Friday, March 03, 2006

Stories from the frontline

Dan has a great post today on stories of the miraculous told to him by missionaries returned from the field.

It probably says a lot about me that I, a professed charismatic, first read those stories with a measure of skepticism. I have seen a few miraculous things in my life -- including a story of my own -- and yet my instinct was to doubt the veracity of others.

God, forgive me, please.

I have never understood the mindset of missionaries because I have never had the desire to become one. It was once a source of great condemnation for me, but I've learned it's probably because God designed me for a entirely different type of ministry. I'm more of a guy behind the scenes -- a Barnabus -- than I am a Paul or a Peter or a Timothy.

The missionaries I do know astound me. Their perspective of the world is so different, and their passion to do what they do foreign to me. They have such great faith, and not all of them started out as charismatics. They went to their posts and, in great need, praying so fervently for miracles where their natural abilities failed, found God honoring their service to the frontline.

Dan wasn't trying to start another continuism/cessationist debate. He just wanted to point out where Christianity isn't strangled by rational dissent, people tend to see things we don't see here. The argument is effective for me because of my own experience.

When I was 13 I was cleaning the yards in my flip flops (I wasn't very bright) when my flip flop slid to the side of my foot on grass and I stepped on a rusty pitchfork. One of the prongs went clear through my foot.

Any kind of lack of faith was lost in the wash of pain and I mindlessly wobbled back to my room. I leaned on my bed in agony as I prayed a very simple prayer, something like ... "Oh God, please ..." My words were non-descript, but my the intent of my prayer was very clear. I wanted to be healed. My prayer came not from church instruction but out of great need. My prayer came not from Christian modeling, but out of the irrational instinct to seek the last resort.

At first I had a ringing in my ears. I remember this vividly. You might speculate it may have been from holding my breath, but I had shouting my prayer in the empty house over and over again. Then I felt my foot tingle and warm. Almost instantly the pain was gone.

After a couple of minutes I worked up the courage to look at my foot. There was a prong-sized hole on the bottom my foot that was not bleeding. The top of my foot was reddened, like a rash, but it had not poked through like it felt it had. The pain was gone.

The only pain I experienced was the bruising. It hurt for about three days while my foot healed. Somehow, that wound was gone in about a week. I have no scar, not other way to prove it happened. I later told my parents about this as an adult, and they were certain I had imagined this. If it happened, they reasoned, I would have had to go to the hospital. My father, knowing how rusty that pitchfork was, reasoned I would have had to get a shot to fight off infection.

But it did happen, and it's one of the few things I can remember with vivid detail. I also remember the terror of not wanting to tell my parents because I would have gotten in trouble for being so careless. We did not have health care. Going to the hospital would have probably taken food off the table at that time in our lives.

I try not to argue with cessationists. By their account, you cannot argue for the experiential with experiential evidence. I'm content to agree to disagree while we both work for the same goal.

On the other hand, cessationist arguments have no hold on me. A man with an argument has no power over a man with an experience.

Or so I'm told.

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