I'm sure many go through times of darkness. What I mean is: Feeling terribly lonely, unloved, forgotten, isolated, even rejected or forsaken by God. And in the midst of grief, a tiny light shines. Perhaps like a pinpoint but nevertheless, light, whatever its intensity, has a way of dispelling darkness.
Like within the past 48 hours when I had to call for an ambulance twice for my beloved wife Alex. The first time was a response for a very severe backache which no household medicine was able to alleviate. At A&E, although she was treated well by a friendly nurse who administered both Morphine and other painkillers, the doctor, who was apparently British, himself listened to what she had to say, then curtly dismissed her, telling her to go home and consult a neurologist if she wanted attention.
And went home we did, by taxi, with my wife feeling very upset. Indeed, being a doctor at Accident & Emergency department of any hospital involves greater stress in dealing with a constant inflow of patients, but we felt that as a patient herself, Alex should have received a greater level of compassion. And I suppose this is what the first impression the NHS is about. It's not how decorative or level of aestheticism the hospital building looks, neither the sophistication of the technology found within. It is how the patient, such as my beloved, sees and perceives the attitude of its staff towards her, particularly from junior doctors.
With her belief that she was "a nuisance patient" in the eyes of the medical staff, Alex spent the next day angry and upset, and without outright display of her feelings she spent most of her day sleeping, virtually immobile, and even falling unconscious. It was during this moment, in my failed attempt to wake her up, that I was gripped with a cold, naked fear. The terror of widowhood entered my mind, foolish this may look to the reader. Then again, with someone such as myself who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome, these thoughts and feelings can be very real.
Other thoughts entered my mind. Thoughts of the sheer unfairness of life with, together with the dread, also feeling gripped with jealousy of how one church member who is riding on a wave crest of blessing after blessing, thanks mainly to his university degree, and even boasting about it on Facebook. Alongside these thoughts and emotions lies the awareness of both of us feeling disliked and ostracised by a middle-class couple who also attend our church, and both actually adoring the said graduate. As I felt myself sinking lower and lower into the pit of hell, Alex slowly came to and whispered, Phone 111, before sinking back into sleep.
The phone number 111 is for GP out-of-hours consultation with the NHS for non-emergency calls. Having dialled the emergency number the previous evening, dialling this number seems less distressing, but I felt a rush of relief to be told, after answering a series of questions on behalf of my wife, that they decided to dispatch an ambulance. After the paramedics arrived and accessed her, a discussion arose whether she should be taken back into hospital. They were keen to take her, I wasn't willing to return, but it was Alex, in her semi-conscious state, who made the final decision. So off we went - yet again.
At A&E, I found myself praying fervently beside her bed. I was calling on God the Father to first forgive us from any wrongdoing, then to break any adversary powers in the spirit realm which may be binding on my beloved, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth. I repeated the format over and over again, even with a sense of authority. Also included was a reference of the church couple who has ostracised us, in the name of the Lord Jesus, may their curses - if any were thrown at us by them - to be made totally ineffective. Not long after, Alex felt another highly intense pain coursing through the whole length of her backbone, intense enough to make her roar with suffering in the ward which brought the nurse running. With liquid Paracetamol fed into her bloodstream intravenously, her symptoms eased, and with Morphine also fed into her system in the same way, I watched her calm down to relaxation.
|Whilst in Hospital, this is how I looked.|
A different doctor to the previous one arrived, who looks to be from the Middle East or from India. Far more compassionate than the last one, we talked. Fortunately, he knew the condition my wife was in, and he asked us why we desire her to be admitted for the night. When I answered that the suggestion was originally from the paramedics, as well as for further observation before returning home, he partially agreed. Then he went on to explain that in such a ward there are patients in distress, calling for the nurse, shouting, making noises, along with other factors which such a sordid atmosphere, would worsen Alex's condition, distressing her more. He then assured us that she would recover a lot quicker if we went home. We both agreed. We arrived home, again by taxi, at three in the morning, and happy to say that at present she's feeling better, although not yet fully out of the woods.
And so within this approximate 34-hour period of darkness and emotional distress, loneliness and feeling of apparent ostracism from local Christians, there was one beam of light, something of a lovely encouragement and of edifying quality. And it came from Uganda, in the heart of Africa. An email linked me to a letter written by a adolescent saying how much he and his family loved me. Yes, they loved me, even over thousands of miles distant.
With the risk of letting my left hand know what my right hand is doing, let me say that the family who once lived in poverty eventually became fully committed Christians. This was because of their alliance with a UK-based church organisation, Compassion, an offshoot of its parent charity Tearfund. Through Compassion, any Western Christian believer is encouraged to sponsor a child in the Third World, one child for each sponsor. The monthly payments, being by Standing Order made with the Bank, remains "invisible" in a sense that I don't have to keep doing it consciously. Therefore the payments remain ongoing for years, almost unaware, spanning the younger years of the recipient's life.
