Monthly Archives: April 2014

One’s Personal Fog Index

When we plunge into a dense fog, only what is immediately around us remains visible. Objects at some distance, depending on the density of the fog, disappear. In the same way, personal events tend to distract us from noticing what is going on beyond our own person or family. It is a very unusual person who remains concerned about refugees in Lebanon when they’ve just lost their job or received a diagnosis of cancer.

Since my knee surgery a month ago, I’ve been dealing with discomfort, sleepless Sunrisenights and exercise that leaves me sore. This experience almost completely obscured my perspective on world events and the needs of others. The disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines plane hardly left a blip on my consciousness. The greater the intensity of one’s own immediate experience, the less aware we become of events in the world at large—even the concerns of friends.

My surgery is classed as routine. It is not to be compared with other, more serious procedures. Nor would I in any way compare my discomfort with those who suffer unremitting pain or the long-term and terrible effects of cancer. In no way can my experience be compared with those recovering from any natural disaster. Many, many people are worse off than me. But that is hard to remember when I’m trying to make my knee bend or sleep through the night. One’s own experience tends to throw a dense fog over what is external to one’s life, blotting out perspectives on others and their suffering.

This all sounds selfish and callous and yet it is natural to be fogged in when personal stress is highest. Our awareness and concern for others tends to shrink as we become absorbed in our own pain regimen.

What is true of the effect of pain and suffering is especially true of selfishness. We are all concerned about our own welfare, our needs, our goals, our hopes. And the more self-absorbed we are the less we perceive the concerns of other. Selfishness envelops us in a fog of our own making. Selfishness is terribly blinding and short-sighted.

Cormorants in flightSomehow we need to find a way to dissipate the fog that hides from our eyes the needs of others. We need to develop some way of maintaining an unselfish perspective that helps us rise above our immediate circumstances.

As Christians, we realize that only Christ, through the indwelling Holy Spirit, can overcome our natural self-absorption. “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others”(Phil 2:4). We need to ask God to help us lift up eyes of compassion to see those who suffer beyond us, even in Syria, in Iran, or in North Korea. Empathy does not come naturally. We must learn it. Our default position should be concern for others driven by empathy and compassion.

While being fogged in by our own concerns or trials may be natural, it should not be the reaction of a follower of Christ. What is your fog index? What is mine?

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Surprised by Love

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring the last few months I’ve been mysteriously blessed at unpredictable times. Suddenly, I would find myself overwhelmed by a sense of God’s love. These occurrences could not be traced to anything I had done devotionally. They were not because I had been more faithful than usual in prayer or studying the Word. Quite the contrary. Without warning, I would feel tears rise behind my eyes at the thought of God’s tender love.

Could it be due to physical vulnerability? This has certainly been a stressful time of stumbling around with a cane and then undergoing radical knee replacement surgery. In the aftermath of the surgery I’ve had to deal with pain and dark nights of sleeplessness. This whole experience has curtailed my rather organized devotions: reading an Old Testament passage and a New Testament passage then going through a prayer list.

I’ve begun to wonder if my devotional life has been too regimented, not spontaneous enough. I think that is part of it. God just wants to show me he loves me whether or not I’m able to complete my quiet time. Even when my Mini-daffodilsdiscipline crumbles leaving mere fragments of good intentions, he wants to assure me of his love.

This feeling could sweep over me due to the stanza of a hymn. Love divine, all love excelling. Joy of heaven brought down to earth. Or Meekness and majesty…this is your God…bow down in worship.

It could be sparked by rays of sunshine pouring in the window after days of gloom. God, the creator, loves to pour sunshine into our souls as wGoldfinch at Feederell as through our windows. He is a good and giving God.

It could be a bird on the feeder. The dazzling yellow plumage of a goldfinch set against the rather depressing brown of early spring in all the surrounding trees and flower beds.

It could be a touch from Mary Helen. Who am I to have been led to such a faithful helpmate!

Whatever the cause, I’m grateful to God for reminding me that he loves me not for anything in me or anything I’ve done. So often we feel that we must earn God’s affection. In reality, “Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”(Rom. 8:35,39). (Read this whole wonderful chapter in Romans.)

As a mother or father loves their child, so our Father loves us, not because of anything in us, but because through his redeeming work we have become his children. I’m sure I need to be reminded much more often that God’s love is tender, faithful, constant. And I’m sure that my expressions of love for him need to be more spontaneous. Such whispers from God are not frequent nor can they be programmed. But they are wonderful gifts of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.