The Closed Door
 Gateway to Spiritual Fullness
                 A Friend’s Final FarewellMusing on Life

Mary and I went to a funeral last Saturday.  An 81-year old friend in Christ
rested from his earthly toils.  

He grew up in the turbulent 40s when China had to deal with horrific
internal strife and fight off Japanese invaders.  As a bright and promising
young man, our friend decided to join the Navy to defend the country.  

We met him and his family in the mid 70s in a church gathering in
Houston.  The traumas of war carved some emotional imprints in his simple
visage.  Now a Christian, his new-found faith began to sooth and heal the
memories of destruction and death.  

From my own experiences, I have learned to appreciate the process in which
we deal with the Lord about our past pains and sufferings.  There is no One
better qualified and able to mend our sorrows and turn our valley of tears to
a place of spring.  If we are willing to humbly yield to the Lord’s dealings, He
will always use what the Enemy meant for evil and turn it into spiritual
expansion for us.  

A few years later, our friend and family moved on to a different assembly,
and my wife and I also took a different direction in our spiritual journey.  We
seldom saw each other again save occasionally bumping into each other.  

Our friend’s elder son testified at the funeral that he read his father’s diary
for the first time, and he was gripped by the deep humility and heartfelt
thanksgiving ascribed to his beloved Lord expressed in those pages.  With
voice trembling, the son said these two things, humility and thanksgiving,
surfaced again and again throughout his diary until his last days.  

Our friend led a humble life.  When we met him, he worked at a restaurant
trying to support a family of four.  His last job before retirement was a
security guard at ExxonMobil.  We don’t remember hearing him moan about
his meager income.  We remember him being thankful for what the Lord
provided him.  His older son now an MD, and younger a graphics designer
are grateful to have him as their father.  

Our greatest tragedy is not in encountering misfortunes and mistakes, it is
in not learning to yield and surrender to the Lord and allow Him to turn our
sorrows to rejoicing, and misfortune to expansion.  

The most moving moment of the funeral service came when a man was
introduced with a religious title standing up to sing a solo.   As soon as he
opened his mouth and began singing “Precious Lord Take My Hand Lead Me
Home,” all eyes became transfixed on him – he is blind.  Never before did the
words of this familiar hymn sound so sweet, and the impact resonate so
profoundly.  

“Precious Lord, take my hand,
lead me on, let me stand,
I am tired, I am weak, and worn.
Through the storm, through the night,
lead me on to the light;
take my hand, precious Lord,
lead me home.”  

As far as musical talent goes, this blind brother’s voice rivals that of Andrea
Bocelli.  No question.  End of sentence.  

But there is something that goes far beyond gift and talent. Without Bocelli’s
pomp, style and flashiness, this blind man’s peaceful demeanor and gentle
voice carried what I imagine to be the fruit of trusting Jesus for afflictions
through years of hardship, sorrow and pain living in a darkened world.  
There is something that transcends all earthly groaning, grief and tears.  
And I am not talking about a religious thrill of uplift, or exhilarating joy
that’s supposed to smash anguish.  It transcends even that.  It was expressed
in the blind brother’s countenance – peace.  Just plain old peace.  Peace that
“passes understanding,” because it’s too deep even for the mind to
comprehend.  

It’s the only peace that can steer our little battered boat “through the storm,
through the night” and “lead us on to the light.”  The question is not whether
our ship will be battered by the storms of life, but whether we found our safe
harbor in Christ and turned over our steering wheel to Him.  Most Christians
have found their safe harbor in Christ, very few are willing to let go of the
steering wheel.  

It’s obvious this blind brother learned to let go.  

And it’s the peace of Christ that comes through a suitably prepared
instrument that carries the greatest impact.  Too often we tried to minister
with our endowment of gifts alone.  And blamed our audience for “not getting
it.”  It’s time we ask the Lord to show us just what kind of out-of-adjustment
instruments we are.  Our ministry to God’s people has got to transcend our
endowment of gifts and talents.  The gifts may actually do more harm to
God’s people when they are activated without the minister undergoing
breaking and preparing in His hands first.  

The true quality of a man’s ministry has everything to do with the
yieldedness of the man and degree of his surrender.  Gifts and talents
account for a distant third.  

Something must be said about “impact” also.  Too often, we measure impact
by outward phenomenon, i.e. eloquence of the speaker, size of crowd,
electrified audience, manifestation of miracles, loosened purse-strings, etc.  

True impact has nothing to do with any of these things.  True impact is
simply Christ released.  A child can exert great impact in real terms if Christ
is released.  Problem is, God’s people are so conditioned to look for pomp,
glitter and glamour, they no longer can discern real spiritual impact.  

Mary and I both came away from that funeral service blessed.  We saw a
broken instrument in the hands of the Master articulating sweet melodies of
grace.  

Even though our friend was no spiritual giant, he was just an ordinary
Christian, his final farewell left us with something to think (and sing) about –
“Precious Lord, Take my Hand….”  

Oliver Peng
Feb. 02, 2009