A Christmas Devo from Angela – “The Paradox of the Present

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The Paradox of the Present 

by Angela Hsieh

In this Christmas season , songs filled with general holiday cheer are echoed everywhere proclaiming “it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” “tis the season to be jolly” and the like. Though lighthearted, these sentiments in cultural may subtly influence our expectations of what this season is supposed to deliver. For many people, however, they are left with deep disappointment, and the holidays are far from “the most wonderful time of the year.” For if Christmas is not grounded in the hope which Christ brings, it can be the most depressing time of the year – it can be a time where the presence of unfulfilled longings and the absence of loved ones may be felt most of all.

Yet Christmas is not just for the healthy, happy, and prosperous. The blessing of Christmas is for those who realize their need for a Savior.

Many dear families that I know have tragically lost loved ones this year. When death hits home, gaping wounds are left which cannot be soothed by any well wishes or holiday cheer. In fact, they may make it sting even more. As it often is, there is a strange contrast between the simultaneous life experiences of people. For some, this Christmas is tainted by grief as it marks the first year without a loved one, yet for others, it is joyfully celebrated as the first Christmas for a new arrival. While many gather in warm homes for Christmas parties, others are homeless on the street. While many appreciate the warmth of familial love and companionship, millions of children are in orphanages without a family to call their own. While many feast, others are famished. While people give and receive a bounty of gifts, others lack the basic necessities of life. The human existence is filled with paradoxes like these.

Yet Christmas is not just for the healthy, happy, and prosperous. The blessing of Christmas is for those who realize their need for a Savior. Jesus says in Matthew 5:3-8, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” God bestowed this message of blessing through the person of Jesus Christ. God drew near to a broken and needy people in a marvelous way – by becoming one of us. Truly Christmas is about how He broke through darkness to “give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6).

The present of His Presence is the most wonderful and paradoxical occurrence in history. Christ, the Lord of all and yet the Humble Servant, reaches out to save all people – those drunk with pleasure and those overcome by sorrow, those enamored with success and those who’ve hit rock bottom, those who are seeking and those without hope. He is the One who fully knows each person’s experience and offers to speak meaning into it. The King of Kings (Rev. 19:16) was not born in a lofty palace but a lowly manger. The Prince of Peace’s (Is. 9:6) arrival would cause the uproar of a nation. The Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32) became the son of a young girl and carpenter. The One robed in majesty (Psalm 93:1) traded His garments for infant swaddling clothes. Christ knows exactly how to address the human condition and bring reconciliation that every person desperately needs.

He is the Present of infinite worth that we could only receive if we come with empty and open hands. This Christmas, will you open up your heart to receive the greatest Present ever given?

Immanuel, God with us.

 

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Galen Jee (1950 – 2018) – My Pastor

Galen Jee

Galen giving some pre-marriage counseling to Arthur and Sandra during TD in the ’80’s

Hello TD,

It is with deep sadness that I must inform you that Pastor Galen Jee, our English Department pastor for about twenty years, passed away suddenly yesterday from cardiac arrest.  He was doing what he loved to do – walking in nature and capturing it in photographs.  An avid and talented photographer, he loved capturing God’s creation.

I want you all to know that our English Department wouldn’t be what it is today without the foundation-laying, seed-planting, and personal investment into people that Galen and his wife, Eunice, provided.  What God has done in our congregation in the years since he moved on from our church has been built upon the foundation that God had Galen and Eunice lay; it’s a foundation that was committed to the gospel rather than gimmicks, to people rather than programs, to integrity rather than ingenuity, … to a saving God rather than to self-glory.  This is absolutely true.

Often times, people embellish the facts and persona of someone’s life after they have passed on, out of deference and respect, and sensitivity to the surviving family.  Galen would not have that, nor would want me to do that.  Anyone else who was under his care and leadership would whole-heartedly affirm what I just wrote above.

