Summary: We must determine that the children with whom we are surrounded are God’s gift and God’s assignment for us, no matter how difficult or inconvenient they are.
I received a letter the other day from someone very close to me. His letter was written hurriedly, because I had written him asking some questions. He felt he needed to answer those right away. He had a conviction he wanted me to hear immediately.
I had asked him if he was going to leave his work. You see, he is teaching in a professional school at the graduate level, the kind of place you expect to be calm and peaceful and bookish. But this place has been anything but quiet in recent years. It has a board of trustees who regularly erupt in anger and in accusations. This board of trustees is not in the least impressed by all of the careful, painstaking work that has been done to build up this school. They have their own plans. They are going to have their way, no matter what. I just didn’t think he would want to teach there any more.
His letter set me straight in a hurry. He said, "Sometimes I do feel totally misunderstood, as if someone were literally looking over my shoulder, just waiting for me to make some mistake he can pounce on. I feel abused. And sometimes I also feel like a pawn in the hands of the administration; our president puts me in the awkward position of using me to do things he is afraid to do himself. So, no, it’s not very happy working here. But ... but .. ," said my letter writer, "do not look for me to leave. Do not expect me to shop around for another job. I’m not going anywhere until I have finished what the Lord put me here to do."
I don’t know about you, but that revives me. Here is somebody who has been given the marvelous gift of knowing who he is and what he is about. And no power on earth, however vicious, however negative, is going to shake him.
"I’m not going anywhere until I have finished what the Lord put me here to do."
Sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances and relationships which are very uncomfortable, very painful -- abusive relationships which just seem to hammer at us and attack our vitality. Or we may discover that we are in using relationships, using relationships, where someone just wants to take and take and take and never give anything in return. But here’s the point: if those are relationships where God wants us to be, then we may be abused and we may be used, but we are not used up. We don’t have to give up on what God has called us to be. We need not and must not abandon the place where God has put us.
"I’m not going anywhere until I have finished what the Lord put me here to do." Abused and used, but not used up.
Reminisce with me about some of the discoveries we have made this month concerning family life. As from Sunday to Sunday during May we have moved along, thinking about marriage, about children, about senior citizens, about family life in general, what have we learned?
We have learned some very sordid things. We have learned that family life can be terribly damaging. We have learned that if in our homes we do not grow together in love, we will destroy each other. We will neglect each other, throw away each other abandon each other. We have learned that though our God has put the solitary in families, it is often Satan who is running things in our homes. We have learned that in too many contemporary families, somebody is abused, somebody is used. Family joy seems to have been all used up.
I suppose it will make the poet Robert Browning turn over in his grave, but I will ask, "How do we hurt thee? Let me count the ways"!
First, we learned this month that we are abusing and using marriage. The most intimate and powerful of all human ties is today being abused and misused. Marriage for some is in danger of becoming little more than a financial arrangement, a tax convenience, in which two people agree to live separately together. The tensions of life in this very city, where it is not uncommon for both husband and wife to work at their separate jobs ten and twelve and fourteen hours a day and then come home either to fall asleep in a weary stupor or to bury themselves in the things all that work and money can buy ... those tensions destroy marriage. But if you believe that your marriage is God’s will, you will work at growing it. Abused and used but not used up.
I’ve listened to quite a few of you on this theme over the past several weeks. I know that many are hurting. My heart goes out to those whose marriages are not what you thought they would be when you entered into them. My wife and I have had occasion to reflect on our own 32 years of married life and the tensions we’ve felt. In these last few years our own responsibilities have escalated. We know that a good marriage is an elusive thing; we also know that it has to be grown. It has to be worked at. A husband and wife must first determine that God wants them to be together. This is the place where the Spirit of God has led them to be. And then they must decide that they are going to work at marriage, they are going to work at learning how to love another.