The Gardener

It is the gardener who decides how to best use (and enjoy) what he plants.  Some plants He will prune, some he will move, and some he will harvest.  He fertilizes, waters and cares for them all.  He allows some flowers to go to seed and he "picks" others while they are young.  How very difficult it would be, I imagine, for the individual plants to understand his ways. 

I visited a family from the interior caring for Bernaldo, a 57 y/o man who had been ill for several months.  Prior to that time he had been the picture of health.  His illness had begun with diarrhea and vomiting, both black, decreased appetite, followed by weight loss and severe lack of energy.  He was taken to the hospital, twelve hours away, and was found to be extremely dehydrated and pale.  He was hydrated and some basic tests were run.  A large mass was found in his abdomen and, without the aid of any 1st world tests, the local doctor correctly diagnosed advanced cancer involving the liver.  After two days in the hospital, he was discharged home to die.  There are no nursing homes, hospice, or home nursing care here.  He stayed in a shack a couple blocks from the hospital, cared for by his family.  He laid in a rede (hammock) in a poorly ventilated, hot, fly-infested, cinder-block room with a cement floor.  I visited him there daily and was so blessed to see this simple river family care for their loved one.  Their job was difficult as Bernaldo was highly agitated and in severe pain (and without the aid of the pain meds that are within a prescription’s reach in the States).  He vomited frequently and had frequent, foul-smelling diarrhea.  His son, daughter, wife, and several grandchildren faithfully kept him somewhat clean and "comfortable".

I was able to communicate to Bernaldo and his family that yes, in fact, he was dying, and that there was no human way to extend his life.  I shared with him and his family about the reality of eternal life and Jesus’ love for each of them.  I prayed for him and his family, bought some injectable medicine for vomiting, and encouraged the family in their excellent, loving care.  He died about three weeks after release from the hospital.

In the same river community where Bernaldo lived, our friend’s daughter ran off with a young man to live in the bush.  Romantic love is also blind in the Amazon!  Two years later, our friend (Zeka) found his toddler grandson being whipped daily with a strap and tied up all day in the corner of a room because he would cry.  Zeka "stole" his grandson and brought him to me to examine.  The little boy was swollen from malnutrition, had many scars from the whippings, but otherwise was about the most beautiful child you could imagine. 

Zeka, an illiterate lover of Jesus for eight years, has lived on the remote rivers of this region all his life, experiencing the trials and difficulties of such a life.  Thirty years ago, his toddler sister was stolen by a local Indian tribe and never seen again.  Only thirty years ago!  Also, a few years ago his son was maliciously stabbed repeatedly by an angry drunk man and left for dead.  One night months later, his recovered son, also drunk, encountered this same man and stabbed and killed him in revenge.  He subsequently fled the region and rarely returns, fearing retribution.  Last week, another of Zeka’s sons, age 43 and father of seven, died of vomiting and diarrhea.  I had a long conversation with Zeka this week and he is struggling with the so familiar question of, "Why?" in the above circumstances.   

Zeka has a genuine desire to know the truth and he is learning that truth is not a philosophy but rather a Person.  He is wrestling with the same decision that we all face; what type of faith we will choose, "I will worship God if…" or "I will worship God, no matter what, and trust Him and His purposes."  In the former, we create our own god and give our idol what characteristics that we think it should have (this represents most people around the world in both 1st world and 3rd world cultures).  In the latter, we surrender our ideas about God to a pursuit to know Him as He is, not how we want Him to be.  So many people today are deceived into thinking that we must understand to believe.  They are so incredibly arrogant and don’t see it.  Only God can completely understand!  To think that a person will believe only what he/she knows and understands is comical and yet many "intelligent" people embrace this world view of ludicrous relativity (every person has varying degrees of understanding).  These people actually operate by faith many times daily but won’t admit it, either because of denial or because they simply choose to see what they will. 

Zeka is deciding again whether he will trust a God that has surely demonstrated His love in the most profound manner (coming to this crude and cold world and living and dying as a man) but Who has also allowed these difficult circumstances.  Jesus told us the truth, however, in that we would have much difficulty in this life but would also be able to experience joy and peace that can be found in an intimate, trusting relationship with Him, a relationship that would continue beyond this short life.

It was Job who said, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord."  The early Christians and many since have suffered way beyond their ability to understand (Paul was called to a ministry of suffering!).  And yet they found peace and life in trusting the Gardener and His purposes.  Zeka (like all of us) is facing things beyond his faith and beyond his ability to understand.  When we recently talked, we were able to clarify the choices before him (understanding vs. trusting proven love).  I am confident that he is currently choosing well and maturing greatly because of it, though it is a daily battle for him, just as it is for any of us who have suffered or loved one suffering.

It is the Gardener who decides.  Will we trust Him?

 

Further Thoughts:

 

To hear, we must choose to listen.

Be these in the hands of God:  a pawn, an instrument, a tool, soft clay…

It is not our teaching that impacts people as much as our passion.

We have been called not to preach, to teach, to serve, or to heal; but to love.

We are not called to do something great in the Kingdom.  We are called to abide with the King.

To live with a controlling person is to live without an identity.

To live with a domineering and overbearing person is to live as a slave.

God is more interested in what He’s doing in you than in what He’s doing through you.             Not original

One must be quiet of heart to see the unseen and to hear His “still, small voice”.

Many equate being "Christian" with being nice/kind, but loving another often requires tender and compassionate words and actions that will not be perceived as nice/kind.

 

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