November 16, 2004

Hard testing? Hardly.

"Your test of faith is more precious to you than gold."

That's what the marquee said, right under the words "Bible Community Church" on the sign across the street from the Conoco station in the unincorporated village of Roberts Switch, Tennessee. I laughed cynically as I read the words again. "I know there's no such thing as coincidence, Father," I prayed through clenched teeth and rising blood pressure, "but couldn't you be a little more subtle?"

Ever tried to make a 1600 mile car trip with four children under six years old? Then you know the reason for my cynicism. The Conoco station in Roberts Switch, Tennessee was our sixth potty stop of the day. We were beginning to suspect that our three-year-old daughter had either a bladder infection or a terminally terrible timing. The two babies were crying tag-team style, giving each other short rest breaks in order to further their attempt at the North American long-distance crying record. My five year old was the gem of the bunch; all he wanted was to hear the same Disney song over and over again...and over and over and over and over and over...

So you can imagine why I felt a little bitter when I read Community Bible Church's cute little marquee quip. "Very nice, God. That's just great. If that was meant to make me feel better or restore a little of my patience, you're going to have to try harder." You could hear my teeth grinding. Even over "Hakuna Matata" and tag-team screaming.

The afternoon only got worse from there. I'll spare you the gruesome details. Suffice it to say that there was absolutely no danger of my wife or children mistaking me for Jesus by the time we collapsed into our hotel room tonight. As I review the day, I sincerely regret many of the things I said and did in anger and frustration.

As I sat here reading three days of accumulated email in the blissfully silent darkness of our room, I came across a message from a member of the church we left last week to move back to the U.S. A neighbor of hers, a young Portuguese woman who visited our church with her husband and five-year-old son on several occasions, was in Lisbon for some medical tests, trying to understand some strange symptoms she'd been experiencing. After spending the morning at the hospital, she'd just returned to her hotel room with her husband when she suddenly began hemorrhaging--bleeding from her eyes, nose, and mouth. She slowly slipped into a coma and within a few hours was dead. Apparently she had been suffering from an aggressive cancer for some time without knowing it. Her husband barely had time to say good-bye; her little boy, left back on the island with relatives, never had the chance. Before the shock has time to wear off they'll have to bury her and figure out some way to get along without her for the rest of their lives.

"Please don't lead us into hard testing, Father, and deliver us from the evil one." I pray it almost every day. Sometimes the "testing" I have to endure makes me wonder if God is really listening. But sometimes, when hearing about someone else's trial lifts me out of my reverie of self-pity for a few moments, I realize that I don't have even the faintest notion of what "hard testing" is. Father, help me to value these "little tests" of my faith and endurance. In fact, I hope you'll provide more of them so that when my "hard testing" comes, I'll be able to bear up under it in a way that honors you and ministers to those near to me. And please forgive me for my selfishness today. Amen.

(NeoTheo(b)log will receive less frequent updates than usual for the next week or so while we travel to our new home in Waco, Texas. Thanks for your patience and faithfulness. Our readers are a great blessing to us!)


At 4:58 PM, Blogger Rachel said...

The early part of this post made me chuckle; the latter part sobered me and made me at once sad for someone else's loss and thankful for my own good fortune. (This is actually the second time today I've had that exact sensation.) Thank you for this.

Waco, eh? I spent a summer as a teenager working as a camp counselor at a Jewish summer camp near Waco. I still remember the vastness of the skies out there -- living there really helped me understand why the Hebrew word "shamayim" ("heavens") is always plural. May you be blessed in your new home!

At 6:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're praying for you!! Had to laugh ,though, that the song was Hakuna Matata! No worries!! Truly, hang in there. It will soon be over and you'll be in your new home. God is with you, especially when things are crazy and chaotic! (Isaiah 41:10; Matt 11:28)
Scott and I can't wait to see you all!

At 8:04 AM, Blogger Daniel said...

Rachel, I'm glad our experience was meaningful for you, too.

Laura, thanks for catching the (unintended) irony, and thanks for your prayers!

At 12:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see you all, Son!

At 8:32 PM, Blogger david said...

... as you and your wife lay this tremendous gift of ministry & vocation as well as the choice of doing something else more 'comfortable' at the altar of our God I pray for your peace in traveling and settling on your new home ... remember iron sharpens iron . . . :)

At 12:03 PM, Blogger Chrysostomos said...

"and deliver us from the evil one!" - Amen


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