Pastoring our congregation during the heyday of the “seeker sensitive” church growth movement in the ’80’s and ’90’s, Galen felt the external pressure to grow our numbers more quickly, which forced him to look within and to continually check himself in order to stay faithful to our Lord and His Upside Down Kingdom, where measures of true success rarely look like what we think it looks like (even church goers).  Having his success as a pastor often gauged by others according to the metric of numeric success, Galen stayed faithful and true to what he knew the true church to be, Christ’s Bride; not a platform or a stepping-stone for feeling good about oneself and achieving some sort of self-worth and self-satisfaction through serving and through church-y “success,” which he rightly knew was still, in fact, worldly.  He wouldn’t do that.  He just wanted to be found faithful and obedient, plain and simple.  That was success.

Personally, it was Galen who not only was the official English Department pastor when I arrived at MBCLA, but who became MY pastor.  He saw a young, unchurched, worldly high school graduate and met with me in my home before baptizing me not too long afterwards (announcing to the congregation that I graduated from Marshall HS rather than my alma mater, South Pasadena HS).  Over the ensuing years, he saw something in me, investing in me and showing me the ropes.  As the years ensued, his belief in me grew and he entrusted me with the opportunity to serve our congregation in many ways.  He gave me my wings in ministry, as it were.  Though young, inexperienced, and “wet behind the ears,” he allowed me to make mistakes, and more importantly, he trusted me; for that, I will always be humbled and grateful.  I had the privilege of preaching several times at the pulpit of the church that he shepherded after he left MBCLA.  Knowing that he would only let people he trusted to preach from his pulpit, I always counted it a great honor to do so.

He preferred the private impact of personal ministry over the public show of it.  There is a place for everyone to minister, whether in public or in private; he was quite aware of the potential traps of public ministry.  He was understated in personality and not the dynamic “life of the party,” by any means.  I’m not sure he could’ve actually drawn the attention to himself that other more vibrant, boisterous, magnetic personalities can; nonetheless, he knew that even desiring to do so is tantamount to doing it in God’s eyes.  He knew himself and knew that he could “go there” if he wasn’t alert and careful.  So, he ordered his life to make sure he didn’t “go there.”

I appreciated his down-to-earth humility in that way.  He didn’t want anything to be above the Christ of the gospel, nor anyone to be out of His reach.  Galen was a personal minister who cared about the person and cared about that person living life truthfully, according to the way God ordained, as revealed in Scripture.  He was committed to the sufficiency of Scripture for all of life.  He was not one who could get himself to bend the rules, shade the truth, or to go against conscience, having to turn various people down for different requests, even though he hated to do so.

When Sandra and I got engaged, I remember him asking both our parents how they really felt about it.  Since Sandra and I have a large age gap, he was a little apprehensive of whether our relationship would really work out.  He loved us both and didn’t want to see us take a hasty step that would result in disaster down the road.  He did our pre-marriage counseling with us and gave us his blessing, eventually marrying us.

I spoke to him last week, and as usual, his eyes were ultimately on the Lord.  Over the last couple of years, he often spoke frankly and realistically about the tenuousness of life on earth, saying that God could realistically take him at any time.  A lifelong diabetic, he had to constantly inject himself and was constantly experiencing new ailments in his later years.  He reminded me that he was not scared of death and that he would be with the Lord.

Well, Galen is with the Lord now. and I bet he wishes he had his camera equipment with him.  It won’t be long, however, before realizes that he doesn’t need his camera to capture the splendor of what he is experiencing and seeing.  It’s permanent now.  He lives it 24/7.  I have an idea of who he’s making a beeline toward, who he’s anxious to meet and ask questions of.  Most of all, I know that he is overwhelmed and humbled to be in God’s immediate presence, as we all will be when our time comes.

I will miss my dear friend and pastor.  I’m thankful for his investment in my life and for handing the baton to me.  I pray that I will be faithful to carry that baton well and to faithfully hand it off to those such as you.  Amen.  – Arthur

“We Must Play” (a must read)

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Chloe closely guarding her mom while Elijah tries to help – 2018 TD Ultimate Tourney

Hey TD!

