Thursday, July 20, 2006

the middle of the circle

A good friend reminded me last night of a saying that holds monumental truth. We had just been to bible study and been rocked by personal testimonies of how a few of our fellow brothers and sisters had come to Christ.

"I love hearing other people's testimonies. It reaffirms my faith."

"I know, man. It's so eye-opening."

"I know. When I hear people talk about how they just knew it was Jesus who was holding their heart at that very moment, I find peace in that."

"Me too. Jesus is so sweet. He takes the time to come and find us when we think there is nowhere else we can turn."

"Some of those stories rocked me, man. It makes me think of that saying: "If everyone threw their problems in the middle of a circle, they'd come back with their own."

And there it was - the saying. It rang so true to me last night. My problems are nothing compared to what some people are going through or have experienced in their lives. And if we had all thrown our problems in the middle of the circle last night, you can bet your life that I would have taken back my own. I am doing O-Kay. God is good.

I challenge you this week to read stories of people's testimonies. Or, better yet, ask other believers how they came to know Christ. I know for me it always ends up bringing me closer to God when I hear about how he rescued a fellow brother or sister from darkness and brought them to the truth.

Below is a testimony we read about last night, a story not unlike some of the ones I heard about first hand from girls in my very own bible study. The similarities in the moments when one comes to know Christ are so beautifully connected. The experience transcends time, space, race, wealth, geography, or lifestyle. When Jesus finds you, you will be changed.

The life of Sadhu Sundar Singh was most remarkable in its Christ-likeness. Being born amidst the depths of Indian culture and religion, and into a Sikh family, during the early part of his life Sundar's mother would take him week by week to sit at the feet of a sadhu, an ascetic holy man, who lived some distance away in the rainforest. It was his mother who first encouraged him to become a sadhu. She once told him, "Do not be selfish and materialistic like your brothers, but seek for your peace of mind and hold steadily onto your faith. Be a sadhu." However, he never achieved peacefulness in his meditations. Owing to his mother's connections with some women from a British mission in Rajpur, Sundar was able to enter the school run by the missionaries. It was there that Sundar was first exposed to the Bible. He wasn't interested in the Bible at that time. Instead, he ardently buried himself in Hinduism and yogic practices.

But with the death of his beloved mother when he was only fourteen years old, his life had changed dramatically. The young Sundar grew increasingly despairing and aggressive. Convinced that what Jesus had taught was completely wrong, he tore the Bible apart and burned it. He even threw stones at preachers and encouraged others to do likewise. His hatred of the local missionaries and Christians culminated in the public burning of a Bible which he tore apart page by page and threw into the flames.

Still, however hard he tried, he couldn't find the peace he had been seeking for in his own religion. He reached a point in his life where committing suicide crossed his mind. Yet before long Sundar was intent on taking his own life. Sundar had arrived at a point of desperation: he had decided to throw himself under the Ludhiana express if God did not reveal to him the true way of peace. Three days after he burned the Bible in front of his father, he woke up at three in the morning and went out into the moonlit courtyard for the ceremonial bath observed by devout Hindus and Sikhs before worship. He then returned to his room and knelt down, bowed his head to the ground and pleaded that God would reveal himself. Yet nothing happened. He was thinking of throwing himself in front of the train that would pass at 5 a.m. every morning behind their house, in the hope that he would find peacefulness in his future reincarnation. He had not known what to expect: a voice, a vision, a trance? Still nothing happened, and it was fast approaching the time for the Ludhiana express. He repeated his prayer once again. He lifted his head and opened his eyes, and was rather surprised to see a faint cloud of light in the room. It was too early for the dawn. He opened the door and peered out to the courtyard. Darkness.

Turning back into the room he saw that the light in the room was getting brighter. At first he feared that the room was on fire. But nothing happened. He then thought that it might be an answer to his prayer. While watching the light, he suddenly saw Jesus' figure in the radiance. To his sheer amazement he saw not the face of any of his traditional gods, but of Jesus the Christ. Jesus Christ was there in the room, shining, radiating an inexpressible joy and peace and love, looking at him with compassion and asking, "Why do you persecute me? I died for you ..." [Acts 9:1-5] At that time, Sundar realized that Jesus was not dead but alive. Sundar fell on his knees before Him and experienced an astonishing peacefulness which he had never felt before. The vision disappeared, but peace and joy lingered within him.

Thereafter his life was transformed. He wanted to be baptized. Although his family tried to prevent him from his intention, he was determined. In 1905, on his birthday, he was baptized in an English church in Simla. At that time, he decided to become a sadhu, so that he could dedicate himself to the Lord Jesus. As a sadhu, he wore a yellow robe, lived on the charity of others, abandoned all possession and maintained celibacy. He was convinced that this was the best way to introduce the Gospel to his people since it was the only way which his people were accustomed to. In addition, he also wanted to be free to devote himself to the Lord.

Having become a Christian, he was renounced by his father and ostracized by his family. On October 16 1905, Sundar wearing a yellow robe, barefooted and without provisions, resumed his nomadic life from village to village, but this time he followed in Jesus' footsteps. From here on the life of Sundar Singh became most Christ-like. Being unwilling to denounce his Master in the face of his family's rejection, Sundar took the saffron robes of the sadhu and began a life of spreading the simple message of love and peace and rebirth through Jesus. He carried no money or other possessions, only a New Testament.

"I am not worthy to follow in the steps of my Lord," he said, "but like Him, I want no home, no possessions. Like Him I will belong to the road, sharing the suffering of my people, eating with those who will give me shelter, and telling all people of the love of God."


Botonium said...

that's killer. thanks for sharing!

Sarah (Cody) Haverly said...

mmmmmmmmm. I've been reading some of your blogs, you know, after a little random facebook clicking, and I'm so happy! I know it has to be really hard to be a Christina in LA, but it seems like you've plugged yourself in well! What an awesome story! I love it! There are some absolutely amazing stories of Muslims putting their faith in Christ that just blow me away. God is so busy at work alll over the world, in places we can't even imagine, drawing people to Himself. Sweet. Andrew and I are "in prep" to be missionaries! Hopefully among an unreached, tribal people group in East Africa. Reading your story makes me even more excited about it!!! And Astonished that God could and would use someone like me to take his message of salvation and LIFE to people like Sundan (I forget his name...). Anyway, good blog:)