when they were struggling–now, dragging myself into a congregation that thought I was paradoxically an inspiration and, so I felt, a nuisance, filled me with pain.
My beloved reader, what about you? Do you have a unique set of circumstances that has made you feel abandoned by the churches in your area? Do you suffer from depression or profound anxiety? Are you single in a church filled mostly with well-established families? Are you a caregiver who can’t always make it to church, or who has a hard time keeping commitments with other brothers and sisters in Christ because of your own heavy burdens? Do you feel unwanted or boxed-in? I have a thought for you…
I admit, I was not very gracious. I reached a point of such anger that only our Lord could have softened my heart–but, oh!–He did. He, and only He.
On Tuesday, 6 May, I wrote an anguished letter to the few whom I knew would pray. I selected people from a variety of denominations, mature Christians and younger ones, so I could gain a variety of insights. Then, I poured out my heart in less-than-flattering terms. Over the next week, I received many responses. Some reiterated that I needed to “give it time”. Bible Student, who is also blind, suggested a complex solution that involved gathering all the leaders in the church from the pastor and assistant pastor to ushers, Sunday school teachers, and the leaders of men’s and women’s Bible studies, tell them what I wanted the rest of the church to know, and have them pass it on. Sincere Sister said that she honestly did not know what to make of this–perhaps I was being chastened or taught? This was worded much more kindly, and I had certainly considered the possibility. Sunday School Teacher had a similar view, but added that she knew that God had not forsaken me. It was all so complicated…
But amid all the counsel I received, the Lord Himself showed me all that I needed to know–all that I have ever needed, and what should have been my answer all along. That day as I studied Genesis, I came upon God’s words to Abraham: “Do not be afraid… I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” In that moment, the Lord ministered to my heart that these words were for me, too. I must not be afraid of what others said or did, or how they reacted to me. I must not be ashamed or anguished, for He was and is and always will be my shield, my exceedingly great reward.
What did Abraham do when the Lord spoke these words to him? The next verse states, “But Abram said, “Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless?”” Note the word “BUT”. God had just told Abraham that He everything Abraham would ever need, BUT Abraham wanted more. How many of us feel the same way? I know I did. In the next moment after God gave me that verse, my life became one great BUT. BUT Lord, what will You give me, since my church doesn’t want me to belong to this congregation? Now, God did give Abraham a son, but as I questioned Him–even after He had told me to trust Him and that He was enough–I did not receive anything more. No promise that I would suddenly be embraced with open arms, no assurance that I was aglow enough with the love of God that people would soon cease their blindness-related probings, nothing save a gentle knowledge of His love.
And, really, wasn’t that what I had sought all along? Had I not said during those nights of tear-drenched prayer that I would be content with the way I was treated at church if only I could see and know and remember that the Lord still loved me? And here was my answer.
I didn’t accept it for several days. That promise of Scripture lingered somewhere in the back of my mind, and from time to time I would retrieve it and gaze upon that beauty, my Shield, my exceedingly great reward, my everything. Then one day, I surrendered. I saw that there is nothing, no one, who can compare. That realization was holy beyond words, precious beyond measure.
Do you know what happened yesterday in church? Well, my guide-dog, Natasha, was told that she was such a good BOY, and called a “blind dog”–ignorant responses that would hitherto have made me feel highly denigrated as a person. The man who made these remarks addressed me as a small child, as is his wont. At another time, I would have corrected him on all counts, vainly attempting to keep the frustration out of my voice, and then allowed the encounter to consume my thoughts and erode my peace for the rest of the day. Yesterday, I could say with confidence, “I know who I am in Christ Jesus, and He is all I need. I will not allow the enemy to rob me of my rest, and I will not allow this man’s ignorance to overwhelm me.” What an absolutely glorious place to be in!
My beloved readers, I believe Genesis 15:1 says the same words to each of us. He is your shield, too, everything you will ever need. When you accept that, surrender to Him, and hold fast to Him as your only resting-place and the only One Who can satisfy your every need, then burdens become lighter and the overwhelming cares of this world begin to fall away or, if not, to become much more manageable–even joyful. Where once it mattered so much that I be accepted in my church, it now matters more just to serve God in whatever capacity He desires to use me in. Whereas I was once so troubled by people’s comments about one insignificant external, I’m now more likely to respond to remarks about me being “BLIND!” by singing, “Was blind, but now I see…” Perhaps I can get my interrogator to sing with me, perhaps not–but either way, I will have approached the situation gently and spiritually, resting in who and what He has made me to be without becoming wrapped up in man’s opinions and reactions. Yes, Lord, You are more than enough!
Addendum: I delight in a worship song simply entitled “Enough” “All of You is more than enough / For all of me / For every thirst and every need / You satisfy me with Your love / And all I have in You is more than enough”… This post is based on the rendering by Keynote Communications, on the album ASK FOR THE NATIONS. The only element that that version lacks is the bridge, which my church–together, united, without bitterness!–used to sing: “More than all I want, more than all I need / You are more than enough for me / More than all I know, more than all I can say / You are more than enough”!