One of the virtues of our Asian heritage is the valuing of hard work.  And yet, like anything else in life, a virtue can become a vice if emphasized too heavily.  In this humorous and compelling Slice of Infinity, dear friend, Jill Carattini, draws upon the mischievous side of CS Lewis to highlight our God-given need to play; and play we must.  Looking forward to playing with you more in the months ahead! – Arthur

We Must Play 

In August of 1963, due to his ailing health and increasing responsibilities, C.S. Lewis announced his retirement from Cambridge. His stepson Douglas Gresham and friend Walter Hooper were sent to the university to sort out his affairs and bring home the two thousand or so books that lined the walls of his Magdalene College office. Knowing the house was already filled to its bursting point with books, the pair wondered all the way home where on earth they would find the space to put them. But Lewis had already contrived an intricate plan for their use.

A nurse named Alec had been hired to stay up nights in case Lewis fell ill and needed his assistance. As the men returned with the enormous load of books, Alec was asleep in his room on the ground floor. As the truck pulled into the driveway, Lewis appeared, cautioning them to silence. “Where’ll we store the books?” Hooper whispered, to which Lewis responded with a wink. Carrying each stack with tedious concern so as not to wake the sleeping victim, the three men piled the works around the nurse’s bed, sealing him in a cocoon of manuscript and literature. When they were finished, the books were stacked nearly to the ceiling, filling every square inch of the room where the snoring nurse still slept.

Much to the relief of the anxious culprits who were waiting outside, Alex finally awoke. From within the insulated tomb, first came sounds of bellowing, and finally the tumbling of the great literary wall. An amused nurse emerged from within the wreckage.

The characters in this story are every bit as spirited as some of the playful personalities from Lewis’s imaginary worlds. These are the whimsical scenes—fiction and non-fiction—that seal in my mind the many weighty lessons I have wrought from him. But perhaps namely: Christianity is a religion with room—and reason—for life and laughter.

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Banjo Lesson, oil on canvas, 1893, Hampton University Museum.(2)

Much of the thought and work of C.S. Lewis wrestles with the existential evidences of the life-giving presence of God and the winsome invitations around us that beckon us to participate in this life. I am not alone in saying it was Lewis who first taught me to move toward the questions that reappear though we bury them and to at least be honest about the logical outworkings of the philosophies we hold, even loosely. It was Lewis who taught me to search after God with both heart and mind and energy, but with the wonder and imagination of a child who is able to be startled by the very thing she is looking for. A former atheist, Lewis came to believe with everything in him that Christianity gives an explanation—and a face—to the joy we stumble across, joy that “flickers on the razor-edge of the present and is gone.”

On the one hand, if life is but time and happenstance, why do we laugh or wonder, or experience a desire to play, however fleetingly at all? Is the encounter of delight simply the mind’s attempt to distract us from pain? What good is joy, what purpose is humor or laughter or beauty, if life is but a series of instincts to survive and the universe at a cosmic level is meaningless? On the other hand, if we are made in the image of a holy, loving, imaginative God, how wonderful that God has made us with both logic and laughter, with intrinsic worth and immortal wonder.

Nearing the end of one of his most remarkable lectures, in which he spoke hauntingly of the glory of the God and the immortality of the soul made in God’s image, Lewis added a word of warning: “This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously.”(1)

The resurrected, vicariously human Son of God invites us in to such a story, a creator who made us to live fully, coming in person to confront our desolation and to be our consolation, that we might encounter what the very word means. What if the door on which we have been knocking all our lives will one day open at last? Seeking and playing, finding and living may well be among life’s greatest efforts.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

A Distinctively Christian Appreciation of the Arts

Andrew Wyeth, one of America’s most renowned realist painters of the twentieth century, had an uncanny ability to capture the solemn nature of the rural American life with painstakingly controlled brushstrokes and a muted color palette. One of Wyeth’s most intriguing and iconic paintings is titled Christina’s World (1948). The central focus of the work is a brunette female lying in a field with her left hand struggling toward her far-off farmhouse. The figure in the painting is modeled after Wyeth’s neighbor, Anna Olson. Olson suffered from a degenerative muscular disorder that limited her to crawling around her house and family land.

