"If you board the wrong train, it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction." ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I have been busy, overly tired, and dealing with chronic pain in recent weeks. My pain is certainly not severe compared to what a lot of people deal with on a daily basis. But any kind of chronic pain interferes with your normal activities and wears on you at times emotionally. I normally enjoy writing on my blog. But I have been lethargic even when it comes to writing. I still have several website reviews to write from my last trip, but I haven't even felt like writing about food! And when I don't feel like writing a restaurant review, you know something is wrong with me.

Yesterday I woke up in more pain than usual because I had moved wrong in my sleep, causing sharp pain and waking me up at 3:00 a.m. The pain kept me awake for quite a while and left me with a deeper ache all morning. I'm also hormonal. The hot flashes have returned with a little more edge to them. And yesterday I felt like it wouldn't take much to trigger tears. I didn't feel like leaving the house. (I'm a wimp.) I considered getting in my tub of hot water and just staying there instead of going to my Wednesday morning Bible study. But I really didn't want to miss or be so self-indulgent. And studying Revelation with Beth Moore in combination with the book I'm currently reading, Bonhoeffer, made it impossible for me to justify coddling myself. So in spite of feeling lousy, I went. It was well worth the effort.

Last week, one of our study questions was to name ways we sense a psychological dimension to the persecution Christians are beginning to face in our current Western culture. We talked about how the pressure to be politically correct, "tolerant" of everything, and not take a stand against anything controversial causes us to question voicing our convictions. Am I not being a nice person to speak my convictions if someone disagrees with me? Should I be silent and keep my convictions to myself so as not to offend others?

For any of us who genuinely wish not to offend others, this is challenging. It's easier to be silent than to speak in some situations. But if you always make it a practice to go with the flow -- and be liked -- rather than face unwanted consequences, you will wind up compromising in ways you shouldn't just to keep from rocking your own boat. It is incredibly self-serving and not the kind of person I aspire to be. One becomes an enabler of wrong by making "not rocking the boat" too high a priority. Believe me, I know a lot about this personally. Hindsight is 20/20. Sometimes you can wait too long to take a decisive stand and then it's too late to reverse the consequences.

You can see the result of this in all aspects of life, big and small. But nowhere in history is it any more obvious to us than 1930s Germany. Metaxas writes of Bonhoeffer, "As would happen so often in the future, he was deeply disappointed in the inability of his fellow Christians to take a definite stand. They always erred on the side of conceding too much, of trying too hard to ingratiate themselves with their opponents. The Bethel Confession had become a magnificent waste of words...."

[Bonhoeffer] had become convinced that a church that was not willing to stand up for the Jews in its midst was not the real church of Jesus Christ. On that, he was quite decided.

He was far ahead of the curve, as usual. Some wondered whether he was just kicking against the goads, but when someone asked Bonhoeffer whether he shouldn't join the German Christians in order to work against them from within, he answered that he couldn't. "If you board the wrong train," he said, "it is no use running along the corridor in the opposite direction."

Reading about the stand Bonhoeffer was willing to take and the consequences he willingly suffered makes any stand I have ever taken seem like standing up to a playground bully in comparison. But you have to start somewhere. If you cannot find it within yourself to take a stand on a playground (metaphorically), there is little chance you will find the courage when real pressure to do the right thing comes.

There are group study questions at the back of my book. I just discovered them this morning. The last question in my current chapter reading is this:

Can you think of other people who could have spoken out against wrongs that were being done -- but didn't? What were the outcomes? Could they have been prevented? Here's one to consider: What if Americans had gone to bat against Madalyn Murray O'Hare when she first began her campaign to remove prayer and Bible reading from public schools. Could the 1962 and 1963 Supreme Court decisions have been nipped in the bud? Could her attempts have been thwarted far in advance of their reaching the Supreme Court? What other rights -- religious or otherwise -- have been lost to citizens' unwillingness to get involved?

No one else in my study group is reading Bonhoeffer but me. However, one of the questions posed in group discussion yesterday was, "Are we (Christians) to blame in some ways for the current climate in our society? If we had said more, might things be different today?"

One of the earliest ways the German people of the 1930s went off track was in looking to the government as savior. It resulted in a nation putting their hope for change in an evil dictator. When they finally realized and experienced the horrible consequences, it was too late.

We can do this with our government. We can even do it with a pastor. 

I read Bonhoeffer in awe. He was a special man with a special calling at a very significant time in world history. He was not afraid to suffer. In fact, he considered suffering a part of his call and embraced it. He suffered in ways I can't imagine. I do not like suffering. If you lived with me right now, that would be obvious. I'm a baby. I have not developed the ability to take pain in stride yet. I feel overcome by a little shoulder pain at times. How would I ever endure suffering on a large scale?

Perhaps that is one of the reasons God is not instantly healing my shoulder and taking away the pain ~ as I would love for Him to. He knows I'm learning and growing from it. My growth is more important to God than my comfort.

I have a long way to go. I'm thankful He has never given up on me. I'm no Bonhoeffer and probably never will be. But the only reason my spine is any stronger than it once was is because God has given me opportunities to exercise it. And with His grace I have been willing to try.


Cathy (in Orlando) said…
Hi Shari,
I like a recent quote I wrote down about suffering: "Our crosses (suffering)...become places where we meet the divine power that is the only possible agent of our transformation." (don't know the source, without looking back)
The reading went on to say that the cross is "'a place of tension,' but that God works out our transformation in the midst of the tension."
Knowing people who've had chronic pain or dealing with migraines myself, it is somehow a comfort to know that God is in the middle of it doing something positive.
Sure hope you are feeling better soon. I'm praying that your writing joy will come back soon, too.

Shari said…
Thanks, Cathy! I sure do appreciate your prayers, as well as your response to my post. Part of the reason I think I may be hurting more right now is that I'm doing PT exercises on myself, trying to keep my tendinitis from going into full blown frozen shoulder. Pushing it further than it wants to go makes it ache. But it's better than the alternative. If my shoulder totally freezes up, it will take a long, long time to get well. There's not much you can do at that point.

I'm trying to take pain pills sparingly because I know the more often I taken them, the less effective they will be.

In everything, I always know that God has a purpose and a plan. There is something profitable in my having this challenge at this particular time.

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