Friday, January 20, 2012

Deep Calls Unto Deep

Be prepared for the thing that crippled you to be the thing that brings the greatest glory to God.

     Ever notice how God is not content to heal people and let it go at that?  The lame man in Acts 3 did not just walk and leap after he was healed. He praised God for his healing, and as a result everyone around him was astonished.  Private experience became public ministry.  Though the Bible does not record what he did later, I suspect he told his crippled friends what happened.  They too needed hope.

     God knows the best help for the crippled comes from those who have experienced what others are going through.  We have a Savior who has experienced  our lives, who can identify with our struggles and pains.  He has called us to mirror Him to others.  He has healed us for the glory of His Kingdom, not just for our personal health.  We, too, must be prepared for God to use us to “save” those with whom we can identify. We see this principle around us all the time.

Recovery groups are headed up by people who have recovered.
Divorce Care class is often headed by people who have experienced the pain of broken families.
The best budgeting advice I’ve gotten is from people who had Ramen Noodles and water the whole way through college.
The best marriage advice comes from people whose marriage has been through the fire.
In the aftermath of my father’s death, I received the most comfort from others who were equally fatherless.

     “Deep calls unto deep,” said the writer of Psalm 42 as he was begging God to help him out of his despair. The word means literally “abyss”:  the things deepest in me call to the things deepest in you. One translation reads, “hollow howlings hang in the air.”  The deepest things in us call out for the depths of God.  Sometimes He answers by connecting the hollow “deep” within us  directly to Himself; sometimes he connects us to a “deep” within others that was once hollow as well, but has been filled by God.  

     Sheila and I had a rough start to our marriage.  We didn’t know each other; we didn’t know how to communicate; we were both selfish and immature.  But God was patient and faithful, and here we are 20 years later, by the grace of God.  When we counsel couples planning to get married, we tell them about everything we did wrong, because the things that crippled us may cripple others, and we want to do some preventative medicine by letting them hear a story of healing.  In fact, we can usually find fresh examples, and we have to tell them.  God has mended our brokenness; we must tell others that God will do that for them too.
     Recently, I walked into a room where a friend was talking to her husband on the phone.   When she hung up, she said, ”Sometimes you just have to laugh.”  I asked why, and she said, “Because otherwise you have to cry.”   Then she added without my asking, “Marriage is hard.”  And so we talked.  Deep calls unto deep.  

      My father’s death felt crippling to my emotions, to my prayer life, to my perspective on the sovereignty of God.  You know what I can do now that I couldn’t before?  I can empathize with people. I never talked with people before who had lost a loved one; I didn’t know what to do or say.  But since then I have been in situations where people have seemed to gravitate to me to discuss death.  At first I was confused: “Do I have a sign over me – ‘Talk about death with Anthony’?”  No, God was sending them my way.

     Last fall, in the food court at a mall in Grand Rapids, I met an ex-student I hadn’t seen in a while, and she mentioned that her grandfather had died.  I told her about my dad, and she asked me very tentatively, “Did you have dreams after he died?” Did I have dreams? Absolutely.  She was the first person I had talked to who also had dreams.

      And for about 10 minutes in the food court at a mall, deep called unto deep, and the healing crippled walked together for a time, grateful for a God who knows how to heal.

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