Life’s been challenging lately. A bulging schedule was looming when I became one of the caretakers for my dad as he recovers from some life-threatening infections and a whopping case of pneumonia. While every minute with him was spent right where I wanted to be, there have been a couple of times when I have definitely not been the qualified caretaker.
Like the night I just could not get awake enough to help him out of bed and to the bathroom. I had cautioned him “Do NOT get up without my help,” so he called me. Then, just as sure as the world, I, in my sleeping stupor, took him a TV tray instead of his walker and set it down in front of him. The sweet patient just looked up at me, still with trusting eyes and said, “Now, what am I supposed to do with this?” Another time, during the same night, I took him a chair and we repeated the episode. With caretakers like me, who needs an infection to threaten his life?
Then there was the morning last week when I was diligently helping Dad with word puzzles. His speech therapist was all about word searches and math problems. ( I didn’t know this, but really a speech therapist is a mind-sharpening wizard.) At any rate, I thought I was pretty much on top of it, giving Dad hints about searching for the most obscure letter in the word first or spotting any double letters. I was sure that this therapist was right about this mental sharpness being important to his safety and his ability to go back to normal healthy living.
Then I ran home to get a quick shower while Dad was in physical therapy. The mental sharpness coach (me) had come to Jacksonville this time without any deodorant. I had spent every last second I had at home accomplishing things at Dad’s house, so, realizing I now needed to stop at the dollar store and get deodorant, I rushed out with all my belongings, threw them in the back of my SUV, did a few final things like throwing clothes in the dryer and replacing some items I had used and drove like a maniac back toward town. I pulled with Dale Earnhart speed and agility back into the sixty-five miles-per-hour traffic on the four-lane highway. Hearing something falling over and crashing in the back of the SUV is pretty much a daily occurrence when you’re living in three places and carrying cleaning equipment and ladies’ day visuals and walkers and a bookstore in the vehicle. I didn’t think much about it till I had traveled a block, felt a rush of cold air passing through the Pilot and glanced in the rearview mirror to see its entire rear-end contents all over the highway. God was surely with the mental sharpness/safety coach (who obviously had not latched the hatch) and everybody endangered by her carelessness, though I was a sight dashing out into that traffic to recover the debris. (No human harm or casualties, but, if I had your phone number in that multiple-crunched new phone I had, note that I do not have it any more.)
Jesus used a term in talking to the Pharisees that would aptly describe my lessons with Dad that morning before my highway catastrophe. In Matthew 15, just after they (the Pharisees, the self-appointed Jewish do-as-we-say leaders) had criticized Jesus’ disciples for eating with unwashed hands, Jesus observed that they were only honoring God with their lips, while their hearts were far from Him. He observed that the all-important (in their minds) washing of hands was not even a command. It was their own tradition that they were attempting to enforce as law. What happens next is pretty funny.
Jesus turned around to explain to his followers the exchange that had just occurred between himself and the Pharisees. He was explaining the relative spiritual unimportance of what goes into a person’s mouth when compared with what comes out of his mouth. At this point the disciples asked Jesus, the omniscient One, if he was aware that He had offended the Pharisees. (It’s funny that the disciples thought they had been more perceptive about the feelings of the Pharisees than had the Messiah.)
It was then that Jesus used the humorous analogy that seemed to fit my situation so aptly last week. He said in verse 14:
Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.
My mom used that phrase a lot when I was growing up: when I tried to help my younger sister with her math homework, when my dad would try to give someone driving directions or when one of us asked her about the best way to lose weight. She would say, “that would be the blind leading the blind.” I’m sure she would have used the phrase had she seen me with the TV tray or the word-find book last week.
But the humorous analogy becomes less funny when it’s about spiritual things. The Bible is the Book of books. It is the only written Word we have that did not originate from this planet or from the mouths and pens of men. It’s the Word that contains the secrets to eternal life. How cautious we should be when we presume to be teachers of that Book. James said in chapter three, verse one:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
Every time I read that verse, I think about the blog and the ladies’ days and the classes and the books and the email questions and I almost tremble. I think about my teaching to women and my husband’s preaching and writing to men and women as we have opportunities to do small things in the kingdom. Will Glenn and I be judged with greater strictness? Is it inevitable that we will make mistakes in teaching? Are the criticisms that are sometimes leveled at our teachings (that we are judgmental or harsh in condemning sin) valid? Further, can we, at this point, stop being teachers and rely on others? Now, please don’t write and tell us that we need to keep teaching. I’m not soliciting encouragement or praise. Besides, I think the answer to the question about whether we can stop teaching is that we just can’t. Simple as that. Stopping would mean thinking about souls that we might possibly influence toward heaven who may not otherwise hear. Stopping would mean saying no to mission trips and questions and invitations and thinking, “But if we went, would we be able to help a church push forward?” or, “if we answered, could a marriage be strengthened?”
Now, we have enough common sense to know that God’s work would get done without us and that we are tiny pieces in the tiny puzzles of the tiny part of the world in which God has placed us for this brief moment in time. But, isn’t that what all of God’s people are? Isn’t it each of our responsibilities to do now, in our small spheres, whatever eternity demands of us, for the sake of souls?
So it’s not about whether or not we should be leaders of the blind, really, is it? It’s about making sure that we have the twenty-twenty spiritual vision to lead them correctly. In this context, I find a great deal of comfort, as I teach, in II Peter chapter one. Notice the following verses. Notice that, if a person is giving diligence to the building of a life from this list of virtues, she is is not blind and she can see things that are far off clearly (verses 8, 9). Best of all, verse ten says that she can be sure (confident) about her calling and election if she has these characteristics. That’s a big load off my mind. If I give diligence to this short list for my own life, then I am not blind. If I develop my own character to be fruitful, as this passage assures me that I can, and then I still have time and energy left to help someone else give diligence to this list, then the Golden rule would demand that I help another to the exceeding precious promises of verse four.
According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:
4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.
I can be a leader and be sure that I am not “the blind leading the blind.” I can avoid the pit, but I must be humbly “giving diligence” to my own spiritual vision.
Okay, I feel better, now. Let’s pray for each other as God’s women that we will be brave enough to lead other lives to Him and humble enough to have the spiritual vision that comes from “giving diligence” in our own lives.