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    I write and speak on all sorts of topics: ancient Christian spirituality and the Eastern Orthodox faith, the Jesus Prayer, marriage and family, the pro-life cause, cultural issues, and more. You can contact Cynthia Damaskos of the Orthodox Speakers Bureau if you’d like to bring me to an event. This Calendar will let you know when I’m in your neighborhood.

 

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Tuesday
Apr231991

On Taking the Wrong Test

[The NOEL News, Spring 1991] 

Did you ever study for the wrong exam? There you were with freshly sharpened pencils and a head full of trigonometry—and you were handed a blue book and a list of essay questions about the Spanish-American War. Oh no!

There are times that I wonder whether the pro-life movement is confused about which test we’re taking. To hear us talk, you would think we were engaged in a test of our strength, a test of whether we will win or lose in a series of public events. Those times we lose (often unfairly, due to persistent hostility and distortion of our message) we retreat angry if not bitter, resolved to really smash them next time.

What if we’re taking the wrong test? Perhaps God is not so much testing our human power to succeed as much as our willingness to grow in his grace and discipline. For example, do you love your enemies? Pray for them who despitefully use you? If you are reviled and persecuted, do you rejoice and even leap for joy? What about turning the other cheek? Taking up your cross? Letting his strength be perfected in your weakness? If we took a good look at the exam sheet, might we find some of these questions there?

This is not to say that we give up the fight and passively allow ourselves to be run over. We are called to work his works courageously; one who retreats is a coward and a traitor. But if in this fight we face oppression and persecution, the Lord tells us we are blessed. Let us not take these sufferings as a sign that something is going wrong. In fact, it’s a sign that something is going right.

You see, God does not only want to save babies. He wants to save us — to wean us from our self-love, to break our hearts so that his love can pour in, and then out to a hurting world. Throughout history God has used the uncomfortable tools of rejection and persecution to change his people and to change his world. It was the path he chose, himself, on the cross. This is the first chance our generation has had to taste this bittersweet lesson, and it is a precious gift if we will only receive it. The martyrs before us were torn by lions, burned, impaled; we are only being asked to endure frustration, misunderstanding, and ridicule. Apparently God does not have a high estimation of our endurance. But whatever we share of that ancient lesson, let us embrace it as a path to the center of his heart.

Mark Twain wrote of a man tarred, feathered and ridden out of town on a rail: "If it wasn’t for the honor of the thing, I’d have rather walked!" A gift of suffering for his name’s sake may not be the gift we’d prefer—couldn’t he give us ease and pleasure and victory? "For the moment, all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11). Perhaps one of our tests is on whether we can pass laws protecting unborn life. But another test is surely whether we will let our pride be broken and our boasting stilled; whether we will reject our own power and trust only in his arm to save; whether we will take our place with the persecuted and despised of all ages who have endured to the end for his sake. For if we do, on the day when all the tests are over, we will certainly see his hand stretched out to us in welcome—a hand that still bears a scar.

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