Sunday, March 8, 2009

Out of his shell

I have a friend here who, until recently, I'd pretty much written off as, 'just not gettin' it'. He's always held himself aloof, seeming actually to be really nervous and skittish not just around us, but the rest of the community here as well. Always mystified by his demeanor, I was never really understanding what was causing him to be like that. He's actually one of the more educated men here and his mind is very capable and he seems to know what he's doing so I couldn't quite chalk it up to being deranged or anything like that. But something has been holding this guy down.
As I got to know him more and more I began to suspect that his 'impairment' may be the effects of extreme guilt. Maybe the rumors I've heard about his having murdered his own mother are true. People in the community have not shown much respect for him in the past and some of the women have even expressed fear of him. He's not a scary man at all; extremely gentle and respectful, sensitive to others. I'm not sure what things of his past have such a hold on him, but I'm all the more certain that the weight of his guilt is so powerful that it disables him in many forms of social interaction. Even just talking with him and understanding him has been very difficult because even his speech is oppressed. He's almost afraid to talk and often trails off into faint whisperings that I just can't follow. There is one thing I've managed to hear as a general theme in his mostly undiscernable language, and that is his feelings of guilt. He has said over and over again, "I'm such a bad person. I've done so many bad things."
Recently (several months back, that is) he began asking me if he could get some copies of the lessons that we print. Remembering that years ago his interest in the teaching seemed minimal, I was happy to hear of his desire and gave him all the lesson books we have so far. Over time, he would come around about once a week to ask some questions about the lessons. It was clear to me that he is definitely understanding where the lessons are going; not something I necessarily doubted as he's shown evidence of being able to read even English pretty well. Another thing began to be clear as I listened to his questions; This man seems to be deeply sensitive to God's word. He's hungry!
Even more recently, I'm convinced and overjoyed to realize that this gentleman definitely has come to know the Lord as his savior. While he still struggles with guilt, when put in the press he holds on to Jesus' work on the cross. It was during one such 'pressing'; a time when, contrary to what one might expect, I FED his guilt, assuring him that at some time there definitely would be judgment for his many iniquities that he had been sharing with me, that he stopped me and very clearly pointed out Jesus' death on the cross as having taken place to take his punishment for him. "What about that?" he asked. "Is that not enough?" Well, after seeing him reach out for Jesus like that, I left my role as devil's advocate and assured him that yes, what he said about Jesus is most certainly true.
The weight lifted from this broken man's shoulders was so great that he couldn't contain his tears. His body shook with the emotion and he covered his face with his hands and cried. The tears and expressed emotion were unlike anything I've ever seen in anyone here. This man was freed and he knew it!
Since then, I've watched him seemingly emerge from a shell. He's still a little bit skittish out of habit, but even his speech has begun to change some. His demeanor now, stands in growing contrast to that of the past; one of oppression so deep that even his speech was effected. While in the past his guilt was as a mountain on his shoulders, now that mountain has moved off toward the horizon and is merely a shaded visage of where he once was.
The transformation is happening. While he still struggles with many things and is by no means instantly perfected, he's on the road to that glorious perfection and I'm excited as I wonder what 5 years down the road holds for this man? 10 years? What does the Lord have in store for him? He has been coming around a lot more and we've been working on helping him to understand the importance of being with other believers for encouragement and continued growth. He's even expressed interest, without any urging from me, to get started training so that he can take this message to others.
I'm sure that he would appreciate your prayers as he continues to grow in God's grace in which he now stands.