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Sunday, 25 August 2013

A State of Sorrow

Brilliant German student Moritz Erhardt was fiercely ambitious, wanting to climb the career ladder in the banking world. The bosses at the City bank in London wanted to see how this intern worker was made of, in a brute masculine world which believes lunch breaks were for wimps, and being prepared to work from seven in the morning right through to two in the morning of the next day, before grabbing a few hours sleep at his East London apartment which he shared with three other interns. Then he is back at his desk at seven again.
But that was not his constant schedule. There were times that he worked at his desk for a solid 23 hours non-stop, only to grab a taxi home to shower and change his clothes while the cab waited outside. Then he was back at his desk at seven.
Not that his bosses demanded such commitment. Rather it was done to impress his potential employers once his studies were over. The competition was fierce. If Erhardt decided that he had enough by three in the morning, after twenty hours at his desk, and a fellow intern working next to him decides to put in a couple of extra hours, then the chance of Erhardt landing a permanent job at the bank was greatly reduced, most likely eliminated.
Moritz Erhardt
In his shirt and tie, Erhardt looked every bit a young professional, even while still a student. He was the sort of guy women would take a second look, the one who would buy and drive a Ferrari, or a Lamborghini, one of the top and most expensive brand of car. Then not to mention luxury holidays halfway round the world, staying in top class hotels. Apart from his studies and his Summer intern work, he was also an outstanding tennis player who reached championship levels. This guy had everything going for him. He was popular, his future was dazzling, and no doubt, the sort who could have picked out a wife with a single flick of his finger.

And any given church would have loved to have such an individual as a member! If a church believed in and preached tithing, bankers such as Erhardt would have made quite a contribution to the church funds. Imagine if half a dozen bankers like him, or even a dozen among a large congregation. Such funds would remain healthy and above the profit margin.

Something very similar to this did happen in 1978. During Summer of that year, two graduates turned up for the first time at the Baptist church in my hometown. Geoff, the tall one, still had his hair long from University. This budding computer programmer was wearing an orange-coloured satin shirt, open at the neck to reveal a silver cross resting on his chest. This was a typical 1970s fashion fad of young males during that time. He oozed self confidence as several young unmarried ladies swarmed around him, shrieking with delight as he revelled in the attention given. The one who shrieked the loudest actually married him within a couple years since arrival.

Cartoon of Sam Tyler, dressed in typical 1970s fashion.

Geoff did not only impress the ladies, but the Elders as well, despite the Senior Pastor calling him a bighead within earshot from where I was standing. He was shunted into group leadership and took on responsibilities normally reserved for older members with greater church experience.

The other graduate stood less than a couple metres away from Geoff that evening. Shorter in stature, he wore a dull grey woollen top which all but concealed his neck. While Geoff received all the attention, this guy, who had just began a career as a scientist at the Meteorological Office, was totally ignored as he stood alone stoically while the other was wooed. If there was a moment of regret, it was that I did not approach him to offer a welcome when I had every chance to do so. Fortunately for him, there was a female in the church who eventually took a shine on him and they eventually married and moved away.

It goes to show how outer appearances and level of education can make such an impact to other church-goers. Too bad, I had neither when I joined the same church three years earlier, in 1975, but at least there was a married guy already there who welcomed me.

I have watched church life throughout the forty years since I came to the faith in 1973. After I joined Bracknell Baptist Church in 1975 (where those two grads made their first appearance in 1978), I have seen people come and go. I have watched young grads marry and raise families. I have also watched, and pitied an elderly single female who was overweight and wore glasses, now deceased, who would at every prayer meeting, cry to the Lord to give her a man to love her and to love in return. She once stormed out of the evening service in tears one Sunday in 1978, when one male grad stood up at the front to announce his engagement. Then there were the annual conventions, or Bible festivals, such as the Dales, the Downs, Spring Harvest, then later Stoneleigh, now Newday and Westpoint, all Bible festivals where believers from across the nation gathered for - if I dare to say - a huge party with a "religious" flavour. Then they return to their churches as if little had changed among them.

Someone in our church once had a vision during one Sunday evening service. It was that of a waterfall cascading from a height, and floating along the surface of the turbulent river were the letters which spelt, Oh you English. The vision spoke a lot. We as a nation adore the Royal Family, worship the celebrity, believe in a strict social class system, and each individual is evaluated by his looks, education level, social status, and type of occupation, and even a level of racism. The contrast of welcome between the two arrivals in 1978 says it well, where appearance made the difference.  And sadly, this weekend we felt as we were fobbed off by the Medics while at hospital, something no doctor in his right mind would even consider doing to a member of the Royal family.

My wife Alex had, so I was told by the doctor, sprained her back, and is now incapable of walking. She was quickly discharged. Come to think of it, had it been Catherene, Duchess of Cambridge, with the same problem, she would have been admitted and days of tender care and attention lavished upon her. Instead, housebound, all Alex can do is lie down while I did everything else. We are both afraid of the future. Would I have to give up my full time work and become a house-husband? Does this also mean that she would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair? Would I even face the prospect of widowhood, a source of terror for me? Would we have to cancel our coming holiday in Crete? And all paid for? Such fears are bolstered by the dreadful feeling of isolation. This weekend happened to be one without a service in our church, with many gone away to Westpoint Bible festival. When they return, it will be the same sort of thing, with John, for example, disliking me as ever, for demonstrating such abuse to his grandson!