There is nothing loud or wildly fantastic about the subject matter of Christina’s World. The power of the painting is held in what might be called the familiar whisper of beauty, a sense of the deep struggle in longing for home. It is a whisper that we cannot ignore. Like Christina’s World, beautiful art is never viewed with indifference. As philosopher Roger Scruton has noted, “Beauty demands to be noticed; it speaks directly to us like the voice of an intimate friend.” There is a sense in which all good art gives a certain voice to beauty. As C.S. Lewis reminds us in The Weight of Glory, beauty and art point beyond themselves. Beauty comes through as “the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”

R.C. Sproul’s apt observation of the place of art in the life of a Christian still rings true today: “In the Christian community,” he argued, “there seems to be a negative attitude toward art.” Many believers think that art is unworthy of a Christian, as if art were something worldly, an illegitimate enterprise for Christians to engage in and reflect upon. Yet, as Hans Rookmaker rightly pointed out, art’s justification is found in the way God made the world. To put it plainly, art is its own justification. Why else would it be that humanity alone has been endowed with the ability to appreciate art and experience beauty? Why has God made it so that art like Christina’s World provokes a deep longing that is found in all of us? No living creatures other than human beings would be deeply moved by standing before Wyeth’s painting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. These reflective questions call for a distinctly Christian answer. What is the deep soul stirring that beautiful art brings to the surface of our conscience?

As Christians, we understand that the beginning of art is found in the act of creation in the Genesis account. In creation, God uniquely fashioned human beings in His image as aesthetic creatures possessed with a distinct capacity to experience and appreciate beauty and the ability to cultivate and create beautiful things. The artistic instinct is a universal human phenomenon. Art is embedded in our image-bearing nature. However, the Christian understands that art does not originate from man apart from God. Beauty in art is, therefore, a gift of common grace from God that has been made accessible and comprehensible to all people.

For the Christian in particular, art can be experienced as an analogical signpost bearing witness to the Author of all that is beautiful. As human beings, we care about beauty and the arts because our Creator God is beautiful and is the source of all beauty (Pss. 27:4, 50:2). Moreover, in creation, God intentionally fashioned our world as an artist—a divine artist who benevolently chose to endow our earthly experience with beauty (see Rom. 1:20). As an act of self-disclosure, creation itself declares the beauty of God (Ps. 19:1). In the creation of art, the artist mimics the creative work of God in disclosing a particular viewpoint of the world to be apprehended by the viewer. The interaction between the artist and the audience is that of mutual consent. There is something to be communicated, and art is the vehicle of communication.

If art truly serves as a signpost, a map, then we as Christians are called to be the guides.

Throughout human history, the arts have played a significant role in man’s effort to build a meaningful world. One could argue that the history of civilization can be traced through the arts. Nicholas Wolterstorff argued that the act of creating beautiful things involves the presentation of an alternative world or worldview to be considered by its audience. Implicit in this idea is that beautiful things stand between the artist and the audience and communicate by evoking emotion, conveying truth, and illuminating human experience. The best of art is, among other things, presented for contemplation. Art is a place where meaning can be created, explored, and discovered.

At the same time, art is to be discerned. In Acts 17, when Paul was confronted with the idolatrous art of Athens, he became deeply distressed and pointed them to the one true God in whom all of their longings could be met. In examining the things that their artists had created, Paul was able to exegete their culture and uncover the deep desires of their hearts. One principle implicit in this Acts 17 exchange is the truth that art helps cultivate the ability to discern a deeper sense of our human existence and experience. Art allows us to transcend ourselves and see things as they are from different perspectives, thus enabling us to find common ground for interaction. Art, therefore, inclines us to respond more sensitively to the world around us for the purpose of understanding. When specific pieces of art, music, and literature resonate with the masses, it should provoke our attention and study.

