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Redemption of the Body (Entire Article)

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By Daniel E. Whitley

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Some were worth fifteen cents, some two cents, some five cents. Once they had carried Grape Nehi to where it was supposed to go, the bottles were simply pitched out the window and discarded. As children, my brother and I would leave our house walking, without a cent, on our way to the country store that stood directly between two sets of railroad tracks. I would usually get a Chico stick, a Baby Ruth, some chips, and on a good day, a little some­thing to drink. What a feast! And those candy cigar­ettes made us feel tough on the walk back home. I always believed they were made of the same stuff as the little hearts that said “kiss me,” the ones we used to get on Valentine’s Day, but I never could prove it. Frustrating!

 

We bought all of that with discarded bottles that we would find along the roadside on the way to the store. Grape Nehi, Strawberry Crush, and, good ole Coke. They were in the road’s ditches. And here’s a little secret that I’ll let you in on—seeing as how you are taking time to read this book—one word, culverts. They are gold mines! Somebody throws out a bottle, there comes a little rain, and ev­erything is washed down the stream into these cul­verts. All kinds of stuff get caught in those things. I never told my brother this; it has been my secret all these years. They were in culverts and road ditches. Caught in the thickets of old fence rows, some were half buried in mud. They would just lie there until some little kid who saw their value would come by and dig them out. They had one word printed on them that made it all worthwhile. That word was REDEEMABLE.

 

I Corinthians 15:43-44: “It is sown in dis­honour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”
That which is sown (or discarded) in weak­ness shall be raised in power, sown in corruption but raised in incorruption. . . Blessed is he that is not offended in Me.

 

Matthew 11: 2-6 (emphasis mine): “Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, and said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and skew John again those things which ye do hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

 

Prisons play tricks on people. The isolation and the darkness, the loneliness can easily morph into self-pity and that self-pity into profound doubt, doubt in things of which we were previously so cer­tain. John the Baptist was so persuaded that the di­rection of his life was correct that at one point he proclaimed clearly that Jesus was the one for whom they had waited. John stated plainly as he saw Christ, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

 

Prison shakes that certainty. The prospect of execution at the hands of an unjust system tends to muddy the water a bit. John said, “Tell me again that I’ve done the right thing with my life. Maybe He was not as great as I thought He was; maybe I was worthy to buckle His shoes after all. Maybe I should have been more pragmatic in the way I chose to in­vest my life.”

 

The Christ said, “Go, show John again the same things he saw before.” These are the things that John had seen before:

The blind receive their sight.

The lame walk.

The lepers are cleansed.

The deaf hear.

The dead are raised up.

The poor have the gospel preached unto them.

 

All of these things appear very convincing on one side of the prison bars and not so cut and dried on the other side of those bars.

 

Jesus closed His message to John by saying this: “Blessed is he that is not offended in Me.” What is offensive about the blind seeing or the lame walking or the lepers being cleansed or the deaf hearing or the poor having the gospel preached to them? The answer is obvious: nothing. It was the rather unceremonious way with which he had been discarded that was difficult to understand.

 

You mean it was all about the light and not at all about the pitcher? Yeah, that’s right. That is the battle plan.

 

Can you handle this? Is this offensive to you? You are certainly blessed if you are not offended by this.

 

It is a good thing to be used by God, I sup­pose. It seems to me to be a noble Christian goal. We would all like to shine like a torch or perhaps blare like the trumpet. There are few, however, who envision themselves playing the disposable role of the pitcher. Yet there is no cause for which we are more perfectly suited.

 

Spend your few years, if you wish, searching for that great, elusive cause, that cause more worthy of your talents. I suggest, however, you accept and embrace the path of the pitcher. To be used would be great. You know, that would rank you right up there with Balaam’s donkey, Jonah’s whale, Judas Iscariot, and Pharaoh. I guess God uses all kinds of things and people for all kinds of purposes.

 

Those who carry his light are greater, though. It amounts to more than simply being used. It is intimate and ultimately meaningful. To be used of God is to be held in His hand as a tool, to be subject to His will either willingly or through coercion. To be a pitcher is exceedingly more intimate than this. It is to hold Him, to harbor Him, to transport Him, then to release Him selflessly. If you are seeking greater intimacy with God, consider the path of the pitcher, the path of self-denial. Try wrapping your otherwise meaningless life around the torch and, like the prophet Jeremiah, feel the heat of fire in your bones. That will be when you will know for sure that you have found your purpose.