Wow! Abuse? What actually did I get up to?
Did I sexually molest him?
No, I didn't.
Did I shout at him or say something negative?
No, not that either.
Did I hit him?
What coward would do such a thing?
Did I accidentally hurt him by, for example, tripping up while he was behind me?
No, that wasn't the case either.
Then what did I do?
As Facebook "friends" I half joked to John that his grandson should take up window cleaning, something I have done for more than thirty years. He immediately became indignant, "unfriended" me and blocked his profile out of viewing from both my wife and myself. Not long after, the boy himself was weary whenever I was around. Obviously, his grandad warned him that I posed a danger!

With no Ascot Life Church meeting this week, I decided to attend the Kerith Centre, the former Bracknell Baptist Church. After the end of the service, there was Geoff, now looking much older, talking to a steward. When he saw me approach to greet him, he rudely turned his back to me, and when he had finished his conversation, he made a quick getaway to the car park outside. Why this attitude I can only speculate. Both are English, both have stiff upper lips, and neither are courageous or willing enough to sort matters out with me, as Jesus Christ taught so clearly. True enough, these grand Bible festivals they attend may be impressive enough, but still leaves the nitty-gritty matters of daily and weekly church life unchanged.

Yet I see them as brothers in Christ. When John was away in Edinburgh, I said to his wife that I miss him being here in church. As one who believes in Eternal Security, I can't help feeling affection towards both these guys. The reason why my heart goes out to them is because the heart of Christ went out for me. Once-saved-always-saved sees the Lord Jesus Christ forever caring for those he gave himself to redeem. My prayer and longing wish is to enjoy a high level of friendship - not merely through Facebook - but on a personal basis.

My desire is the way I love my wife Alex reflects God's love for me. If it does mean a dramatic change of lifestyle as a result of her disability, so be it. As Christ will never leave or forsake me, neither will I ever leave her or forsake her, no matter what imperfections she might have. Once married always married!

As for Moritz Erhardt, he is the one to to pitied. Aged just 21, he died in the shower sometime last week, possibility the heavy pressure of work bringing on an epileptic fit. It is certainly a state of sorrow.


  1. Dear Frank,
    So sorry to hear about Alex. Praying for you both.

    Thank God that He knows our hearts and loves us anyway. Man looks on the outward appearance, but to Him, a meek and quiet spirit is of great value.

    Thanks as always for the enlightening and thought-provoking post. God bless,

  2. I can understand your fears, Frank, but I pray that you continue in hope. I was told that, because of a spinal injury, I needed surgery to prevent paralysis. I was told that there was also the danger that the operation could leave me paralysed. I chose not to have the operation and rather to rely on prayer. The pastor of a nearby church prayed for me and I noticed a visible improvement straight away, as did the neurosurgeon. He said that is would be enough to just keep me monitored and watch for any sign of deterioration. Five years and and I have still managed to avoid the surgeon's knife. Last Saturday I was actually out playing football.

  3. Hi Frank,
    The following sentences in your post really stood out to me. 'Geoff did not only impress the ladies, but the Elders as well, despite the Senior Pastor calling him a bighead within earshot from where I was standing. He was shunted into group leadership and took on responsibilities normally reserved for older members with greater church experience.' Surely there is something wrong when someone is actually put in a responsible position by people who claim to be elders and pastors of a 'Christian gathering'. I see a vast difference in the denominational 'churches' of today, and the church two thousand years ago. I feel it is largely because many apostles, pastors, elders who are present in today's churches are appointed by man instead of God. I had a dream once where the Lord was leading me into a church building and pointing out to me that what was going on inside was 'entertainment' and not worship. God bless.

  4. Great post, Frank.

    Like God told Samuel in I Samuel 6:7, "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart." The modern church has become so focused on the appearance they have no thought for the spiritual state.

    Most of the great religious meetings of today spend their time teaching people how to polish the appearance and ignore the heart.

  5. Hi Frank, another thought provoking post.
    We are praying for Alex and for you.
    Much love,

  6. Frank,I just came over to read your post again. I want to say that many years ago I sprained my back when working in a fruit and veg shop, lifting sacks of potatoes ( you would not believe some of the jobs I have done ). It was extremely painful for some time, but did get better. I pray that your wife Alex will recover fully soon. Do not let negative thoughts take root in your mind, we are told to take every thought captive, bringing it into obedience to Christ and one of the benefits of being in Christ Jesus is 'He heals us from all our diseased'. God bless you both.

  7. I hope things get better for your wife, Frank. I'll say a prayer for both of you. God bless.

  8. My heart breaks for Moritz Ernhardts. The pressure society can put on a young man to be a "successful" is simply bone crushing. I once watched a fantastic Bollywood movie called "3 Idiots" (I highly recommend it) and it dealt with that very issue. It was a comedy, but with a deeper goal of pointing out the social pressures to be an engineer in Indian society. Did you know that in 2006, 5,857 students, or 16 a day, committed suicide across India due to exam stress? And these are just the official figures. The movie deals with suicide in very striking terms. Moritz, stictly speaking, didn't even commit suicide in this case but he felt the same pressure. This poor young man literally worked himself to death. This is a perversion of God's command to dress and keep the garden. If only they had let him have the Lord's Day! This is the reason the Lord gives us one day a week of rest. He knows our frailties.