Delmer is the resident “Evangelist” at the Charleston SDA Church. Delmer is a constant reminder that we are called to live in what some scholars call the already/not yet reality of the kingdom. You see, Delmer is an 80-something-year-old quadriplegic. Honestly, in the half hour I spent with Delmer, He taught me more than I could have ever shared with Him throughout the entire weekend. I spoke Saturday morning on the paradigm in which Jesus understood human suffering. We looked at examples of Jesus’ own understanding of God, human suffering, the ageless question of “Why,” and how Jesus, therefore, responded as God (and a man) to human suffering on planet earth.
When I finished the presentation, I walked to the back of the church to shake the hands of those who had decided to spend their Saturday morning with me. At the end of the line came a dear gentleman named Delmer. He moves his chair with a straw-like apparatus that he operates with his mouth.
Delmer’s speech is severely slurred; one sentence can sometimes take minutes to communicate. But with tears in his eyes, after hearing everything I just said, he whispered, “One day, I’m going to dance with my Jesus on streets of gold.” It’s difficult for me to capture and translate the emotion of that moment, but I just about fell apart. You see, Delmer is the resident expert on this question of “why” when it comes to human suffering. The traditional answers don’t cut it for him. He has wrestled all his life with this question—not as a scholar, not as a theologian, not as a preacher, and not as someone who has never suffered. He’s wrestled with this question from sitting in his electric wheelchair that he operates with his MOUTH! I wish you could have heard him yelling “Aaaaameeeeen!” each time I made a significant point about freedom, control, risk, what God can and can’t do, and the other variables that must be considered to begin to make sense of why life looks the way it does here on planet earth. Delmer next shared with me the answers he has found in his own searching and crying out to God. This process took him about 30 minutes. His explanation was no longer theological; this was real. Delmer gave me more insight than I would have ever had the courage to ask for. Lastly he said, “I want to hug you for what you shared today. What you have presented this morning is the closest to what God has taught me about how I wound up in this chair that I have ever heard from anybody.”
As I looked at Delmer, God began to whisper to me too. I began to imagine what Delmer’s life will look like in the kingdom. Then I began to imagine what Delmer’s life could look like right now if God’s will could be done for him. I began to imagine what Delmer’s life would have looked like if God’s will could have always been done for Delmer. Then I felt God say to me, “This, THIS, is how I have always looked at Delmer. Not as a quadriplegic! But as I intended him to be and how he one day will be.”
You see, none of us have ever asked to be born. And none of us have ever asked to be born into the circumstances and situations into which we are each born. None of us have ever asked to be born in the conditions we were born. Some say, “God made you just the way you are.” And I understand what sincere folks are trying to say by this, but nothing could be further from the truth. What we are is nothing like what God originally intended for us. Each of us, to some degree (and some more than others), have been affected by “free will.” And too often it has been “free will” abused rather than used for the purpose it was originally given of loving and being loved. My interaction with Delmer taught me, in my own heart, that God was calling me to look at Delmer radically different than what my physical eyes could see. God was asking me to look at Delmer with an imagination sanctified by a belief in how God sees Delmer. And not to apply this only to Delmer, but God was impressing upon my heart the truth of applying this to everyone with whom I come into contact. God looks at none of us as we are, or as we have become. Rather, God looks at us as what we were originally intended to be and what we could be again through restoration of His love. He sees each person on planet earth as “holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:4 TNIV). And God works diligently in each and every person’s life to restore them to a way life that is so beautiful that we can hardly imagine it.
This week, don’t just look at people as they are. First remember that God loves all of us not based on what we were intended to be, what we are, or what we will be. Instead, God loves us because of what He is, and that is love. Loving others is simply what Love does, regardless of the attributes, traits, or condition of the object. Second, none of us asked to be born into this condition. God realizes this. Therefore, in light of God’s unconditional love, imitate God and look at the people with whom you come into contact the way God does. Look at them through the lens of what they were originally intended to be, and ascribe to them the infinite worth that Calvary bestows on each and every one of them. Live in Love toward them. And do so in the hope that one day, all things will be restored. Simply by doing this, you are setting in motion the very qualities that bring that future restoration of the kingdom into to the present age; you confront life as it is tragically done in this age and enlarge God’s future kingdom in the present here and now.
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view . . .” 2Corinthians 5.14-16. [Italics added.]
For all of you who were praying this past weekend in Charleston, thank you. Many were blessed by what God did through those four presentations. However, I have to confess that I believe I’m the one who walked away with the biggest difference. Thank you for praying for last weekend and Delmer, if you’re out there, most of all, thank YOU.
This weekend, beginning May 27, I’ll be at Vancouver Island Camp Meeting at Nanoose Bay Pentecostal Camp in British Columbia. Then, starting Monday, May 30, I will be at Lake Junaluska Camp Meeting in Lake Junaluska, NC all next week.
Please keep both of these events covered in prayer too.
Love like Christ and keep building the kingdom.
Much love to each of you.