Sunday, January 22, 2017
“A truly humble servant answers not the trumpet calls of self promotion, but the hushed whispers of necessity.” ― Keith McDow
I have seen other people being Christ for others and have seen those others recognize Christ in the humans helping them. I have experienced other people showing Christ to me through their caring and love. The problem is that I don’t think I have ever showed Christ to others through my own words and actions and that is upsetting and a little depressing for me. I have read and re-read “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis. I have read and re-read “The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society” by Henri J.M. Nouwen. “Wounded healer” is a term created by psychologist Carl Jung to illustrate how much more effective helpers can be in healing if they have suffered as well. I know about suffering. I know about being wounded. I know about failing to love, to care, to treat others with respect, and to want to hurt those who have hurt me. I have come to know Christ’s love, and it has molded and informed my life for at least the last thirty years. Focusing on the needs of others is always paramount in my words and actions. Yet, it seems as though my job is that of a middleman, one who hands the good to another to finally deliver it to the intended receiver. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Without that middle step, the good doesn’t get where it was supposed to go. Think of a garden hose. The hose is certainly not the water that is needed, nor is it the source of the water. Neither is it the force that pushes the water through itself. It is, in the end, just a hose, just a conduit, just a means to an end. And yet, without the humble hose, the water doesn’t get where it needs to go. Those needing water thank the water, thank the source of the water, thank the force of the water, but never seem to think of thanking the hose. After all, the hose is just doing what a hose was created to do in the first place. For those of us who are just humble hoses, we have to get our good feelings from knowing that without our presence, the water wouldn’t get delivered and people and plants would go thirsty. We will not get thanked by the folks and the flowers who can live and grow thanks to our being where we were supposed to be. We will, ultimately, get thanked by the water and force and its source (all those being God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). In the meantime, if we must have thanks and gratitude to keep going, we are in the wrong business. I have seen some great preachers who in the effusion of thanks and praise for their preaching forgot that they were just hoses and began to see themselves as the water. The messengers beginning to believe that they are the message and not just those who deliver it. This doesn’t mean that what they are preaching is flawed but that those entrusted with the Word have begun to believe that the Word comes from the humans in whose hands it has been placed. I once had to write a review of “Elmer Gantry” by Sinclair Lewis about a very flawed evangelist (a great movie starring Burt Lancaster by the same name). I defended Elmer Gantry in my paper saying that those who heard the Word were changed by it, and it didn’t matter if the one delivering it was corrupt. I got a “D” on the paper because the professor wrote that while I was eloquent in my defense, she just wasn’t buying it. I have struggled with and will continue to struggle with my “hoseness” and its seemingly insignificant place in the order of things, but I have come to accept it as my lot. To be honest, I can understand and fear the seductive power of getting the messenger/message arrangement mixed up for that way leads to darkness and alienation from God. I don’t know if I will ever find pride in being a “hose” but willingly accept that without a hose, the water doesn’t get where it needs to go. I like the concept of “hose” better than “pipe” because is a hose is more flexible and can therefore get the water to more places than a stiff pipe. What I have discovered about myself is that the “wounded” part of me is that I would become too vain and too self-important were I to think of myself as more than a hose. While it may not make me ecstatically happy to be a hose in the Hands of God, it is an important job and one that is worth me devoting my life to it. I spent most of last year fixing leaks and holes in the hose that is me, but now am better than ever and ready to be of use once more. So, turn that tap, Lord, and let the water flow. Point and guide me in the right direction that Your Word is heard by those who need to hear it. Amen.