@ The Bridgeport Rescue Mission Fund Raising Dinner on March 31, 2011 with 650 Women in Attendance. What a night of celebration and honor to the Lord Jesus!
I KNOW I SAY NO
by Thad Barnum
Testimonies are born here. Where it hurts. Where people suffer. Where all we can do is cry out to God for help because there’s nowhere else to go.
Here. Stand here. Never leave here.
It’s where our Lord is.
Listen to the stories. They are all the same. Every one of them gets to Easter morning the same way. Through the Cross. We can’t avoid suffering. Not in this world. Eventually we’re going to find ourselves here. In need of a Savior. Because we’re lost. We’re scared. We need help. We need Him.
Here. He meets us here.
Even our children who grow up in Christian homes. They know the story. They say their prayers. They live the life. But eventually a day comes and they do what we all do. They enter the “valley of the shadow of death.” They know about evil. But suddenly they feel it. They feel the fear of it. The power of it.
The rod. The staff. The Shepherd. No longer just a story in the Bible.
It’s real. In a place called REAL. Where we find inside us the deepest cry the soul can ever cry: Are You Real? Really Real?
Testimonies are born here.
But not just testimonies. This is the exact place where discipleship happens. Where we grow up in Christ. Day by day. All our days. It’s here where we don’t play games. Where we keep our hearts open to Him. Our minds set on Him. Our wills given, in full surrender, to do what He’s calling us to do.
I sat across the table sipping my coffee. The pastor and I went out for breakfast just to catch up. I was visiting his church and this gave us opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and talk openly about the stuff of our lives. Inevitably we stumbled into one of the most pressing theological issues of our day.
At some point, I shook my head and laughed a little. He asked why.
“Because it’s amazing to me,” I said, “what seminary did to us! We become doctors of the mind and not the soul. We forget that the truth of God’s Word is intended to move from the mind so as to touch the heart. To impact us. To bring us to the place where we meet Christ and He meets us.”
“It’s my biggest defense!” he crowed.
“My mind. I thank God for seminary. It taught me how to build a fortress around my heart so I never have to deal with it. Or, actually, with anybody else’s for that matter. It’s how I protect myself when I’m in the middle of people’s suffering. I pull out the right quote from the Bible. I tell the right story from Christian history. I give them the right answer.”
“Well done us,” I lamented, admiring his honest sarcasm.
And with that, somehow, we were there. At that place.
He opened up.
For just a moment the fortress walls came down. His heart was a mess. And there was good reason for it. Things of the past were crushing him, controlling him, dictating every part of his life. And he knew it. He knew it was the cause of his physical and emotional issues. He knew it was affecting his wife, his kids, the church. But more, so much more, it distanced him from the Lord.
“It’s been this way for years,” he said.
“So why don’t you do something about it?” I asked.
“Don’t need to. I’m so good at what I do, no one really knows. Not really. Except my wife. And it’s easier this way. To be honest, I’m afraid of what would happen to me if I go there. I’m afraid I’ll lose my job. Afraid people will find me out. Afraid of what people will think of me.”
And then he paused. Like he knew he had no choice.
“But I’ll do it,” he promised.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I’ll go there. I know I’ve been avoiding it. I know it’s what the Lord wants me to do. A couple of times in my life I’ve sought counsel from people I thought could help but it just didn’t work. So I stopped. I didn’t press it. But I should have. Especially me.”
“Why especially you?”
“Because I’m a pastor. My job, like you said, is to be a doctor of the soul and not just a doctor of the mind. But look at me! I pay no attention to my soul. I spend all my time avoiding the very thing I know I need to do and it’s killing me inside. It’s killing my relationship with the Lord. And I know it.”
“Can I help?” I asked.
”Yeah. Call me in a month. Call me in two. Ask me if I’ve started. I know I say yes to this today but I know myself well enough that tomorrow morning nothing will change. That’s my fear. So call me.”
“But why won’t things change?” I asked, puzzled.
“Because I know I say yes to the Lord today. Yes to you. Yes to my wife. But when it comes time to actually do it?”
He paused. He put his head down. He said it slow. He said it real.
“I know I say no.”