 

This remarkable intimacy acquaints Him with the earthen vessel, so be certain that He has read the print. Though these vessels become broken and dis­carded, and for all the world they appear distressed and in despair, forsaken and destroyed, these are the vessels that bore about in them the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life of Jesus might be manifest in them. REDEEMABLE, a vessel of honor to be de­sired of God, to be recovered from the road ditches of obscurity and resurrected from the culverts of history.

 

Room 8-9-10-11, a slight peck on the door. I remember that sad, little room, all right. It was in the town where I grew up. I always knew what to expect while in that room, even if she didn’t remem­ber my name. Sometimes I was me. The last time I was there I was “John.” “John, John . . . Is that you, John?” “No, Mamaw, this is ole Dan.” “John?” she insisted. “No, this is Danny. We’ve come to see you, Mamaw. How are you today?” “Oh, John, the Lord’s been good to me. He’s always been so good to me.”

 

She was always one to speak, albeit with a limited vocabulary. She looked for opportunities to tell anyone all about the God who had meant so much to her for so long. I must confess, however, that I cannot remember very much of what she said. The thing I really remember is the voice. I still hear it today. It owns part of my brain. “Ole Dan, good ole Dan, sweet ole Dan,” or some variation of this is what she always called me.

 

I remember her trembling hands scratching in her little, dollar-store, vinyl change purse, trying to find a few cents to give to us. That, I suppose, is the most accurate vision of her. That memory best rep­resents all of the memories I have of her. It is the most representative of her life. She was always scratching and scraping to give. She never had any intention of accumulating anything.

 

She had such an accurate view of her purpose. She was a pitcher, and she knew it and she liked it. She was always one to speak, albeit with a limited vocabulary. She looked for opportunities to tell anyone all about the God who had meant so much to her for so long. I must confess, however, that I cannot remember very much of what she said. The thing I really remember is the voice. I still hear it today. It owns part of my brain. “Ole Dan, good ole Dan, sweet ole Dan,” or some variation of this is what she always called me.

 

I remember her trembling hands scratching in her little, dollar-store, vinyl change purse, trying to find a few cents to give to us. That, I suppose, is the most accurate vision of her. That memory best rep­resents all of the memories I have of her. It is the most representative of her life. She was always scratching and scraping to give. She never had any intention of accumulating anything.

 

She had such an accurate view of her purpose. She was a pitcher, and she knew it and she liked it.

 

She was always scratching to give to God, to give to her family, to give to everyone. She was brilliant though not eloquent. She could lift the world right off your shoulders though she was feeble and weak. She had no talent of which I knew anything, yet she was gifted so that she could take a depressed, lonely teenager and sell him on the prospect that he was the only young man in all of God’s world. She never even owned a car or learned to drive, yet she could take one anywhere he wanted to go with the prayers that echoed up and down Maple Street. I remember the light that shined from her every time she was struck. She was stricken often.

 

My grandfather lived in the same small town as I during my entire childhood, yet I never knew him or even knew what he looked like. If we ever met I did not know him, and I doubt that he knew me. I saw him one time that I recall. He was dying on a hospital bed. “This is your grandpa, Son,” my mother told me. I didn’t know him and he didn’t know me, and it really didn’t matter. I would not miss him, and I had not been cheated—I had been spared. I knew what kind of man he was. Mamaw had always been enough for me.

 

When I was a young child, I prayed some rather foolish prayers. God is, I’m thankful, too smart to have answered them. When I was young I would pray that God would allow her to outlive me. She was born in the year 1900. I was born in the year 1965, so do the math. In order for her to outlive me, I would have to die a very young man. It was so difficult to imagine how life would be for me after she was gone that I thought maybe it would be best if I didn’t find out. So I prayed that I would die be­fore she did. I know, that was really stupid, and God was far too kind to answer such a foolish, childish prayer, as sincere as it was.

