Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Blind Evangelist And A Boy Who Needed To See

In 1 Corinthians 13:12 Paul wrote:

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known."

This verse has special meaning to me today as I think about a Sunday morning in August 1946. The memories of that day are like photographs - small glimpses of one of the greatest moments in my life. The First Baptist Church of Velasco, Texas was having "revival" services. It was the last service as I recall. I sat on the 10th row, left side. J. R. Graves Darby was the evangelist. He was blind; but that didn't seem to bother him. I can't recall his sermon that morning; but I do remember what happened at the end. It was during what we, as Baptist, call the "invitation" time - a time to make big decisions about your life like "accepting Jesus and being saved." They don't get any bigger than that. I think that the "invitation" period had gone on for awhile or that is how it seemed to me. No one had walked down the aisle. Bro. Darby stopped the singing. He took a coin out of his pocket and held it up. He said, "I will give this to anyone who will come down here and receive it. Do you believe that?" I was sitting next to the aisle and I had a quick route to him. I was thinking about taking him up on the offer; but then what would people think if I did that and what would I do next? Besides, embarrassing myself like that for a quarter, wasn't that appealing. I am not proud of the attitude I had that day. Sadly it did reflect the condition of my heart and how resistant I had become to God's call. These thoughts, though, were not what stopped me. Bro. Darby put the issue squarely in my face. It was like he looked right at me when he said, "This is like God's offer of salvation. He wants to give you Jesus as His gift. You just need to reach out in faith and receive Him." The weight of what I was feeling grew heavier in that moment. I still was resisting. I was thinking, "What am I going to do? He is not ending this." Suddenly a young girl ran to the front and took the coin from his hand. I thought, "I am going to make it past this moment after all." He talked to her and had her sit down on the front row. He told us that the girl had just accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. I have to tell you something about her. She had a sad life. She had few friends. Kids constantly made fun of her - many of them to her face. They mistreated her. I felt sorry for her; but I never stop others from mistreating her. I guess I was afraid of what other kids might think of me or say. That weakness has always been lurking at the door steps of my life. I try, with God's help, to keep it contained; but it will surface from time to time. On one occasion I did take some action; but only through someone else. I had walked down to a friend's house. I saw this frail and frightened girl trapped on the roof of a shed. Some kids were throwing rocks at her. She was crying hysterically and pleading for them to stop. I have never seen such fear in a person's face. I ran to a neighbor's house to get help. The kids fled and the neighbors helped her down. That was just one of many abuses that she had to face. I am sorry that I was not a friend to her and for that, I have asked God to forgive me. It is in her memory that I write these words of thanks for the part she played in my life that day. I never told her "thank you." Bro. Darby didn't know anything about her. Though he was blind, I am sure he saw a young girl in need of the one true Friend, Jesus Christ. I know he saw her need for a Savior - something I was refusing to see in my own life. That Sunday morning as I watched her run to the front it was like God stabbed me in the heart. I had been thinking that this girl needed help and I didn't. She was hurting; but I wasn't. There I stood in nicely pressed clothes. I had loving parents. I had a good life or so I thought. Suddenly God let a nine year old boy feel the weight of sin and shame. In an instant God let me see Jesus in the words of John 3:16. I saw Him as my salvation. In one moment I couldn't see the condition of my life and the need for Jesus but in the next moment I could. I headed down the aisle and spoke the most important words I would ever speak, "I am trusting Christ to save me." That afternoon I was baptized along with about 10 of my friends. While I didn't know this at the time, it turned out that I would have many years to understand what this gift of grace meant to me; to learn what it meant to open up my heart to the richness of Christ.

For the young girl it was a different story. One day, years later, she took her life. To this day, I can't understand why a tragedy like that happened or why she had to endure so much. There are countless others like her. They suffer terribly. I will not question the love of God in any of this. Who am I to do that? I choose to believe truth such as that expressed by David in Psalm 34:18.

"18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."
and in Psalm 103:11

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
I don't know why God gave me all these years to learn what it means to be His child. I am glad He did. His grace is amazing - like using this young girl that day in August 1946 to reach out to me and give me Jesus. That was the day I got to see; but there were things I didn't get to see.

That has been true through out my life and journey with God. I began my journey with God by getting to see my need for Jesus and what it meant to believe. I thought that this new way of seeing would be the norm for my life because I was now a Christian. I didn't realize that for the Christian there would now be two ways of seeing - seeing with the eyes of the head and the eyes of the heart. I had not heard words like "seeing they do not see" (Matthew 13:13). I had never heard of the prayer of Paul asking that God open the eyes of our hearts to understand. I didn't understand the need to pray continually that God would give me a heart to know (Deuteronomy 29:2-4). I thought my ability to unlock God's Word would come through my own mental faculties and that it would naturally happen because I was a Christian. I would go for years without understanding otherwise. That did change; but not without struggle.

I see a lot of things differently now. I see that God's Word must go beyond the mind to the heart; that it must be received not just with our external senses but also with out spiritual senses (Ephesians 1:18); that God must teach us and make us understand His Word. I see now how desperately we need Him to cause our hearts to be inclined to His Word. I know now that without His continual supernatural work we cannot see the revelation of the glory of God in the face of Christ - the very purpose for which understanding of the Word is given.

Even after seeing these truths, I have not always listen to or studied the Word in dependence upon His supernatural help. It has only been in recent months that God has impressed this truth on me in a much deeper way. I have been blessed over the years to gain knowledge in the study of God's Word but too much of that knowledge never consistently penetrated my heart. I have struggled with this. At times I wanted to ask an unsaved person to read a passage so I could find out if they saw the same thing I did. I was never sure how to go about doing that; plus I knew the empty feeling that it would bring to me if our understanding were the same. I never had to do that because God took care of the matter. He brought me to the desert.

I want to share what that last desert experience was like and how God, on May 13, 2008, began to call me out - to let me see again the wonder and awe of my salvation - Jesus Christ and to see how deeply I am known and accepted by Him. I close this post by recommending that you read a quote from a blog site called "Of First Importance." (You can read the quote by "clicking" on the highlighted title just as you can read the Scripture verses by "clicking" on the highlighted verses; but then you probably knew that before I did.)

“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

1 comment:

blaire blanchette said...

I really enjoyed reading this entry. It really encouraged and resonated in me. Thanks for the honesty, can't wait to hear the rest.