US ARMY HOSPITAL, MUNICH, GERMANY
The doctor says for the fifth time, “Smooth waters run deep.” Then he looks at me like it’s a question. This is starting to irritate me. The only response I can think of is, “OK! And…?!” All the time wondering, “Who’s the one with the mental problem here?” Their prognosis: The psychosis was too deep to expect any progress. Arrangements would be made for me to be transported back to the US and cared for in a VA Hospital.
On my third day there I heard the voice of my childhood friend. You see, I grew up sitting, lying on or under church benches hearing the preaching, singing and praying of sincere, country people. The times I had responded to invitations to come to Jesus couldn’t be numbered. I know those trips to the altar started early because some of my earliest memories are of making my way to the altar bench, just raising my elbows and leaning. Over those years Jesus’ gentle voice and gathering presence became a familiar treasure of my life.
I hadn’t heard that voice for a while. But now, as always, it filled me with a settled warmth and safety. When He spoke, I was at home. He knew what had been happening and what brought me to that place. He had watched as I had made the life-conclusions a few nights before. All the evidence from the many short life-times that I had lived came to an abrupt collision and formed an inescapable summary. The chameleon had run out of color changes. So many switch-back curves had been traveled at full throttle. So much life had been lived, adapting, performing to meet expectations. Burned out and used up, I came to a final life-conclusion: Human life is the most degrading, humiliating experience possible. Not one justifying shred of evidence was in view. I had seen what humans do and participated in much of it. Deploring every moment I had lived, I gathered up the sum and total of a life named Terrell Lee Clark, threw it into the garbage and walked away.
He had watched that happen. Jesus had been there watching that happen.
He softly said, “Terry, I know how you feel. I have seen everything human beings have ever done. Believe me, I’m humiliated too. But I’d like you to see the difference in our responses to that. You’ve decided to not be a human being… and I chose to become one.”
Then He flooded me with how He feels toward human beings. I was drowned in a sea of indescribable passion and I saw Him burning, being consumed by that love. Love that continued to shine and didn’t look away in disgust even as He was tortured by human perversion.
For the first time in my life, I understood the Cross. I had believed it even as a child. It had been applied to me personally, over and over again. But this was different. I could taste it. I could feel the reason for the Cross, the expression to the human world of The Way, The Truth, The Life and the exposure of its counterpart for the farce that it really is. Logically, God is God and He could wipe everybody out and start all over. He’s come pretty close to it more than once. But God is also a father. The Cross, with his only human Son hung on it, was the father of all mankind saving His children. Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, Mighty God, the everlasting Father, stepped in front of the eighteen-wheeler loaded with the judgment for our insults and snatched us out of the way. Sure, He had options. He had a choice, technically. But love doesn’t really have a choice. Love takes whatever measures are necessary to act for someone else’s good. Jesus asked me, “Now, what are you going to do?” I didn’t really have a choice, either. In that moment the reason to be a human being was clear. Jesus had swept aside the ashes of a fried brain and given me a brand new mind.
There was an immediate disruption of the routines in that hospital. The doctors changed their prognosis from “no hope” to “recovering satisfactorily” and I was released by the end of the week.
Another hellion saved by the personal intervention of Jesus. Yes, but much more. One way or another we are all obliged to admit that the sanity of this world and the safety of our own way of thinking are neither sane nor safe.
In Isaiah 55 we can hear our Father’s voice, “Why do you spend yourselves for food that does not satisfy and things that do you no good? If you are thirsty, come to me. If you want the real thing, you must come get it from me. My thoughts are different from your thoughts and your ways are completely different from my ways. You can’t even imagine what I have in mind for you. So, come to me! Where there is only briers and thorns, it will become lush and fruitful.” (my paraphrase)
See John 7:37-39
The challenge of the Bible is for us to be transformed. Romans 12:2 challenges us, “Don’t be conformed to this world’s behavior and customs, but be transformed by the complete renovation of the way you think. Then you will be walking proof of who God is and what He wants.” (my paraphrase) This transformation can only happen by one supernatural phenomenon, the Cross. The death of Jesus Christ and the blood He bled cleanses us and frees us from the grip of this world’s thinking. We become a new creation, motivated by God’s agenda, based on His perspective in every detail of our lives. This transformation does more than give us insight into how we “should” act and think. It puts a switch in our hands so that we can, with the act of our will to choose, think His thoughts and act out what He wants to do. That switch, “your cross”, is for every thought you would tend to entertain, every reaction to your environment and circumstances. In short, the power to live the life of Jesus right here and now.
According to the first verse of Romans 12, that life is one of daily presenting our bodies to be a flesh and blood extension of Jesus – to think the thoughts He is thinking, walk in the steps He is walking and love with the love He is loving. That is to be played out in the moment you are now living, in the circumstances you are now in and toward the people God has sent you to. You, as God’s redeemed child, have been given the power of choice. You can refuse to be dictated to by the “sanity” of the world and the self-sufficient disposition of your own heart.
The sacrifice may seem to be more apparent in a place like the Sudan. There, many times today, a redeemed child of God will refuse to deny their Savior and wait for the impact of the bullet or the blade that will sever them from the “life” of this world. But as a “living sacrifice”, the choice to reject my normal reaction to an unexpected event or undeserved criticism and allow Jesus to react is clearly the same choice. To switch from my usual self-preservation mode to give way to the disposition of Jesus is not merely the “religious” thing to do. That is my life as a reconstituted human being. I am either “crucified with Christ “and living His resurrected life or I am still a prisoner in the insanity of independence from God. This life clearly requires a continual determination to flip the switch every time.
“Anyone who wants to be my disciple must deny himself, daily pick up his cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23
“My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.” – John 10:27 (See John 12:26)
The only rational reason to be a human being is God’s reason: “For God so loved…”