Beve was supposed to go to Seattle this morning with a friend, but when he got out of bed, he said, "I feel a little light-headed." A moment later, he practically crashed into his dresser, then sat abruptly on the end of the bed and began sweating profusely, in a complete spin. I raced to the bathroom for his medication and he curled onto his side. We've been down this road a time or two, though not for quite a while now (thankfully!). It's called Meneire's Syndrome, an inner ear condition which affects his left ear, causing constant ringing and severe bouts of vertigo. It's hard to watch him sweat and and vomit and just plain suffer for hour after hour. To watch and be unable to do anything to alleviate his suffering. I used to hover, but that doesn't help either one of us. Now I bring him a bowl, hope the medicine kicks in, stays down, makes him sleep it off. This morning it worked. I left him in bed, the dogs sleeping beside him, and went down to the living room to read...and pray for him.
I got my favorite periodical in the mail yesterday (trust me, this does connect). It's called Books and Culture. It's a quarterly Christian book review. I look forward to it, read it cover to cover, including every letter, the editor's note, and all advertisements, which are for Christian universities, seminars, new publications by Christian publishers, and the like. I especially look for the ad for my alma mater, Regent College, just to see what's going on up there this quarter (The Living Lecture Series on October 8 & 9 with Walter Bruggeman called "The Church in Joyous Obedience." Sounds like a great event). So I made my way through it this morning, with half an ear open for Beve's voice. One of the first reviews was for a book called Culture Making by Andy Crouch, which will immediately go on my list. E was sitting in the living room with me, trying to read her own book, but I kept interrupting her to read from this review. I won't try to recount the review here, but in the middle was a line I simply have to quote (which is a quote from the book and unfortunately I don't have the page number, sorry to say):
"The strangest and most wonderful paradox of the biblical story is that its most consequential moment is not an action but a passion--not a doing but a suffering."
All the work, the action of Jesus led up to the suffering of the cross. And that's exactly the opposite of how we think about our own lives. Isn't it? We look at doing as the most important thing about ourselves--what defines us, what we're called to. And we look at suffering as suffering as what we endure, what we get through in order to do what we're called to do. But maybe we have it wrong. Maybe our suffering is the most important thing we ever do, the way in which we are most like Christ. It isn't that His public ministry wasn't important, of course. And certainly our work--our doing--is. But our suffering--Beve's lying on his ringing ear, staring at a fixed point on the wall, for example--aren't blips and bumps but consequential moments where the passion and suffering of the cross is worked out in us.
And if that's true, then we should really, as James says, "Count it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith producese perseverance."
After all, "Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him."