Can you imagine going a whole month without seeing yourself in a mirror?
If you’re a follower of my blog, you know that I’ve had ALS for almost 21 years, and that I’m totally paralyzed and home-bound. In addition to an excellent nurse visiting me once a month to confirm that I’m still alive, a very nice lady also comes to our home once a month to cut my hair. She came the other day to cut my hair so Mary maneuvered my wheelchair into the bathroom in front of the dreaded mirror (mirrors don’t lie). “Who is that guy with gray hair and big bags under his eyes?” I asked myself.
You see, unless I ask Mary or my caregiver to place me in front of the mirror, which, for obvious reasons, I rarely do, haircut time is the only time I have to face this 56 year old man in a wheelchair (a really disturbing experience).
In some ways, my journey with ALS almost seems like a bad dream, a really long bad dream, even more so when I don’t see myself in the mirror for long periods of time.
Except for the constant reminders of the wheelchair I’m sitting on and the eye-tracking (Look Ma, no hands) computer I’m using, I could close my eyes and almost imagine that I am still the healthy 36 year old man that I was before being diagnosed with this stinkin’ disease.
“…we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
Can you imagine someone picking out the clothes you wear every day – for 20 years? On occasion, when we’re having company, Mary will bring out three shirts and ask me which one I’d like to wear. But, other than those rare occasions, Mary or Sharlene, my caregiver and good friend for the last ten years, pick out the clothes I’m going to wear without any input from me.
As I was writing this post, I thought about an old black & white movie I’ve seen, titled “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” It’s about a narcissistic man, Dorian Gray, that, while examining his just-completed portrait, basically makes a pact with the devil that his physical appearance would remain just as it is in the portrait.
Over the period of several years, all of his friends age naturally, but Dorian‘s appearance remains the same as it was the day that he collaborated with evil. However, his now-hidden portrait reflects his soul, and this portrait becomes more hideous with every evil act he commits.
If there was such a thing as a mirror that reflected our soul, what would your reflection look like? (I have probably asked myself this question a thousand times since making a commitment to follow Christ some 35 years ago).
When looking into a mirror, we can see our physical imperfections, but for those who call themselves Christians, the Bible is the mirror of our soul. If we’re open to making changes to our spiritual imperfections (if we have “eyes to see and ears to hear”) the Bible will transform us.
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”(James1:22-25)
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Are you being transformed by the Mirror of your Soul?
If not, I hope and pray you’ll begin doing so today.
I recently read a blog post that reminded me of an incident that occurred a few years after Mary and I were married.
I was working for a company that required me to be on-call for one week per month. This was a few years before cell phones were readily available so we still used pagers. I still remember the sick feeling I’d get when I would hear that annoying beeping noise in the middle of the night or during holiday celebrations. I had to drop everything and immediately drive the 30+ miles to work.
Around two o’clock one morning, that annoying beeping noise woke us from a dead sleep. After walking over to the sink and splashing cold water on my face, I called the answering service and heard the message that I was needed at work right away.
While getting dressed, I opened my wallet and discovered that I didn’t have any cash. I quickly looked in Mary’s purse and found that she didn’t have much cash either. I told her that I was going to run by the ATM and get some money on my way to work.
Our bank was located on the service road of the freeway, right on my way to work. It was very convenient, but, even though the location was just off the freeway, it was fairly secluded. At that time, it was the only business in that area; a small building surrounded by dense woods. For this reason, and because the bank didn’t have a drive-through ATM machine, Mary didn’t like me going there at night. That night she again asked me to use the ATM in the convenient store near the front of our neighborhood.
I value Mary’s advice, but the convenient store charged a fee for using their ATM and our bank did not. It’s not that I’m cheap, I just hated paying unnecessary fees so I decided not to take her advice that night.
I had been to our bank’s ATM at night before but never at such a late hour. Other than a few dimly lit lights shining up from the landscaping in front of the building and a small light over the ATM machine, the area was dark and the woods surrounding the building were pitch black.
I parked my car in front of the small building and quickly walked up the sidewalk to the ATM machine. I got an eerie feeling like someone other than the ATM camera was watching me as I punched in the numbers on the keypad. I convinced myself that this was my imagination, but I was still so relieved when the cash popped out so I could finally return to my car and get out of there.
When I was about halfway back to my car, I heard footsteps on the sidewalk behind me. “Could you give me a ride?” the shaky voice of a woman asked. Thinking it was a set up and her boyfriend was going to pop out of the bushes and shoot me, I didn’t even turn around until I reached my car and opened the door.
She was young, twenty years-old at most. I looked over the top of the car as she nervously explained that her car broke down on the freeway. I only heard bits and pieces of what she was saying because I was planning a quick getaway and scanning the hedges in front of the building for any sign of her accomplice. Before even getting my answer, she began sheepishly walking towards my car as if I had agreed to her request.
Still suspicious, I mumbled something about being in a hurry to get to work and moved closer to the open door of my car. “PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HERE, I’VE BEEN RAPED,” she shouted as she rushed to my car and frantically tried to open the locked passenger door. I unlocked the door.
She asked me to take her home so her mom could accompany her to the hospital.
After driving a mile or so on the service road, she pointed to her car parked on the shoulder of the freeway and began telling me the horrifying story.