Even so, art is not exempt from the fall; indeed, it is often an instrument of the falleness of the world. But art can also be an instrument of redemptive dialogue in our world that is fallen yet undergoing cosmic redemption. As Abraham Kuyper reminded us, “in spite of sin by virtue of common grace, [the arts] have continued to shine in human nature, [so] it plainly follows that art can both inspire both believers and unbelievers, and that God remains sovereign to impart it, in his good pleasure.” What we must understand is that the beauties of this world and even the longings expressed in art are a whisper to our souls that there is something beyond the physical order.

Therefore, art, like beauty, is both a gift and a map. It is a gift to be enjoyed and a map to be followed back to the source of the beauty with glorious praise. The Christian must appreciate art because it is often the vehicle for which truth, experience, and longings are expressed. Christians must seek to engage in understanding the arts because they provide a window to see how the God-given longings of humanity are expressed from generation to generation. Beautiful pieces of art such as Christina’s World may bring to the surface the shared sense of longing for home that all human beings feel deep within their souls, but the Christian is the one who can point beyond the longing itself toward the God who can fulfill all of these desires in “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16). If art truly serves as a signpost, a map, then we as Christians are called to be the guides.

Dr. Matthew Z. Capps is senior pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, N.C. He is author of Hebrews: A 12 Week Study.

Christian Love Defined

Image result for christian love

Hey TD!

I read this devotion from Tabletalk recently and thought I should pass it on to you. It’s based on a chapter of Scripture I memorized long ago and recite each week to this day. May it help you in your “love” life! – Arthur

John 15:12–13

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

 

In an age when love is frequently lauded but often misunderstood, we must have a proper view of love. Modern culture bombards us with messages telling us that love is a mere feeling, that we will never disapprove of those whom we truly love, and that everything done in the name of love is right. But the Scriptures instruct us otherwise. God’s Word makes it clear that true love is costly.

Jesus, in today’s passage, emphasizes the cost of love. Having told us to abide in His love (John 15:1–11), Jesus begins to unfold what abiding in His love looks like. Love means loving others as Jesus has loved us, particularly in laying down our lives for our friends (vv. 12–13). Our Savior obviously makes an allusion here to His atoning death on the cross that turns away the wrath of God (Rom. 3:21–26), and this means we must first consider what laying down our lives for our friends does not entail. After all, none of us is the spotless Lamb of God sent to save sinners, so none of us can lay down our lives in exactly the same manner as Jesus. Christian theologians have long recognized this truth. Augustine of Hippo, for example, comments on it at length in a sermon on today’s passage.

We cannot love others as Jesus has loved us in the sense of atoning for their sin; however, there are other ways in which we can imitate the love of Christ. For example, Christ loved us so much that He was willing to leave His place of glory with the Father in order to pay for our sins on the cross (Phil. 2:5–11). We, likewise, can refuse to exploit our privileges in order to meet the needs of others. Furthermore, Jesus spent His life in service to others, healing the sick and teaching God’s truth. Similarly, we can spend our lives in service to others, helping even those who seem the least deserving of our assistance and pointing people to Christ.

Some of us may literally have to die in order to save another person’s life, but that will be rare. More likely, we will lay down our lives in a multitude of smaller ways. Parents can set aside their right to rest quietly after a hard day of work in order to spend time with their children. Employers, when appropriate, can refrain from giving overly harsh but deserved criticism of employees in order to work alongside them and help them improve. Retirees can give up part of the spare time they labored years to earn in order to volunteer at their churches. Whatever our station in life, we should look for ways to spend our lives for the sake of others.

 

CORAM DEO Living before the face of God

Christian love is costly, and it looks for ways to give of itself to others. Every day, there are little ways we can sacrifice some of our rights and privileges in order to love others, especially those in the body of Christ. Let us look this day to give up something in order to do good to another person.


