I am ready to found a new religious order. Or, at least, to talk about it.
The idea came to me while discussing yesterday’s blog with my visiting sister-in-law. I had been reflecting on the Romans 8:28 declaration that “all things work together for good…” I was wrestling over the feeling that some things don’t feel good at all. How do you square those feelings with Paul’s assertion?
I see my wife tangling with this a lot as she watches me creep sluggishly about the house, my muscles all hampered from a stroke. She regularly encourages me – which is to say she comes close to nagging me – to exercise and push myself. She also regularly bites her tongue a second too late, muttering to herself that she’s not going to constantly be on my back like that. If I want to, I must make myself do it. I must want to do it. She does not want to make herself into a crabby wife. (She wants the visiting therapists to do the crabby act!) And I realize what’s driving her is the pain she feels watching me be so hampered in my movement, my speech, my difficulty in swallowing my food two long years after the stroke. She is trying to find a way out of her own pain, too.
Where my delapidated condition helps me is in making the effort to talk so difficult that, many times, I don’t make any effort to respond to her coaching. I think this helps me avoid starting arguments. Sometimes.
From time to time in one of our devotional readings we’ll return to the prayer commandment Jesus made.
Matthew 7: 7. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Melanie and I have knocked on the door with our prayer request for healing so long that our knuckles feel bruised. Lately we have not even bothered to speak out what is in our hearts. We just rap our knuckles against the table top or the medicine cabinet. Hence, the inspiration for the new religious order: O.B.K., The Order of Bruised Knuckles.
(By the way, Melanie has suggested the chorus from an old Bob Dylan song as the anthem of this new order.)
Yesterday, I wrote about the long string of events in Joseph’s life that all seemed bad at the time. Another early witness to such serial calamity was Job. Both eventually saw blessings return to their lives. But not until their knuckles were bloody. Some saints didn’t even see blessings.
Hebrews 11:36. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37. They were stoned ; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated– 38. the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.
Maybe it should be O.B.K., The Order of Bloody Knuckles. That’s the name that made Melanie’s sister, Renee, laugh. And she immediately appointed herself co-chairman.
I got to thinking the OBK would need a patron saint. And I thought about the most recent saint to be so recognized, St. Teresa of Calcutta. After her death, Mother Teresa’s private journals were published. The world learned that, after hearing the Lord call her to the ministry to the poor that eventually reached around the world, God went silent on her. She became baffled over this as the years went on and on. She continued in the directions she had received since she never heard any others. But she heard only silence in her prayer time.
It was like the story of the rabbi who went to the Western Wall in Jerusalem three times a day to pray. In the morning he would pray for his people and the safety of their nation. At noon he would pray for the sick and poor in need of help to face the troubles of the day. In the evening the rabbi prayed for the needs of his own family and friends.
A friend who was impressed when he learned of this daily prayer discipline asked the rabbi, “What is it like?”
The rabbi replied, “It’s like praying to a stone wall.”
Perhaps it should be O.B.K., The Order of Broken Knuckles. And perhaps our patron saint needs to predate our own generation. Job’s response after the first round of calamities was properly humble.
Job 1: 21. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”
Of course, eventually Job did have some questions for God. But he didn’t get the answers he sought. Maybe we need to keep looking for a patron saint.
Maybe it could be Peter. Jesus lost one crowd of followers who found his teaching too hard to swallow.
John 6: 66. From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
67. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
68. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Those wishing to join OBK need to commit to a rule of daily prayer and intercession. One thing Melanie and I have noticed as we have tried to pray for our situation the past two years: there is no shortage of broken lives all around, most of them in worse shape than ours. You cannot complain about any shortage of broken hearts crying out for help. It’s enough to make me wonder if this fact, itself, is part of a test the Lord gives us, part of an invitation to join the OBK. His hands show scars. Why should ours be any different?
I am reminded of the question from Jesus that I ended one book with. (You can read the first chapter here.)
Luke 18: 7. “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8. I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”