She was at a friend’s house watching a movie. She stayed later than she intended and later than her mom wanted her to. While driving home on the nearly deserted freeway, her car stalled so she parked it on the shoulder and turned the emergency flashers on. She waited in the car for about thirty minutes hoping that a police officer or a Good Samaritan would stop and help her. She finally gave up on that idea and decided to walk the three miles or so to a gas station to call her mom.
Thinking it wouldn’t be safe walking along the shoulder of the freeway, she decided to walk in the grass on the inside of the service road. She had only been walking for about five minutes when, seemingly from nowhere, a large man grabbed her from behind and carried her into the woods where he raped her. Following the brutal assault, the rapist fled one way and the traumatized girl fled the other way. Thinking that he might return to look for her, she hid behind the bushes in front of the bank to figure out what her next move would be. This is when I entered her nightmare, and she decided that I would be her next move.
Evil is the ultimate opportunist.
“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
Evil operates like a lion wandering through the wilderness looking for the young, the weak or otherwise vulnerable prey. An evil lion found a physically vulnerable young girl that night.
But evil doesn’t just search for the physically vulnerable, it also preys on the emotionally and spiritually vulnerable; those isolated by addiction, depression, abuse or one of life’s many other challenges that are so difficult to overcome without the help of others.
I can no longer help those in physical distress, but I can still do my best to help those in emotional or spiritual distress by giving them hope. As Christians, we all have the responsibility to help the hurting, even when, maybe especially when, we’re hurting.
If someone came to your mind when you read that, it’s probably the person that God wants you to help.
What are you waiting for?
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
I know people might read the title of this post and think I’ve decided to take a break from my usual hope-centered posts, but I haven’t; this post is also about hope.
A few years ago I was watching a show about ancient Rome on the History Channel. One of the most fascinating segments was on the incredible highway system the Romans had built throughout their empire. These Roman Roads were built to exact specifications to handle cart and foot traffic. This intricate network of roads facilitated trade and commerce as well as making it much easier for people to travel.
After several commercials, the show resumed and the subject was crime along these roads. Along with the increase of legitimate business – shops selling meat, produce and manufactured goods etc – came an increase in criminal activities. Prostitution, sex/slave trafficking, gambling, robbery, scams, murder and every other crime and temptation that was known at that time was available along these roads.
Suddenly I had a revelation; The Internet is our generation’s Roman Road!
Because many of us grew up seeing depictions of the Apostles dressed in shimmering white robes with halos around their heads, we tend to think they lived above or somehow outside of the filth of Roman society. But we know that Paul, Peter, John and millions of other Christians living throughout the Roman Empire used these crime-ridden and temptation-filled streets to travel and spread the “Good News.” These men and women faced dangers and temptations every day; many of these early Christians were once among those robbing or tempting travelers along these dusty roads just like many Christians today once participated in the dark side of the Internet. Even the setting for one of Jesus’ most well-known parables, “The Good Samaritan,” (Luke 10:30-37) took place along one of these dangerous Roman Roads.
I copied the following quote from an article (about the evils of the Internet) that I read online; “Because the Internet is as broad as the human psyche, it naturally encompasses all of the darkest manifestations of evil imaginable…”
I agree with this quote, but whether it’s a road system, television, radio or the Internet, the thing that facilitates or depicts both good and bad behavior, cannot itself be good or bad; it’s what we do with a medium that’s good or bad. So, even though there’s a lot of evil on the Internet, the Internet is merely a vehicle for what’s in the hearts of man.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, for the last 3 years I have been volunteering as an “Internet missionary” with a non-denominational Christian ministry called Global Media Outreach. Via the Internet and Cell phones, GMO reaches people with the Good News of Christ who cannot be reached in traditional ways. On a regular basis I receive emails and texts from people living in nations like Iran and Saudi Arabia, countries where it’s illegal to practice the Christian faith. In most cases these people find a GMO site through viewing one of our online ads or from doing an Internet search containing words such as God, Jesus, religion or Christian etc. Last week GMO emailed all of the volunteers a summary for 2012; over 195 million people were reached last year and over 26 million people made commitments or re-commitments to follow Christ.
Recently I read that the two most searched subjects on the Internet are those dealing with pornography and those dealing with matters of faith. As a Christian, this makes perfect sense to me – “…the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another…” (Galatians 5:17).
The “soldiers” (thoughts and spiritual influences…) of this war that’s going on inside of all of us are always searching to gain more territory. And, like the Roman highway system of two-thousand years ago, the Internet offers numerous opportunities for doing this. While pedophiles, sex-traffickers, pornographers, terrorists, scammers and other “soldiers of the flesh” are exploiting this modern-day Roman Road, Christians don’t seem to be capitalizing on this like I think we could and should be. Sitting on the sidelines and cursing the darkness is not an option for the “soldiers of the Spirit.” We must be engaged in this battle for the sake of the Gospel and to support and protect legitimate business and innocent people regardless of their race, religion or nation of origin. I get furious every time I hear about a marriage being destroyed because of Internet pornography or someone losing thousands of dollars through some online scam, and I believe we can do more to battle these tragedies.
To some extent, I am probably preaching to the choir here because many of those who read my blog are other Christian bloggers that are already engaged as soldiers in this war. And, as I mentioned, through GMO, this blog and in other ways, I too have been engaged in this battle. But I’m going to recommit and be more determined this year than ever before, and I hope many others will join me.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)