FOR FURTHER STUDY
  • Ruth 4
  • Song of Solomon 8:6
  • Mark 14:3–9
  • 1 John 3:16–18

Why I Read Proverbs Everyday

Hey TD!
I read this article last month and started implementing this practice in my own life (though I have missed some days along the way 😦 ). It’s been a good, practical input in my day that has helped sharpen the everyday-street-level outlook to my day.
I encourage you to consider this practice for yourself. It will help you hear from God, not just on the theological level, but on the day-to-day level of living. – Arthur

Why I read Proverbs every day

I PLAN TO CONTINUE THIS PRACTICE FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE, FOR I NEVER OUTGROW THE NEED FOR THE PRACTICAL WISDOM OF THIS DIVINELY-INSPIRED BOOK.

Proverbs has always been one of my favorite books. When as a young man it was called to my attention that there’s a chapter for each of the thirty-one days in a month, I began the habit of daily reading the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds with the day of the month. After doing so now for over forty years, I was astonished to realize that means I’ve read through the book of Proverbs more than five hundred times. And I plan to continue the practice for the rest of my life, for I never outgrow the need for the practical wisdom of this divinely-inspired book.

But I must admit there are places in the Proverbs where I’m sometimes tempted to think, “Why do I need to read this again?” When I come to chapter seven, for example, I’m so familiar with the story that I know exactly what’s going to happen when the foolish young man decides to walk down the street where the adulteress lurks. I want to say to the guy, “Don’t go down there this month! You’ve gone down there every month for forty years and it always ends badly. For once could you take a different route?” But every month he heads down there, and he always ends up “going down to the chambers of death” (7:27).

WHY READ IT AGAIN AND AGAIN?

Since I know the passage by heart, why read it again? Then a few years ago I awakened to the reality that when the beginnings of such temptations inevitably come my way, I’m never more than thirty days away from a fresh warning of the ruin that comes from yielding to seduction. I don’t think I’ll ever reach the point where I don’t need that warning—frequently.

“Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall,” (1 Cor. 10:12).

Because of my love for the Proverbs and the perpetual value the wisdom of the book has been for my life, I wanted to instill its counsel early in the life of my daughter. So from the time she was very young, I began incorporating the book of Proverbs into our family worship routine.

A SIMPLE, EFFECTIVE EXERCISE

Here’s how I did it. In the beginning I would read a third of a chapter to her every night. During the first month of every quarter (that is, January, April, July, and October) I would read the first third of the chapter that corresponds with the day of the month. 

On the second month of each quarter I read the middle third of the chapter for the day. And on the last month of the quarter I read the last third of the chapter. So on January 1 I read Proverbs 1:1-11 (or thereabouts). On February I read Proverbs 1:12-22. And on March 1 I read Proverbs 1:23-33.

After a few years, I started reading half a chapter each night, alternating every other month. So on January 1 I read Proverbs 1:1-17 or so, and on February 1 I read Proverbs 1:18-33. Then when she was old enough, I began reading the entire chapter each evening, covering all of chapter one on the first of every month, all of chapter two on the second of each month, and so forth.

After these few minutes in the Proverbs, I would turn to wherever else we were reading in the Bible at that time.

Somewhere along the way I stumbled upon a practice that dramatically increased her listening and understanding. Before I started reading I said, “I want you to pick a verse to explain to me, and one for me to explain to you.” This made a huge difference. Often, of course, her explanation of a verse was off base or unclear. That gave me another occasion to make the Bible clearer to her. I commend this simple, but effective, exercise to you.

This article originally appeared at BiblicalSpirituality.org.

Don Whitney
Professor of Biblical Spirituality; Associate Dean of the School of Theology

Donald S. Whitney is professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean of the School of Theology at Southern Seminary. A longtime pastor and author of numerous books on the Christian life, he is also founder of The Center for Biblical Spirituality and is author of numerous books including Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life and Praying the Bible.

