Friday, August 23, 2013

An unfamiliar world

I will never forget what it felt like as a four month old fledgling Christian to be thrust into the midst of a thousand students at Northwestern Bible College who had come up from the cradle through the Christian system.  They spoke a language I didn't know. The girls looked different.  I wondered if maybe they had all overslept when their alarm went off and didn't have time to gussy up, but within a few days I had figured it out:  In order to appear spiritual girls should appear natural.  Well, my dears, to this day, I need a fresh coat of paint every morning to cover up what God didn't get quite right. It was inevitable that I would be summoned to the office of the Dean of Women. Her words:  "Jo Ann, we don't want our girls to look worldly ".  I had already signed a statement promising not to smoke, drink, dance or go to movies. That was the short list. Now I was hearing from the Dean Herself that I looked worldly and I needed to promise not to do that any more. Paul the Apostle and the other guys had a few hundred well-chosen words to say about what is truly worldly. ...but God was growing me by asking that I adjust, with grace, to ways of thinking which I thought were nonsense.  I had become a part of a Christian institution; something quite new for me.

I knew absolutely nothing about the Bible when my plane touched down in Minneapolis in January of 1947.  My first assignment in school was to read through all the Bible and the version of choice then was the King James.  If I had had a little black dog and some money I woulda said, "Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore" and hopped on a train and fled.  I developed insomnia from sharing my living accommodations with a gaggle of girls which I had never had to do before; plus, I was doubting that I had been redeemed because I was struggling so hard to understand what the Bible was saying.  Once in awhile I would "get it" and was so excited, but I was too proud to tell my fellow students that I felt like a biblical moron in their midst.

My dorm housemother,  "Mother R",  spent and bent from raising six kids,  lived right below my room.  In the middle of the night, more than once,  I stumbled downstairs and knocked softly on her door. She got out of her warm bed and gathered me into her arms,  lead me to her bedside where we fell to our knees and she opened her torn and marked old Bible and read to me.  I went upstairs and immediately went to sleep while she probably stayed awake the rest of the night.  Now,  that's discipleship!  "Mother R" had been provided by my Father to be a Spiritual Mother to me.

My Father led me to another "door". ...that of dear  Dr. Harry Stam who was teaching missions while on medical leave from the Congo. You older saints may recognize the name "Stam".  Harry's brother was  "John" who was martyred with his wife "Betty" during the Boxer Rebellion in China. I showed up at Dr. Stam's office door during lunch hours when the dear man needed to rest, my King James Bible tucked under my arm.  He  never turned me away.  I sat at his feet as he fed my soul.  Now, that's discipleship! My Heavenly Father was providing for me a Spiritual Dad.

Billy had arranged for me to work right smack in the middle of the administration of the school. There were some precious Christians there like Dr. Sanden, scientist, whose book I helped prepare for publication.  What did I know about science?  Nothin'!  Now, that's discipleship!  A year and a half later, Dr. Sanden would walk me down the aisle when Ted and I were married. He had become another of my Spiritual Dads.

Of course I didn't expect to have to endure deceptions as I had experienced in the world. ...but I was in for another of many lessons in "grace".  There was a staff member, probably in her 40's,  who was so desperate for a man that she bought herself an engagement ring, flashed it around for months as we pressed on her to let us meet her fiance'.  She came in crying one day to tell us he had died.  We mourned with her. Then came the day when she broke down in hysterics and admitted the whole bloomin' lie.  Pitiful.  I felt sorry for her and knowing the way I was then, probably struggled not to suggest that she hock the ring, buy some make-up,  have her hair styled and throw her out-of-date wardrobe in the trashcan. There are a couple of reasons I am bringing up this story:  "Lying" wasn't on the Hallowed Statement we had all signed.  That's the problem with "lists". Secondly,  I had been a "deceiver" myself before becoming a Christian.  God was growing me up, revealing my awful sin of self-righteousness.

Billy's first Crusades were launched in Los Angeles that year.  In Chapter 7 of his book "Just as I Am" he writes that he was never quite happy as the President of the school, but he had promised the dying Founder and President of the school,  Dr. W. B.  Riley,  that he would accept being "Interim President".  Billy brought "new blood" like me, to the school,  as he had promised Dr. Riley he would do. Gradually I discovered that he had snatched several of us out of our unsafe places from across the nation that same year. Billy didn't have any time for me for he was up to his arm pits in alligators with the situations he had inherited at the school, his Vice-Presidency of Youth for Christ, a quickly unfolding Evangelistic ministry, plus having a wife and children far away. ...but my Heavenly Father was providing other Spiritual Parents for me. Billy had done his part in launching me into new life in Christ.

Billy spoke in chapel when he could.  I remember with clarity one statement he made:  "If my wife ever gets off her knees, my lips will turn to clay".  Statuesque, classy Ruth was anchored in Montreat, North Carolina, making their home a safe refuge for Billy and their children.  It was exciting for us students to hear first hand of the waterfall of God's blessings upon Billy's ministry.  He provided chapel speakers from around the world, expanding our world view. ...but  the one that most touched my heart was "Daddy Byus", 90 years old, from the mountains of North Carolina where Billy had spent his childhood as a hard-working dairy farmer's son. "Daddy Byus"  would enter the chapel, singing: "My wonderful Lord, my wonderful Lord. By angels and seraphs in Heaven adored. I bow at Thy shrine, my Savior Divine; My wonderful, wonderful Lord." By the time this dear old pastor reached the pulpit the student body was tearfully singing along with him. He would begin the week by saying, "Now students, when I was here last year we studied Psalm 91:1A.  This year we will be looking at Psalm 91:1B".  ...and for five days, we visited Heaven.

Our dear mentor, Ray Stedman, used to say: "To live with saints above, oh, that will be glory, but to live with saints below...Well, that's another story!"  I had stars in my eyes because a "star" had thrown me a rope of hope. Jesus is the only "Star" upon which we are to fix our eyes and we seem to have to learn that again and again.  God was not going to spare me from a course in "Graciously Dealing with Diversity".  I am still in school.

Next week: Ted Stone chooses.

As a mother stills her child, Thou canst hush the ocean wild
Boistrous waves obey Thy will when Thou say'st to them "Be still".
Wondrous Sovereign of the sea, Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

Love, Jo