On December 5, 2012, American medical doctor Dilip Joseph and two colleagues are driving back to Kabul, Afghanistan, after serving villagers that morning at a rural clinic. Suddenly a man waving an AK-47 blocks their path. More armed men jump out of hiding. For Dilip, it is the beginning of a nightmare—he’s being kidnapped by the Taliban.
So begins the description on the back of a very exciting book—a true story describing the events that forever changed the lives of Dr. Joseph and his companions.
Redemption. Forgiveness. Love. Grace and mercy. With heady themes like this, you might get the impression that Embrace Me is a difficult and demanding story to read. You’d be wrong. Intense, yes. Emotional, absolutely. But author Lisa Samson’s easy style and authentic dialog make reading this book enjoyable, not laborious. In many ways it reminded me of The Shack, another work of fiction used to convey Biblical truth.
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.
Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”
John 19:1-5 (and I highly recommend
reading the rest of the chapter)
Easter Lilies have come to symbolize the resurrection of Jesus, but for Good Friday, I find the Crown of Thorns to be more appropriate. The pretty red flowers are deceitful. The rest of the plant is a collection of horrors.
It was a recent Sunday morning, and I was struggling to stay engaged as we sang the same words over and over. In case you haven’t notice, many popular praise and worship songs have pretty repetitive lyrics. Praise Him… Praise Him… Praise Him… Praise… What should I make for dinner tonight? Him… That lady in front of me looks really fat in that tight sweater. Praise… How can that baby sleep through such loud music? Him… I don’t like that guy’s T-shirt… praise… huh?
Something (Someone?) jolted me back to alertness and I suddenly realized that I’d put my mouth on automatic while my brain ran in a zillion different directions. I was paying tribute with my lips, but my heart was far from God.
Frustrated and convicted that I needed to do better, I confessed my distractedness to God. I asked Him to teach me to worship Him with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. As so frequently happens, God surprised me.
December is a hectic month. Our normal routine is disrupted by the special events of the season, and the accompanying overload. Most of the year, I easily include some focused time with God in my day. Yet, at Christmas time, when it would seem to matter the most, I get distracted. By the time January arrives, I’m almost afraid to go to Him. I assume He’s angry with me, and He has every right. He’s been shoved aside while I shop, bake, and decorate, all supposedly in His honor. I’ve procrastinated, invented excuses, and declared my independence.
We find ourselves giving God the “silent treatment” for many reasons, but they boil down to three main categories. Either we think He failed us, or we have failed Him… or we’re just too apathetic to care. Perhaps God isn’t top priority right now. Oh, we call Him our Lord, and overall desire to follow Him, but our schedule is so busy, He’ll just have to wait until we have a spare moment.
Then comes the wake-up call. God doesn’t like getting the silent treatment any more than we do. The actual call takes many forms, but inevitably, something happens that forces me back into His presence. This year, it was being shunned by a good friend.
Last time I mentioned that I would post a guest blog about how it feels to be “thrown away.” This was actually written at the end of 2008. Next time I’ll post what happened in these relationships, and what our friend learned from it all.
Someone—actually, two people now—about whom I genuinely care has apparently decided to write me off entirely and close their world to me because of an argument we got into over a month ago. An argument in which neither one of us was entirely right or wrong. And the sad thing is that even when we were at our most heated, I had taken my time to very carefully choose my words, calling them out not through insults, but instead attacking the double standards and hypocritical views which they portray on a daily basis. Even in the midst of this letter I went out of my way to say that while I knew my words would hurt my friend, my intent was to illustrate the truth in love, and that I would rather cause pain with honesty than encourage delusion. I later wrote a follow-up email in which I apologized explicitly for my own faults in the prior argument, which I detailed to emphasize that I knew and admitted to exactly how I was wrong.
Perhaps worse yet is the case of the other friend I mentioned, to whom I let slip a light-heated and superficial sarcastic quip to which they took immediate and serious offense. Sadly, this person (much like any other who knows me at all) is fully aware of my barbed sense of humor…. The remark which upset her was never intended at all as an insult, and it was made at a time during which there was no disagreement between us. She simply misinterpreted my words as a harsh jab, took offense, and hasn’t spoken to me in weeks. …
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in relationships lately, and I’m concerned. So I’m wondering… is it just me? Or has anyone else noticed this too?
People seem to be throwing one another away. Sometimes, it’s just a conversation they aren’t enjoying. Sometimes, it’s the whole friendship.
With cell phones, texting, voice mail, instant messaging, Facebook and MySpace, it would appear that connecting with another person is easier than ever. And yet, I’m wondering if instead, people are becoming more distant.
There seems to be a change in perception. The person at the other end of whatever communication device you happen to be using becomes an icon, not a living, breathing, feeling human being. Don’t like the way the conversation is going? Stop responding to their texts. Tired of the friendship? Delete them from your contact list. Un-friend them on Facebook. No need to work through difficult issues. No need to consider anyone else’s feelings. No need to even say good-bye.