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In Critical Care

Carattini

Hey TD!

Here’s an insightful piece from our friend, RZIM’s Jill Carattini, managing editor of A Slice of Infinity. In classic Jill fashion, she shows us the eternal in our everyday lives. Enjoy! – Arthur

In Critical Care

by Jill Carattini

The “doorknob phenomenon” is an occurrence many physicians know well. Doctors can proceed meticulously through complete examinations and medical histories, taking care to hear a patient’s questions and concerns, but it is often in the last thirty seconds of the appointment that the most helpful information is revealed. When a doctor’s hand is on the doorknob, body halfway out the door, vital inquiries are often made; when a patient is nearly outside the office, crucial information is shared almost in passing. Many have speculated as to the reasons behind the doorknob phenomenon (which is perhaps not limited to the field of medicine), though a cure seems unlikely. Until then, words uttered on the threshold remain a valuable entity to the physician.

If I can speak on behalf of patients (perhaps I’ve been a perpetrator of the phenomenon myself), I would note that the doorway marks our last chance to be heard. Whatever the reason for not speaking up until that point—fear, discomfort, shame, denial—we know the criticalness of that moment. In thirty seconds, we will no longer be in the presence of one who might offer healing or hope or change. At the threshold between doctor’s office and daily life, the right words are imperative; time is of the essence.

One of the many names for God used by the writers of the Bible is the Great Physician. It is curious to think of how the doorknob phenomenon might apply. Perhaps there are times in prayer when the prayer feels as if we are moving down sterile lists of conditions and information. Work. Finances. Mom. Jack. Future. Of course, while bringing to God in prayer a laundry list of concerns with repeated perseverance is at times both necessary and helpful, perhaps there are also times when we have silenced the greater diagnosis with the words we have chosen to leave unspoken. Can a physician heal wounds we will not show, symptoms we will not mention?

Rembrandt, Beggars on the Doorstep of a House, 1648.

Thankfully, yes. The Great Physician can heal wounds one cannot even articulate. Scripture writers speak of a God who hears even our groanings too deep for words. On the other hand, choosing to leave out certain details is hardly helpful before any doctor. Can God begin the work that needs to be done if we won’t really come near as a patient? Is there a cure for those who do not seek it? Mercifully, there is a physician who seeks us.

The ancient prophet Jeremiah once cried, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? No healing for the wound of my people?” Jeremiah lived during one of the most troublesome periods of Hebrew history. He stood on the threshold between a people sick with rebellion and despair and the great Physician to whom they refused to cry out in honesty.

“I have listened attentively,” the LORD declared, “but they do not say what is right. No one repents of his wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle.”(1) His words describe behavior a doctor likely recognizes. A patient who complains of a cough while a fatal wound is bleeding will neither find respite for the cough nor her unspoken pain, and of course, a good physician would not treat the cough until the bleeding has been stopped.

In Jeremiah’s day, as in our own, the promise of a quick and effortless remedy was cunningly presented in many ways. Of these “prophets of deceit” God declared, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”(2) There are some promises that are quite easy to stand beside but crumble under the weight of us. To stand in honesty before a physician is more difficult. To stand in honesty with the greatest of Physicians is to submit to a kindness that may undo us. It is to ask to be made well, to be made new, to be made truly human by the Son with human hands, knowing that the way to my remedy rests in his own wounded hands.

The great Christmas hymn places before us this powerful resolution:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessing flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found.(3)

The woundedness of humanity is serious: cries of injustice, the wounds of racism, despair and lament at cancers around us, the devastating marks of our own failings left shamefully upon others and ourselves. This cannot be bandaged as anything less than a mortal wound. But the threshold is now. Christ comes near. He weeps with us, ready to address the indications of our illness, imparting healing and kindness. In the coming of Christ, God offers a cure extending as far as the wound can ever fester.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Jeremiah 8:6.
(2) Jeremiah 8:11.
(3) Isaac Watts, Joy to the World, 1719.