Monday, September 10, 2007

First, the Suffering...

Imagine yourself lying on the floor in the center aisle in a large church. Imagine that you are lying face up, looking at the ceiling above the main section of the sanctuary. This is a photograph I recently took of the cross on the ceiling of the sanctuary at the church I attend. Yes, I laid myself down on the floor, looked up at it, and snapped a few shots. No, there was no worship service happening at the time.

Our Pastor preached a thought-provoking sermon last night about how we sometimes suffer unjustly in life. Acts of peace avenged with acts of violence. Standing up for the downtrodden and in turn being attacked and trodden down, physically and emotionally. Random acts of kindness turned into cause for ridicule and humiliation. Being laid off from a job after years of faithful service - just before retirement benefits kick in.

The local newspaper here in Charlotte is running a series looking back on the desegregation of Charlotte schools fifty years ago. Who were those first black students? Who were the ones that hurled saliva, stones, and bottles at them? Where are they all now? What injustices and horrible treatment did they suffer and/or inflict at the time and as a result of those events - and what has been the outcome? Some of the photos are gruesome: angry white people ridiculing and spitting on black students who wanted to attend schools they had every right to attend. One young woman, in particular, matriculated at a local high school, but the abuse she suffered was so horrific that she withdrew after only four days.

Integrating hotels, interstate buses, restaurants, colleges and universities, beaches, social clubs, neighborhoods, and even certain industries and business sectors... those moments in America's not-so-distant past served not only to define the courage of some and the malice of others, but they also stand today as prime examples of when the righteous suffered at the hands of those intent on doing harm. In the end, though, justice, fairness, and righteousness prevailed. (Some would say - and are saying - that in these last 15 years, there have been great advances in turning back the tide of desegregation, that some of our schools and cities are as segregated now as ever in our nation's checkered history. That could be the theme of dozens of blogs, but I can't take on that topic now.)

Back to the events of yesterday - the pastor read various places in Scripture that point out that these present sufferings do not compare to the glory that will come to those willing to endure them and stand strong, holding on to their faith and to the Author and Finisher of Our Faith. The heart of the Gospel is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to earth, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, not because He sinned, but for the sins of all humanity in order that we can be restored to a relationship with God the Father. Hence, Christ is the supreme example of the righteous suffering and dying for the unrighteous. (For anyone interested, he referred to Romans 8:18; Luke 24:25-26, and I Peter 2:21-24. ) He suffered and died, but then He rose again --> that's the glory of Easter.

But enough preaching...

Two phrases that the pastor used over and over last night were these:
"First the suffering, then the glory.
First the cross, then the crown."

I trust he won't mind if I splice those two for my own purposes.
I will "cut and paste" those two phrases and say this:
"First the suffering, then the crown."

Yesterday while eating lunch at the home of someone I love, someone who shall remain nameless, I bit down into something very hard and cracked off a piece of a molar. Yes, the inside part of a lower right side molar broke off.

Ouch - as though I needed yet another reason to cry!
Again I will say, "ouch!"

After I dried my tears, Steve and I went to CVS for Anbesol and what my brother described as "temporary filling." Yes, CVS sells a product that can be molded into a little ball and squeezed into a broken tooth to protect it until a dentist can be seen.

Upon our return, I called my dentist's emergency number and left a message. Thanks be to God - he called me back in less than an hour. Said that those temporary fillings don't often hold, but if it works, great. Told me to make an appointment to see him as soon as possible.

Dropped Daniel off at school this morning just before 7:30 - which is the exact time that the dentist office opens. I am glad to report that his school is less than five minutes away from aforementioned dentist office. Thanks be to God - they lined me up for an 8:30 appointment.

In order to fill the next hour, Kristiana and I went to a nearby coffee place to talk about the possibilities for growth and "a real education" if she continues homeschooling as opposed to going to traditional school. It was a fabulous conversation; we are both excited about some of the plans we laid out. Drank my soy white mocha - yum - then brushed my teeth - who can go see the dentist with coffee breath? Yuck!

Hurry up and wait.

At 9 am, the nurse took an x-ray. Don't you HATE those bitewing things they put in your mouth? I always think: "This time it really is going to rip my tongue out at the root." Anyway, I had a friendly chat with the nurse while waiting for the dentist.

At 9:30, he came to the room where I sat petrified in my seat - but I uttered not a word of complaint because his office had been kind enough to fit me in on very short notice. He looked at the x-ray, filed down the sharp edge of my tooth, and said quite matter-of-factly, "You need a crown."

First the suffering.
Then the crown.

All afternoon yesterday as I cried off and on with the discomfort, I thought about the issue of pain and suffering. It was another example of Perfect Divine Timing - I had no idea that's what the pastor's evening sermon would be about.

I thought about how blessed I was to have Steve right there with me when it happened and how quickly we were able to get to CVS.

I thought about how sad my children were as they watched me writhing in pain. Later on and with tears in her eyes, my daughter told me that it would be very difficult for her to watch me suffer with an ongoing illness or some constant source of pain. Indeed. Immediately, we thought of other children (some that we know and the countless millions that we don't know) who are daily in that very predicament, children and young adults that are now added to our prayer lists with a new determination to not forget them or their needs.

I thought about the millions of people who do not have access to a dentist, nevermind one who will call them on a Sunday afternoon and assure them that help is 24 to 36 hours away, that all they have to do is come in the next day and make an emergency appointment.

Not to mention all the people who aren't able to afford the cost of going to the dentist, even just for a check-up, nevermind the cost of building a crown.

I thought about all of that and cried even more.
As though I needed another reason to cry.

Tomorrow at 8:30 am EST, I will be back at the dentist's office waiting for him to begin the construction of a temporary crown.
Silently thanking God that I didn't crack a front tooth, vain woman that I am.
Thanking God for a competent and attentive dentist.
Thanking God for dental insurance.
Thanking God that the suffering is expected to last for such a short time.
And looking forward to the crown.


Shelby said...

oh dear I'm sorry about your pain.. I do hope your dentist appointment is very helpful and that your pain is eased quickly..

Amy said...


This is a beautiful, clever, and to the point piece of writing. I love the photo, the analogy of the crowns, and the "right on" writing. Amen, sister, and I hope the appointment goes well tomorrow.


Lisa said...

Great stories. So clever. I was right there with you reading through it. Love the twist of first suffering then the crown!

Hope all goes well and you're pain free soon.


jmgb said...

you're so witty:) it's amazing how fluid the lessons God teaches us are, how applicable and visual to our lives.

as far as the aforementioned segregation piece, it's difficult for me touch on as's so charged. america pretends she's come so far, all along disregarding issues of inequality (such as racism) are rooted in the flesh, in the humanity, and often, in the heart of man.

laws and time alone do not change history; revival, repentance, and humility do.