Wednesday, August 31, 2016
''Whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives'' (Hebrews 12:6). Not a warm fuzzy verse but one that speaks of His love. And we've all recognized God's discipline once or twice.
But has God ever reached out and slapped you when you needed it? He has me. Once:
Here's the story. It was 1985, and I had just completed my Master of Science at The Ohio State University. A fledging molecular biologist, I intended to continue on for a Ph.D. And then things changed. My advisor lost his research funding.
What to do? As it happened, the collegiate church I was involved in was in the midst of planning a church plant at the University of Cincinnati. My home town.
It seemed like an omen. Particularly when in practically no time I landed a research job in the medical center at the University of Cincinnati, and within just a couple of weeks I was home.
The church plant, when the dust cleared, consisted of 26 adults: two pastors (with their families) and 22 singles. Twenty-two singles (to be specific) that consisted of 17 young men and five young women.
Which for the five young women involved, was pretty good odds. (For the Lord longs to be gracious to you…. what can I say?)
For me, however, as one of those singles, there were just a couple of problems.
Problem #1: I had just finished graduate school, having worked a few years in between my bachelor's and master's degrees. All the young men were fresh out of college. (I was headed toward thirty, and they were barely twenty).
In fact, they had the nerve to call me Grandma Moses.
Problem #2: I was at the time…. how shall I say this? Big boned? Pleasingly plump? Full-figured?
Ok. I'll admit it. I was one hefty girl. "Queen-sized". (It was stamped into my panty hose.)
I was fat. Very fat.
And as such, as the inevitable romances in a single's group flared and died (or flared and tied), I was invisible. Just never in the running. On the outside looking in. And Hell hath no misery like a woman scorned. Depression and an absolute, all-pervasive despair threatened to drag me under.
And then it was time for the annual retreat.
This particular year the single's retreat was to be held in Bellefontaine, OH, a couple of hours drive from Cincinnati. The group assorted itself into carloads, mainly on the basis of departure times dictated by work schedules. When all was said and done I hooked up to ride with a new girl (that made six!) named Annette.
Annette had just joined the group, but was obviously a sweetheart and an enthusiastic, growing Christian. To meet her was to know she had a passion for her Redeemer.
But this one thing I had against her… Okay, these four things: She was blond, she was bubbly, she was a former cheerleader, and every single guy in the single's group had, at first sight, immediately fallen madly, head-over-heals in love with her. And for that (though I barely knew her), try as I might to overcome it, I really hated her.
In just a few days time, nonetheless, I found myself beside Annette, in the front seat of her car, headed toward Bellefontaine.
Like I said, she had just joined the group. We chatted, and as the miles went by the conversation moved past small talk into the more spiritual realm. She started to open up, and told me that God had really revealed Himself to her, over the last year or so, as a real God. A personal God. A God who loved her. A God who could really comfort her. And all these things had come about in the midst of some hard times she had been having.
I hate to admit this, but here's the deal. At this point I'm sitting there looking at blond, bubbly, Annette, and really not empathizing at all. I'm thinking it's just the typical scripted Christian patter. What Christian's say to each other so the other person knows how spiritual you are.
Bottom line. I just couldn't get past my pain.
And this is what I'm thinking: "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. You're blond, you're beautiful, you have every guy that meets you wrapped around your finger. What", I think to myself, "could you know about hard times?'
But then I realized that Annette was telling me the rest of the story.
Namely, that on one particularly cold night, midwinter night not quite a year before, Annette had just graduated from nursing school, and her large family wanted to celebrate her achievement. As well as a couple family birthdays. They set up a family celebration at Annette's favorite restaurant in Toledo, where Annette lived. Annette piled into the family car with, her mother and father, a sister, a brother, and the sister's husband and set off down the road to meet various other family members as agreed.
Light snow was falling, but winter in Toledo is no big deal. There's lots of snow.
Lots of snow, that, in fact, tends to melt and turn to ice, and on this particular evening the car hit a patch of black ice and slid head-on into oncoming traffic. Oncoming traffic in the form of an 18-wheeler. It was a horrendous crash, and soon the occupants of the family car littered the freeway.
Annette, having occupied the middle of the back seat, was blessedly uninjured. And she did what any good nurse would do, running from family member to family member, checking vital signs.
Every single occupant of the car-- except Annette-- was dead.
It was at that point in her story that I felt as if the hand of God had literally reached down and slapped me into next Tuesday. And I recognized my self-absorption, my ingratitude (for a million blessings), and my basic unbelief for what it was. . It was if I audibly heard Him say, "Wendy, what do YOU know about having hard times."
And though my struggle with whining at God didn't end there, it definitely got set on a path towards victory.
And ultimately, the rest of the story for me is that we are God's children, and as His children, whether we're covered with mud or blood or snot or rot (spiritual rot), when we call on Him--like a loving parent-- He picks us up. And then He cleans us up. And He's never shocked.
It's only us that forgets that our hearts are desperately wicked and without cure.
"And we have known and believed the love that God has for us." (I John 4:16)
And we know and come to believe his love through our trials. Specifically, through His faithfulness in our trials.
And God was faithful to me. God's revelation of my heard through Annette was not the end of my story. God later blessed me with a similar experience--similar in that I heard Him speak to me so clearly it changed my life. And the second time it was not censure, but solace.
But I will have to share that one some other time.
Originally Written July 2, 2013
About Wendy Wippel
Last week: The Race on the Milk Carton
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