October 12, 2011

Lessons From Oysters

If I read my Bible correctly, we as Christians should constantly be in a state of thanking our heavenly Father for His countless and ongoing blessings, even the so-called “little things.” For example, do you thank the Lord each morning when you take a warm shower? I do, because I have traveled around the world visiting many places where I could not get a shower—hot or cold. You should try taking a bath in a wraparound cloth under a village hand pump while the villagers watch. I turned out to be the best entertainment they’d had for many a day! Maybe you would prefer taking a bath out of a bucket while the cobras were inches away, or going into the bathroom only to find a 12-foot python in the tub. On one occasion when I did find a proper shower, I had to kill the scorpions that were scampering around the shower floor before I could take a “luxury” shower in very cold water. This is why I thank the Lord each morning as I enjoy my warm shower.
Along with the breathtaking landscapes, fulfilling lifestyles, and beautiful people that make visiting other countries so enjoyable, the more primitive conveniences of some regions can be challenging to those of us who are not used to them.
I’m thankful for sanitation because I’ve seen what life is like without it. I’m thankful for a wide variety of food because I’ve experienced what it is like when there is little food to buy. Here in America we have so many food options that it’s astonishing. And most of them are available any season of the year—unlike many places, where only one or two fruits are in season at a time.
I clearly remember visiting an orphanage in Romania in which the children were given one piece of fruit a week as a treat. I bought a banana and an apricot for each child, and you should have seen the excitement! Fruit was available, but at a high price. The majority of North Americans eat fruit every day and think nothing of it.
2011 1528 page20I’m thankful for basic health knowledge. One young mother I met overseas took her sick baby to five doctors and got medicine from each one, and then she gave the child all the medicine from all the doctors at once. When the child died, she sobbed, “I tried so hard! I went to all the doctors!” My heart ached for her lack of knowledge that had cost her child’s life.
Valuable Experience
One time while visiting a country outside the United States, my son David fell off his bike and broke his arm. I took him to the closest hospital only to find that it had no X-ray Department and no technicians, and the only doctor on duty didn’t have a clue about how to fix a broken arm. Thankfully, I had become a registered X-ray technologist in order to work my way through college. So I found a World War II field X-ray unit and a partial packet of film in the hospital shed, dusted them off, and took an X-ray of David’s arm. Then I showed the doctor how to hold David’s arm while I reduced the fracture and wrapped his arm in plaster. David was the bravest little boy I ever saw as he went through that ordeal without benefit of painkillers. And how thankful I was that I had learned what to do even though I’d never thought I would need that knowledge while I was serving as a college president overseas.
An Educational Journey
Naturally, as an educator, I’m expected to say that I am thankful for Christian education. When I look into the mirror, I see a man who has a wonderful Christian wife, two fantastic grown children, three beautiful granddaughters, a fulfilling career, and the marvelous conviction that God loves him. Yes, indeed, I thank God for a Christian education!
Born into a non-Adventist home, I had a godly grandmother who insisted that I attend church school—and she paid the bill. While this lasted only through the third grade, it was enough to convince me that I wanted to become a Seventh-day Adventist. When we moved to a city without a church school, I attended public school for five years.
Determined that I should return to a Christian environment, Grandma sold her home, moved to a small apartment in Orlando, Florida, and persuaded me to live with her so I could attend Forest Lake Academy. Bible classes and sincere Christian teachers rekindled my desire to follow the Lord.
I remained in Adventist schools until I finally received my doctorate at Andrews University. Then I continued to be in Adventist schools—as an administrator rather than a student. In Adventist schools I found teachers and friends who still encourage me in the Christian life. I found a wife who has stayed with me and loved me through illness, traveling jobs, overseas missionary service, and financial difficulties for 53 years. Am I thankful for Christian education? You bet I am!
Some things such as death, war, and destruction will never be over until Jesus comes. But many little things won’t be over either—things such as traffic jams, interruptions, long lines, flat tires, bounced checks, lost keys, stuck zippers, high prices, annoying people, and incompetence. These types of frustrating occurrences often make us feel as if we can’t win, no matter what we do. Ever had that feeling? I have. I saw a wooden plaque that said it all. The plaque read, “I am planning to have a nervous breakdown. I have earned it. I deserve it. I have worked hard for it. And nobody’s going to keep me from having it!” I had to laugh, but there was an element of truth in that plaque. More and more of us are crumbling under the stress of everyday living and are able to function only with the help of prescription drugs. According to some educational reports, an increasing number of mentally ill students are making it into college with the help of medicine. And when a student on drugs for psychological problems decides to discontinue them, we sometimes have violent incidents on campus.
God Is in Charge
As we deal with everyday stresses, it helps if we can remember that God is in charge of our day and of our life. He is less concerned with the wise management of your day than He is with the development of your character. One way that He develops character is to teach you to adjust to irritations without having a nervous breakdown. It’s all in remembering who’s in charge and reacting to irritations redemptively.
Years ago while reading a devotional book, I found an illustration of the wonderful way in which an oyster handles an irritant such as a grain of sand that gets inside its shell. When the grain of sand starts making a tiny sore, the oyster exudes healing fluids that otherwise would remain dormant. These fluids cover the spot and then heal and harden into a beautiful pearl. Only oysters that are irritated develop pearls. No wonder that heaven has “pearly gates!” They swing open to welcome those from earth who are bruised, wounded, and irritated and who responded with the pearl of adjustment. The J. B. Phillips Bible translation explains the process in James 1:2-4: “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men [and women] of mature character.”*
That, my friends, is why we’re told to be thankful when troubles and trials and even persecution come upon us.
All the major religious faiths of the world urge their believers to be thankful. An old Buddhist saying is: “Be thankful you learned a lot today. If you didn’t learn a lot, be thankful you learned a little. If you didn’t learn a little, be thankful you didn’t get sick. If you did get sick, be thankful you didn’t die.” So no matter what happens, be thankful.
Thankful for Jesus
I am so thankful for Christ and Christianity. We have such a loving God, and He will do everything possible to save us. Jesus paid the price of sin for us and has given us the free gift of salvation and eternal life. Oh, how thankful I am that I do not need to pull myself up spiritually by my own bootstraps! I would be lost.
So, let’s truly take time to count our blessings—starting with thankfulness to our heavenly Father for all He has done. Then cherish our blessings of family and friends. Let us also be thankful for our jobs and homes and even for the pesky annoyances that crop up each day. But most important, let us thankfully recommit ourselves to our Lord and Savior, who will very soon take us home with Him.
* Bible texts credited to Phillips are from J. B. Phillips: The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition. © J. B. Phillips 1958, 1960, 1972. Used by permission of Macmillan Publishing Co.
George P. Babcock, Ed.D., served for 48 years as an educational administrator in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He writes from Collegedale, Tennessee. This article was published October 13, 2011.