Two summers ago I found myself in a real life Alfred Hitchcock-like drama. Ending a morning of weeding, I yanked up a dead shrub exposing a yellow jacket-nest. I didn’t realize their presence until my stinging limbs signaled my peril. I honestly wondered if I would die when I saw the number glued to my body.
After that experience, I was reluctant to return to the garden in shorts and T-shirt. I thought winter ski garb might be better, but time, heat, and humidity changed my mind. Maybe someone will develop a Teflon cream “apply like sun screen and stinging bugs can’t touch you.”
At one time I thought as you matured, your faith grew into Teflon coating. Hurts, disappointments, and insults would just ping off. While we are provided with spiritual armor, I don’t believe the Teflon Christian is biblical or desirable.
The Apostle Paul was not Teflon coated. He felt and experienced the stings of life. He wanted the Corinthians to know the great pressure that caused him to “despair even of life,” (I Corinthians 1:8). “For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many fears,” (2 Corinthians 2:8.). He later catalogs many physical and emotional sufferings (2 Corinthians chapters 11 and 12).
Because he felt the injuries he could speak from experience about “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.” When we’re honest about our hurts and weaknesses we open ourselves up to receive comfort from God and His body.
When my mother died, I was a teenager. Our family never talked about how seriously ill she was. We knew, but pretended she would get better. After I was older I thought how lonely that must have been for her with our being so “strong” and never saying “I’m so sad, I don’t want to lose you.”
When I found out my dad had terminal cancer, I prayed it would be different. God granted that request. On his deathbed, Daddy spoke of his pending death. We affirmed how much we loved each other. We talked about our loved ones already in heaven and about the reunion waiting for us. We laughed through our tears as we anticipated some of the things we hoped to do in heaven. That moment of “weakness” where we wept and shared our grief was one of the tenderest and sweetest of my life. Our souls connected with each other and with heaven.
In contrast, Teflon Christians who feel no pain receive no comfort and have no real sense of community. I remember one such Christian. His child, hospitalized with leukemia, was going through arduous tests and treatments. But this man virtually boasted that his faith made him impervious to pain. Denial can be part of grief, but oh how isolated and lonely are those who won’t face their pain.
In my garden I wear long sleeves when working around my roses and I keep an eye out for yellow jackets. But, ski masks and thick clothing are not practical or beneficial for warm weather yard work. In the same way, I can’t expose my weakness, sorrow, or challenges with everyone, but being honest with myself, God, and some trusted friends is much safer and healthier than suffocating under layers of pride, or other forms of Teflon.
While on this subject, may I be vulnerable with you? Larry and I both share a weakness that can hinder our effectiveness in ministry. We’re weak raising the money needed to operate. Ditto for Marilyn and Sandi. God has gifted some in the body with this gift. My dream is that God would raise up a team who are so gifted to help us. Any takers? 🙂
Generally, people like to give to an event or an outreach type of ministry where you can “see” the results of your giving. Much of what we do is one on one, and confidential. It would be inappropriate to share with our supporters the specifics that make giving more fun. As Paul said in 1 Corinthian 12:23, some ministries “are treated with special modesty.” To those who faithfully support this ministry with giving and prayers, know that you are appreciated. And just maybe, when we’re all gathered together in eternity, you’ll get to meet the ones your sacrifices helped to restore and hear their stories.
In His Grace,