In return I receive letters written by the child, sometimes accompanied with his latest photo of himself, along with his full profile. He usually update on his education levels, his family, health and hobbies, and always included in the letter is a verse from the Bible which has been specifically helpful to him. A young child he was when I started sponsoring him, he is now a thriving teenager with a promising future. And he wrote that he loved me, an endearing message received in the midst of darkness. And this is not the first time either. Also in Uganda there is a university student and devout Christian who was also sponsored out of poverty by me during his childhood years. And like the present recipient, he too fondly keeps me in his memories.
To say that these African believers obey the Bible more seriously than our middle-class brothers seem to have an element of truth. One verse from the prophets come to mind here:
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoking flax he will not quench: he shall bring forth judgement unto truth.
Isaiah 42:3, Matthew 12:20 AV.
I will direct this mainly to the aforementioned middle-class English couple who have a fetish for graduates and for posh people, but who dislikes me and refuses any kind of reconciliation. As with me, I have forgiven them in a sense that if they were to change their minds, I would be eager to welcome them and enjoy fellowship. This has always been my desire, as I believe this is the right way to godly living. But when the husband is walking alone, sees me approaching in the opposite direction, and grimace in silence as I smile a polite greeting, then this can have a dramatic effect on the emotions, especially in a moment of crisis (as mentioned in last week's blog post).
And now it's the time of the World Cup international football tournament. Like the Olympics, it is held every four years, and once again I see the great hope building up among others for the chance of the resurrection of England's glory after beating Tunisia by two goals to one in last week's opening match. Together with Brexit, if England happen to win the Cup this time round, I dread the sheer pride, optimism and national glory which would cover the land. And with it, that look of gloating as they glance down at me, an Italian, someone who lovingly cares for his wife in pain. Yes, something similar to this has already happened from time to time in the past. All by self-effort isn't it? Or rather, the glory attained by the combined effort of eleven men kicking a football across a field. Suddenly we're on top of the world again, regardless of whether our national economy is strong or whether it's crashing to the ground and facing a recession. No matter. In international football, we are the champions!
Of course, there is no room for the bruised reed or the smoking flax. Break the reed, throw water on the flax - as long as they remain standing in the way of England's prospective glory, they both must be removed, trodden underfoot, and left by the wayside. I suppose that what comes to having a victory from self-effort and glory-seeking. And so as I watch fellow Christians allowing themselves to be sucked into the mire, I feel that I just can't go along with them. And I think there is an important reason.
And that is found within the whole of Psalm 144. Here we read about King David praising God for all war victories against his enemies whose forces posed a threat to the welfare of Israel. David was a superb warrior, but instead of glorifying himself or his kingdom, he gave all the credit to God for his victories. And here is where I believe is England's downfall. Glorifying themselves rather than glorifying God, despite the nation asserting itself as a Christian country. Since England won the Cup against Germany at Wembley in 1966, the national team has been wondering around the wilderness ever since, with its lowest point reached in 2014, when England failed to reach even the knockout stages.
Scripture indicates that all the victory of all battles and contests are decided by God, rather than by mere human effort or glory. In Proverbs 21:31, for example, a few words written by King Solomon blows all mere human effort alone to pieces:
The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.
At the moment it does look as if England can win this time round. But if it does, let's not forget that it's by the sheer grace of God. And the whole of England should acknowledge this, therefore admitting the glory and sovereignty of God and us as the workman of his hands, which includes both team players and their supporters congratulating all other teams for partaking in the tournament, and especially the runners up, a reasoning which looks to me to be in the realm of Divine Creationism - acknowledging that we are all God creation, as opposed to Darwin's theory of Evolution by chance, by natural selection, and by the survival of the fittest. Especially the latter, as survival of the fittest seems to go hand-in-hand with victory through self-glorification, a prize achieved by total human endeavour, which includes exalting the strong and crushing the weak and the lame onto the wayside.
I am the one who feels small, inadequate, ostracised, lonely in a big world where I find difficult to cope. Indeed, I feel like dust and ashes or a mere flea. And trying to care for a disabled wife whom I love dearly. Then someone comes along and gently lifts me up, without breaking a bruised reed or quenching of a smouldering flax. Indeed, I can call him a Christian, a word meaning little Christ, and with no doubt has the spirit of Christ. And which will exceed in righteousness by leaps and bounds over anyone who seeks the glory of England above the needs of the weak or needy.