A Pastoral Reflection by Jon Marq Toombs
3 August 2016
In my latest sermon on John 9, I mentioned Exodus 4:11 and echoed Jesus’ point that God is sovereign over all things — even physical disabilities and personal handicaps — for the praise of his glory.
After worship my family and I went out to eat with some friends in East Dallas. When we arrived at the restaurant we were met by a middle-aged black man just outside the front door. He was dirty, had no legs, only one shriveled hand, and bulging cataracted eyes. He looked up and asked with a hazy voice if I would buy him six tacos and a coke “To go cuz I ain’t wanna bother nobody.” I placed his order at the counter then waited with him by the door. I asked his name and told him mine. As we chatted I asked Dennis what happened to him, where he lived, and if he had family and friends. He said he stayed by Fair Park. He started to say something about his three kids, but looked away and shook his head. (Not everything he said was clear.) I asked if was a praying man. He looked up at me and said, “Oh yeah, I pray God every day.” I asked if I could pray for him, and if he would pray for me. And so we prayed for each other at the door, my hand on his shoulder, his hand on my back. Prayers offered, he thanked me and extended a handless, calloused, right arm, which I took and shook. When his order arrived he smiled and asked me to slide the loops of the bag over his nub.
As he made his exit, I saw him hold the door open for a woman before hobbling away into the night, on his house-shoe covered knees.
I felt people staring at me, thinking God-knows-what, as I made my way across the restaurant to the men’s room. Once there, I stared in the mirror over the sink. Echoes of my sermon were screaming at me:
“God is sovereign over all things — even physical disabilities and personal handicaps — for the praise of his glory.
Try to remember that the next you wonder how you ended up in the mess you’re in, or why something bad happened to you, or where God was when some conflict or disaster strikes.
Jesus does not always tell us what we want to hear, but he always tells us what we need to hear because he came full of grace and truth.”
I washed my hands, washed my face, and wept a little. Not just for Dennis, and broken people like him; but for myself, and broken people like me — deeply religious people who are guilty, yet claim to be clean; who walk, yet are lame; who are blind, yet claim to see.
As Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who are blind may see, and those who see may become blind.”
Judgment is a severe mercy. Sometimes it destroys your pride, and crushes your heart. Sometimes it burns your eyes, and asks you for help. Sometimes it looks like Dennis, sounds like Spanish, and tastes like tacos.
I wonder: When Jesus separates light from darkness, and night from day, where will I be? Where will he find me?
Am I blind? Do I see?
Am I a Pharisee?
Oh Lord, I am often blinded by darkness, and stumble through life. Give me new eyes to see the Light of the World. He is a covenant for your people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. Lead me in a way that I do not know, in paths that I have not known, and guide me by faith, not by sight. Turn the darkness before me into light, the rough places into level ground. Illumine the eyes of my heart. For your glory, and for my good. Amen