Rev. Sudha Mehta©
He walked in with somewhat of an awkward gait, unsure of himself. His hair neatly combed back, and unironed but buttoned up plaid flannel shirt, dress pants that probably didn’t get much use and worn sneakers. His face looked older than his years and the nicks on his chin made clear that he didn’t shave often. The dirt under his nails and his scruffy hands said he worked hard labor.
It was clear he had attempted to clean himself up just to come see me and he was on time for his appointment. He addressed me as Rev. Mehta.
“I need to be a ‘Good-enough Christian,’ Rev. Mehta,” presenting his need.
“A good-enough Christian?” I reflected back.
“Yes, I have been a Christian now for about a month. The church I have attended these four weeks needed help with the youth and I offered. The pastor said I wasn’t a ‘good-enough Christian’ so I need to work on it.”
Clearly there is no such thing as a “Good-enough Christian!” We are either a Christian or not one. No where in scripture does Jesus look at us and access us as being “good-enough.” I felt sorry that the pastor had inadvertently hurt this young man, yet I understood that it would be unwise for any pastor to take a new convert who was also new to his church and place him in a ministry position with the youth.
Thankfully, the hurt didn’t cause him to leave church, rather, it caused him to genuinely examine himself, and hungry for growth, he showed up at my door.
“Tell me your story” I said.
He was not of eloquent speech. He had lived a rough life. The story that emerged was that he was a young man in his mid twenties who lived at home with his mother, had been a high school dropout and though overtime he had been in a few relationships, none had lasted. He worked a road construction crew. Hard work, hard conditions and after hours a lot of beer. After work he hung out with the crew at bars, and often didn’t get home until late. Yet with little sleep he had managed to hang on to the job now for several months.
As he struggled to tell his story, he called me Reverend one too many times. I played my hunch and said:
“You don’t have to call me Reverend every time, you may address me as Sudha”
He wasn’t comfortable with that. He asked if it was okay to address me as Sister Sudha, and we left it at that.
I wasn’t done yet: “Do you speak like this at home, and when you are with your buddies from work?”
Caught off guard, he stammered a bit and said, “Well, I could never speak here as I speak out there. It wouldn’t be right!”
I paused a moment and said,”Let’s make a deal . . . you speak with me in your normal speech, and we will continue to work to make you a ‘good-enough Christian’. Otherwise, I am afraid you will not be truly honest with me and that will limit our work.”
He looked a bit stunned and hesitant. When I assured him that he was safe in my office he said he would try and hoped I wouldn’t give up on him. He also apologized in advance for what he might say.
I explained how true change in a Christian is not brought about from the outside in, rather from the inside out.
Matthew 15:16 “Do you still lack understanding? ” he asked. 17 “Don’t you realize that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is eliminated? 18 But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, slander. 20 These are the things that defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile a person.”(CSB)
So, we pressed on! Back in those days I used to wear my hair in a perm. Now his speech curled my hair.
For the next many months we worked, he worked at being honest and I worked at not cringing as I heard every swear word and every variation of every swear word. Serious or smiling, I too remained genuine as I heard. We worked through his life issues, he also learned what the Word had to say about the tongue and the harm it can do.
James 3: 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. (NIV)
He turned out to be a quick learner, and more importantly, as he saw that I did not give up on him, he healed from the inside out. We discovered together that he had been a man drowning in sin and sorrow when He reached UP to the cross, and found help for his weary soul.
Photo by Tim Marshall
Over the months, his heart changed from the inside. He had been wounded many times in close familial relations, but now he looked and felt new. His love for God grew, and he solidified in his walk with Jesus. His language changed! He found his need for swearing and cursing lessen and then disappear altogether.
Several months later he was asked by the pastor to help in a ministry in church. He now had shown himself a genuine “good-enough” Christian!
I also found I had grown. God had given grace to bear the unbearable tongue. The results of forbearance were pleasant. I understood His grace with me much better. I was richer in mercy, love and grace . . . and all I had done was extend grace to the outwardly undeserving, while realizing I myself had been equally undeserving of God’s grace when He found me. Once again, we are all equal at the foot of the cross.
He left my care a new man from the inside out, and I finding myself without hair-curling speech, needed a new perm!
Perhaps you are one who has been wounded and feel very much like this man. Perhaps someone extended God’s love to you when you were most in need. Perhaps on the other hand, you have needed to extend grace as I needed to. What is your story?
Leave a comment.
Join us and join us on https://www.facebook.com/OneWayStudies
like us and Follow us on https://onewaystudies.com
Follow us on Twitter: onewaystudies.com
Subscribe and Like us on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=hiswaystudies