Russell and Duenes

Paragraphs Change People: You Never See a Flower

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Jesus aims to throw us back upon himself and his resources. We often imagine this to be an easy process, or at least rather painless. I think not. Idolatry and pride are no easy cure. God’s stripping them from us can be gut-wrenching, soul-assaulting work. Though it is certainly gracious. It brings us to decide whether we want him as our Lord, or whether we are simply hoping to use him to get to something other than him.

This came to me as I was thinking about my marriage, something I’ve been pondering quite a bit lately. I would be self-deceived if I were to say that I loved God always more than I love my wife. She is so very precious to me, and that’s as it should be. I cannot imagine my world without her. But if I am to love her, Christ must be my first and highest love, and by far. It is him to whom I must cling. His nearness must be my joy and my good. The beauty and wonder of Christ and the Church, its reflection in my marriage, must be what captures my heart. Her sanctification, my aim.

And yet my heart doesn’t work this way, and God knows it. But God will have me, and all of me at that. Things have not always been easy for my wife and I (and how could they be, she’s married to me, after all), and law school has put strains on our marriage which have thrown me back upon God. Yet he must pry my fingers from lesser things even more. How do I know? I feel it in my soul, the ways that I too often only pretend to esteem and prize Jesus above all others, for the sake of all others. I can feel in my bones his pulling from me my reliance and dependence on my wife for lasting joy, peace and satisfaction, deep things only Christ can ultimately provide. And I thought about what it might be like even to be without my wife through some happenstance, and the pain such a thing would bring.

Then the words of Richard Wurmbrand, the Romanian pastor imprisoned for his faith by the Communists, came to me: “And here comes the great need for the role of preparation for suffering which must start now. It is too difficult to prepare yourself for it when the Communists have put you in prison . . . I remember my last confirmation class before I left Romania. I took a group of ten to fifteen boys and girls on a Sunday morning, not to a church, but to the zoo. Before the cage of lions I told them, ‘Your forefathers in faith were thrown before such wild beasts for their faith. Know that you also will have to suffer. You will not be thrown before lions, but you will have to do with men who would be much worse than lions. Decide here and now if you wish to pledge allegiance to Christ. They had tears in their eyes when they said, ‘Yes.’ We have to make the preparation now, before we are imprisoned. In prison you lose everything. You are undressed and given a prisoner’s suit. No more nice furniture, nice carpets, or nice curtains. You do not have a wife any more and you do not have your children. You do not have your library and you never see a flower. Nothing of what makes like pleasant remains. Nobody resists who has not renounced the pleasures of life beforehand.”

To renounce them. To be thrown upon God alone. To have His Word in our hearts. To suffer for His sake, that we might be brought to him. This is the narrow road that leads to life. Do it, O Lord. Bring us along this road.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

August 28, 2013 at 10:35 pm

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