For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Theology of Perspective

I’ve spent a lot of time in the hospital over the last 20+ years. Not for myself. I’ve been blessed as far as my personal health goes. But as a pastor, I’ve spent a lot of time in those places, under almost every imaginable situation. I make an effort to be there any time one of our church folks goes in, even if it’s for a “minor” procedure, just to pray with them beforehand and maybe keep a family member company while they wait. Sometimes schedules conflict, but I try.

Most of the time I pray together with the patient and the family in the room, or maybe even at the door to the surgery area, and then the magic doors open and off they wheel the patient into the land beyond (maybe land beyond isn’t a good phrase to use in this situation, but anyway). We then usually see the patient in their room afterward.

Last Friday, however, I got a little different view of those magic doors and the land beyond. The last time I was in the hospital for myself was when I was about 12 and had my tonsils out. Not much to remember. But recently I’ve had some issues with a kidney stone (you can read my thoughts about my first encounter with this little visitor here). Doc said that because of where it was lodged, he’d like to do a little “procedure” to take care of it. I’m not sure of the details, but it seems to involve large cables with laser canons and grappling hooks inserted into sensitive areas of my body. (I know that’s way too much information for some, but…)

So, anyway, now instead of stopping at the magic doors when they open, I have the opportunity to be wheeled through them. (For some reason the thought “walk toward the light!” kept coming into my mind). I now have a new understanding of the whole surgical process: the lying there in the “holding tank” with a dozen other folks, assembly line fashion, while they ask you the same questions you’ve already been asked a dozen times; getting the pre-op meds started; etc. Of course, thanks the miracle of modern medicine, whatever it is they gave me blocked out my memory of most everything after they started me down the hall to the actual surgery area, but still, these are all new experiences.

I’ll spare you the details of the suffering I experienced post-op (let’s just say I’m a big wimp and am very thankful for the invention of narcotics!), but again, this is my first time on “this side” of the bed rail, so to speak. And it gives me a whole new perspective on things. I now know, at least to some degree, how folks on the patient end of things are feeling/thinking during the process. And I’m hoping it will help me to be a bit more effective in my hospital visiting ministry in the future. Maybe make me more empathetic, knowing what they’re going through.

Now, there is point to all of this. I couldn’t help but think about all of this in relationship to the season we now find ourselves in. At Christmas we celebrate the grand miracle of God becoming flesh; the Incarnation. Now, let me be very careful to say that I’m not at all suggesting that God somehow needed a better perspective on things. Being God, being omniscient, He is fully aware of all things. But still, think of the magnitude of this. The omnipotent God of the universe, now seeing through the eyes of an infant as his mother feeds him and rocks him to sleep. To experience in his flesh the growing and expanding of his bones and sinews as he ages to adulthood.

The point is, this makes Jesus the perfect one to minister to us in every way. Jesus knows what it’s like. He knows what we’re going through. He’s been on this side of the bed rail. In fact, he’s gone beyond us in experience, having even tasted death. And He did it for us, so that we might have life.

I wish sometimes that I could trade places with that patient on the gurney, that I could take away their pain, but I can’t. Jesus can. He, in essence, took our place on the gurney and went through those doors in our place, suffered in our place in the ultimate surgery, the removal of our sin’s debt.

That’s the essence of the gospel. You and I are diseased with sin. Even more to the point, Scripture says we are dead in our sins. Yet, in His love and mercy and grace, God sent His Son to take on the penalty of our sins, to die in our place, to suffer wrath in our place, that we might have life and peace instead. This is, after all, what Christmas is all about. God becoming man, to live and die for our sin, to accomplish God’s eternal plan of salvation. My recent experience has given me a little more perspective on that.

And speaking of perspective, the angels in heaven who praise God continually, who announce His good news to man, who serve and glorify Him and His people as He works out this grand plan; they have no idea what this salvation is like from an experiential perspective. Having no need of salvation, they don’t know what it’s like to experience new life in Christ. And yet they sing about it, rejoice in it, and declare it at the top of their angelic lungs.

What about us? Having experienced it, having had our sins cleansed and our eternal salvation secured, how can we not sing even louder, rejoice even greater and declare it more enthusiastically? We’ve been there. We know what it’s like. We have a better perspective, in a sense. How can we not make it known with every ounce of our being?

This is all probably pretty much just a random rambling of ideas. (Maybe it’s still the lingering effects of the pain meds, who knows?) But I hope I’m making a point. Having experienced this little adventure, I’m hoping I will be more caring and sympathetic to others going through it; more effective in ministering to them.

And knowing that Christ has already endured all things on my behalf, I’m hoping that I will be more trusting in His plan and purposes for my life; knowing that He knows better than I do what it’s all about. I pray He gives me eyes of faith to see things as He would have me, from His perspective. His perspective is the clearest and best. And as we celebrate this Christmas season, I pray you find peace and hope in Christ as well.


Gregg Metcalf said...

Beautiful post! Well said! Great analogy. Glad all went well.

Anonymous said...

Aye Men! great post, my dear brother.

"He was made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted" - Hebrews 2:14-18

There wasn't an ounce of mindless rambling in this post. You preached a sermon full of real-life illustration! Thank you for the instructive encouragement!