 

I grew up a little, and my prayers changed. I was always aware that she would not live forever and that soon she would not be there. It seems I started dreading it from the moment I was born. Even when I was extremely young, this knowledge was a constant source of dread. Nevertheless, I came to accept that she was old and that I had better try to hang around for a while, even if it meant having to see her die. So as I accepted this reality, I began to pray that God would, you know, sort of micromanage her demise, kind of just see to it that she didn’t suffer too much.

I, as a young man, had periodically attended a nursing home outreach service that was provided by our local church. I sat in a room with cinder block walls. They had been painted yellow and dec­orated with leaves that had been cut from red, yel­low, and orange construction paper by the residents and taped to the walls. Grumpy, unhappy cafeteria workers with stained uniforms mashed English peas as those lonely veterans of life watched Donahue. I saw some of the most depressing sights in that place and smelled the smells of once productive people who had lost independence and dignity. I prayed, “Jesus, at the very least, please do not allow her to lose her dignity and the grace which had defined her for so long. Let her leave this world with her head held high.” She fought her fight. She finished her course. She kept her faith.

 

What a fight it was! It was a fight with the poverty of the Great Depression, with the bruises from a drunk who possessed her family, with the challenges of raising nine children under the con­stant abuse of this coward. She fought with more circumstances and limitations than I can list here.

 

She found the Lord on the banks of the Saline River under the tent of a traveling preacher. God filled her with the light of His Holy Spirit in that tent, and every time she was struck, the light in her life became brighter. She bore about in her body the dying of the Lord Jesus, and the life of Jesus was made manifest in her mortal body. She died in De­cember of 1993.

 

My mother was the youngest of those nine children. John was the youngest of the boys. So I didn’t mind “being” John in room 11 of that nursing home. She came to the place where no one could give her the care she needed. As she declined both physically and mentally, that unhappy place was where she ended up. Bleak yellow walls, the con­struction paper leaves were gone and now snow­flakes cut from paper plates had taken their place that December 1993. You may think that God had failed to answer another prayer; He had not.

 

I never thought that a ninety-three-year-old woman, wearing diapers, calling me John, could be described as graceful and dignified, but she was. That light was so bright, and it was constantly being drawn from her broken shell. She always had a pe­culiar way of clapping her hands. We grandchildren tried to mimic it many times growing up. I got to see it one last time only moments before she died. She was singing an old congregational that we had sung many times as children and clapping those feeble hands in that unique way. She sang,

“Won’t we have a time when we get over yonder,
Won’t we have a time when we get over yonder,
Won’t we have a time when we get over yonder,
Oh, won’t we have a time!

We’ll sing and shout and dance about when we get over yonder . . .”

 

As her light made its way down through the hills onto the battlefield, it has certainly been magni­fied and compounded. She never preached a single sermon, but because of her I have preached thou­sands of them. Today there is a thriving, growing church in this town where I pastor. There is a great church down the freeway an hour or so away, where my brother is a pastor. My other brother teaches young people to love the God of Mamaw. There is a great church in the city of Toronto, Ontario, Can­ada, where my cousin pastors. There is a great church in Oklahoma where another cousin pastors. There is a great church just northeast of here, about two hours away, my cousin and her husband pastor; and another in Arizona where my uncle teaches and writes. There are thousands of people, perhaps tens of thousands, including you if you are reading this book, to whom her light still shines. It shines not because of any great talent, for she had none. Not because of any notable accomplishments as men would see it; she had none. She was amazing in her ability to give and to sacrifice, and her breaking was an amazing spectacle of some decades.

 

We all groan within ourselves. Mom and Dad and I, uncle and brother and cousin with all creation awaiting the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body. We all saw it printed all over her as they low­ered her into the earth. REDEEMABLE.

 

Carry the light. We do not choose the time or method in which we break. We can only carry it to­day. Carry it with as much grace as you can. Never become petty and resentful about it, and try not to be offended in Him. This light is seen from heaven, concealed from earth, and carried until the time of heaven’s choosing, then released back into eternity. Cherish the opportunity to do so.

 

 

 

The above article, “Redemption of the Body” was written by Daniel E. Whitley. The article was excerpted from chapter ten in Whitley’s book A Pitcher’s Purpose.

 

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

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