Well, I made the statement this morning that this Christian cliche' is wrong. I'm sure that ruffled some feathers, but let me break it down a little more.
The quote that has made it's rounds in Christian circles for decades has it's origin with Corrie and Betsie ten Boom while they were held in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. I had heard the statement before, but while reading Erwin McManus' book The Barbarian Way, I came across this . . .
"Jesus understood that His purpose was to save us not from pain and suffering, but from meaninglessness."
Erwin writes about the ten Boom's circumstances that evoked the statement.
Here's what Erwin says,: "Clearly neither of them concluded that this expression conveyed a belief that God would keep them from suffering hardship and even death. Betsie’s statement was a declaration that to walk in the character of Christ is always the right choice, regardless of outcome or consequence. We have somehow perverted this more primal understanding to a far more civilized one. Instead of finding confidence to live as we should regardless of our circumstances, we have used it as justification to choose the path of least resistance, least difficulty, least sacrifice. Instead of concluding it is best to be wherever God wants us to be, we have decided that wherever it is best for us to be is where God wants us. Actually, God’s will for us is less about our comfort that it is about our contribution. God would never choose for us safety at the cost of significance. God created you so that your life would count, not so that you could count the days of your life."
I agree with Erwin. The statement has become perverted. God has called us to dangerous, not reckless, faith.
OK, this morning I mentioned one of our church member's story of dangerous faith. Eva Blann served with her husband John as missionaries in Africa years ago. Her daughter Lois Crissinger has a blog where she shares about the her mother's life and I asked if I could share this little story about Mrs. Blann' and their life in Africa. This comes from Lois' blog:
Mom and Dad married after college and Dad left two weeks later for Africa without her. He traveled by freighter across the ocean in a zigzag pattern to avoid enemy subs. About two years later, Mom joined Dad in Liberia, flying over there alone to meet him. I asked her once, as only I can, to please try to tell me what it was like meeting your husband again after being apart for so long and having only been married for two weeks. No matter how hard I prodded to get her to give me details of stress, adjustment, etc., all she would say is, “you just do what you have to do”.
While in Liberia she became pregnant with their first child, my sister, Rosie. Here she is, young and alone – away from her mother, no cell phones, no email – and with a doctor who was really a veterinarian and had to look everything up in books. The only other woman available to her was the wife of the headmaster of the school where Dad was employed. Mom has often commented about the fact that God just took care of them because there were no doctors or hospitals available like there were when my own children were born.
They came home from Liberia and then returned to Northern Rhodesia. Here, my older brother was born…breech. My daughter has had two breech babies who were delivered by c-section. My daughter-in-law also had to have her breech baby delivered by c-section. My mother delivered Paul while he was in the breech position. Because they lived so far away from the hospital, she couldn’t wait until she went into labor but had to be taken there to wait to go into labor. When she arrived before Paul was born, the doctor fussed at her and asked why she hadn’t come in before for her appointments. She had…he was a different doctor and hadn’t seen her at any of the other visits to the hospital in Lusaka. He was scared about her condition and therefore the gruffness to her regarding the situation. She survived…obviously and thankfully!
Mom was very active in many of the aspects of the mission work. She helped in the school, teaching the women life skills, she helped in the hospital and learned medical skills that would give many of us pause! She learned to give injections, bandage wounds and once assisted in sawing a woman’s arm off to save her life following a crocodile bite.
The following is an excerpt of a letter from a fellow missionary at the time.
John and Eva Blann pioneered the Gwembe Valley work in what was then Northern Rhodesia. They were there during the late 1940’s and the early 1950's for their first term. They were the first missionaries to take a motor vehicle down to the Zambezi River in the Gwembe Valley and then they built a Mission Station on the banks of the River and ministered to the Gwembe Valley people through schools and a hospital. They were the first white people to spend the rainey season in the Gwembe Valley and I could go on and on...
It was while they were serving in the Valley that Dad built the grass hut they lived in while they were preparing to build a block house with thatch roof. This was the place where Mom was bitten on her finger by a puff adder snake. They were 200 miles from Lusaka (and the nearest hospital). The nurse that was serving with them in the Valley gave Mom all the anti-venom serum she had and they all piled into the Landrover (jeep)…Mom, Dad, Rosie, Paul and the nurse…and headed for Lusaka over dirt roads. Upon arriving at the hospital, the doctor declared that if she wasn’t already dead, she was probably going to make it. Many times on the trip there, Mom was sure that she wasn’t going to live. Miraculously, she lived, but her once beautiful hands were no longer intact. She lost the finger that the snake bit due to gangrene but that didn’t keep her hands idle. She learned to compensate and continued to type, play the piano and organ and all of the other normal tasks that she was called upon to execute.
Later, a snake got into the chicken house and swallowed a chicken and couldn’t get out because of the chicken inside of him. After the African boys killed the snake, Mom held it up in her bare hands for a picture. Dad wouldn’t go near it but we have a picture to prove her gumption.
They came back to the states in 1952 for a furlough. I was born during this time. At 33 years of age, she bravely returned to Africa with three children, one of them an infant of two months. She may have been brave but her mother wasn’t so thrilled that my parents were venturing out on an ocean liner with their infant granddaughter back to the land of scorpions and malaria.
Speaking of malaria, these hands of which I speak helped pour quinine down our throats to try to protect us from that disease. I remember my dad holding me in his arms and holding my nose as Mom waited for the open mouth, gasping for breath, to pour the dreaded medicine in. And when we did get sick, as all of us did, those same hands comforted and soothed us through our fevers. Her hands tucked our mosquito nets in at night to protect us from the mosquitoes that carried that disease.
Those precious hands drew outlines of our feet and sent them back to my grandmother in the states so that she could get us new shoes and send them back to Africa for us. (I just found one of those outlines in a file drawer today.) Often, by the time the shoes reached us, we may have already outgrown them.
Mom tells a story of a time when I was a baby and on the floor of the living room in our house in a make shift playpen. (Dining room chairs turned on their sides). She glanced across the room and to her horror she saw a snake not far from where I was playing. She grabbed me up and removed me to safety but I have often wondered why she didn’t just then and there, demand to remove her precious children to a safer environment!!! That is what “normal” parents would do, right? Would I have had that stamina to take those things in stride? Scorpions, snakes, malaria, etc.?
Another story I love to recall is how she protected my dad’s life. It may not have been in peril but I supposed it could have been. Dad was working with the African men to dig a well. There was some problem and someone needed to go down in the well to check things out. No one else would, so Dad did. The African men lowered Dad in a bucket. At some point they lost control of the rope and dropped Dad down into the well. They all panicked and ran because they thought they had killed the missionary. Mom became aware of what was going on and took control of the situation. She demanded they return and she instructed them on what to do to get him out. He was hurt, not seriously, but her quick thinking and commanding spirit was definitely helpful to Dad that day!
Mom worked on the business side of the mission station doing much of the necessary bookwork. She worked with the clothing that was sent out from the states to help distribute it among the natives. This was a regular occurrence and part of the mission responsibility.
I love these stories and there are many more. Mrs. Blann attends worship every Sunday and lives in an assisted living facility on Kingsley Avenue. She is such a great woman and life is still an adventure for her.