Sunday, May 30, 2010


One of Lynne’s favorite sayings was that were she to get tattoos, she would have a tatt that said “This world is not my home” on one hand,  and “Lord Jesus come quickly” on the other. She said that a lot. I’m not certain what that implies about being married to me, but it does show us what absolute faith is.

We’ve discussed faith as trust before, but now I want to talk about it in terms of belief. Lynne had absolute belief in Christ and His promises. Absolute means “free from all imperfection or deficiency.” It means “perfect.”
I saw Lynne’s perfect belief day in and day out for years. In fact, I am living proof of it. Lynne prayed for my salvation for nineteen years. That is a very long time. 

I had a classic conversion following an irresistible call to belief from Christ. (I dislike the term “born again” because it has been made cliché by politicians, evangelicals, pagans, and just about everyone else. If we have to use a term, let’s call it “born from above,” which happens to be a very nice translation from the Greek of the New Testament.) That happened in 2003 and I’ll write about that some more some other time, but I can tell you I was Lynne’s long-term prayer project. 

Lynne had a perfect belief in prayer. She never doubted but that God listened to her prayers, and that He would answer them. It was not unusual for me to come home from the office and find her in bed deep in prayer. I used to joke that our bed was her native habitat, and probably qualified for Federal protection, but it was her prayer place. She would see people she knew in Wal-Mart, find out that they had serious personal problems, and start praying with them right there. She did that with strangers too. She didn’t care what other people thought about it.

There were many times we would be winding down the day lying in bed, and she would say we needed to pray. I let her take the lead because I was a rank amateur compared to her. These weren’t simple prayers either. They were often very lengthy, made reference to scripture, and came from the deepest part of her heart. If you ever heard my wife pray, then you knew it was in earnest.

Some of this may sound far-fetched to you, but I saw amazing stuff happen time and again. It rarely happened overnight, and did not always occur exactly as she asked, but by golly when Lynne prayed God listened, and He heard

I used to tease Lynne about being a Jehovan. By this I meant that she was an Old Testament-sort of gal who believed in a just God who rewarded goodness, and punished the wicked. She frequently prayed for just that, and I am a witness to how those prayers were answered. I can also tell you it was a good idea to avoid being on her “punish the wicked list;” it will be interesting to see how those prayers are answered ultimately in her absence.

Another one of her favorite prayers was for exposure. Sometimes people conceal who they really are, or their motives for why they act in a certain way. Lynne prayed for their exposure. She would also pray that those people be snared by their own traps. I continue to see both things happen. Even yesterday, someone we prayed over that I thought I knew well told me who he really was. It ended a lengthy friendship. Although exposure can be painful, people who reveal themselves by character and deed bless us because they give us the ability to understand and avoid them.

Some very kind people have described Lynne as a prayer-warrior. I like the term fine, but if we are going to use military metaphors, I think prayer-commando better finds the mark.

Compared to Lynne, I am a prayer pup. I tend to pray a single prayer for a lengthy period of time. For example, there was a stretch of many months where all I did was give thanks for God’s grace. I gave thanks that He chose me. Why He did escapes me, but He did.

Right now, my sole prayer is the Lord’s Prayer. I honestly cannot tell you why, but I know it is what I am supposed to pray. Sometimes I say a single line, or repeat a phrase over and over. It is an awesome prayer for deep meditation and contemplation, and even though I have looked at many commentaries that discuss it I believe that we have a poor understanding of what it means.

I want to tell you about two other Christian people I know who have perfect belief. A few days ago I was riding with a friend, and he started to tell me about a rare vascular disease he has. He has kept it in check for years with powerful steroids. If he quits taking the steroids he will get sick and die; but if he keeps taking the steroids they will eventually catch up with him and cause other serious medical problems. If you look at him you would never know that he is seriously ill, and his attitude about his dilemma is chipper and upbeat.
He told me he talked to his mother about it once. She said she could not understand why God chose him for this illness. Her other two children have various health and emotional issues, yet God chose her strongest and most successful child for this malady. He answered, “don’t you see, mom? He chose me because I’m the strongest!”

Then he looked at me and said, “I am thankful this illness.” It floored me.

The other friend prayed an astonishing prayer. She asked that she be given the ability to know the suffering of Christ on the Cross. Not very long after that she became afflicted with multiple sclerosis. The surgeries, the pain, and the disability have been a challenge not only for her, but for her husband and children. But just like my other friend, you will meet no one more resolute and upbeat in her belief and assurance of the outcome of her illness.

What is going on here? How is it that ordinary people greet or ask for extraordinary challenges with joy and perfect belief? After all, this is America. We do everything we can to avoid death and prolong life, regardless of the cost or the poor quality of life. We cling to life with all our might knowing that death will eventually come.

Paul the Apostle says, “I die daily.” What I think Paul means is that he faces not only death every day, but lives “in willing identification with the death of Christ.” This willing identification leads Paul to boast not for himself, but for Christ. It seems to me that is part of what is going on here.

But there is also another deep spiritual truth at work. I have been studying the contemplative James Finley for several months now. He was a disciple of Thomas Merton, the famous monk from the Abbey of Gethsemane at Trappist, KY. Finley tells us that if we are true to ourselves we realize that we are walking wounded. We have been hurt deeply by others and by life. We respond falsely to the pain and injury of life by striking back, withdrawing, or acting in some other way harmful to ourselves and others.

Our true self, if we are honest, recognizes our frailty and poverty of self, and we respond by going forth in compassionate love in recognition of the preciousness of ourselves in that frailty. God loves us regardless of who or what we are; the preciousness of our wounded self is a touchstone with paradise because that is the opening through which God grasps and loves us.

If you’re like me, these are  hard concepts to grasp. They require study and meditation. The easy thing to do is read this, say “that’s too deep for me,” and move on. But I promise if you will take the time to reflect on this and be intensely honest with who you really are, you will see absolute truth and have perfect joy.

The stories of my two friends help give this understanding and meaning. I am certain that they have never thought about who or what they are in the terms I just expressed. They simply know to do it because Christ has graced them with perfect belief. They accept who they are, they accept their illness, and their perfect belief gives them joy in the face of their adversity. They know that God loves them absolutely in their frailty. They die all day long.

You may not believe in Christ Jesus, and this may sound like crazy talk. So be it. I promise that you are no more hard-bitten than I used to be, but God has slowly been opening my eyes to the wonders of the world we live in as played out in the everyday lives we lead.

1 comment:

  1. Mike,
    I have recently discovered your blog. I am so sorry for your loss, and in awe of your transformation. Your words have been a gift to me. I have caught up on your postings, but see that you haven't posted since January. I hope there is more to come; I am eager to learn more from you.