I am now living at the threshold of 80. As I look in the rearview mirror of my life, I see my past through different lenses. I have had both physical and spiritual cataract surgery. I can see well again and don’t need glasses for close-up or distance. That is a real blessing. I am grateful to the surgeons who performed the operation. The Holy Spirit is one of these surgeons. I am also grateful to the Lord who inspired the doctor to choose his profession. I am just plain grateful. But now let me go on and explain why I chose this catchy title and these catchy pictures for this epistle.
I awoke the other morning and immediately saw myself as a tow truck operator cruising along the highway of life. Along the side of the road and in ditches I saw many stranded motorists. In some cases it was obvious why they were unable to go any further; in other cases it was not. Since I was not going very fast I was able to see numerous cars with flat tires while other motorists were standing by their car holding up an empty gas can. Whether or not anyone had called a tow truck I did not know. In fact, I did not see another tow truck as I was cruising along.
I surprised myself by having no need or desire to stop and offer help. This was not my normal posture. Helping others and being that Good Samaritan had always been my immediate response. A good part of my life was consumed by helping or trying to help others -- especially those who had not found an advocate for their troubles or did not like the advocate they had found.
I had always enjoyed helping people in distress. In fact, I thought that this was my main mission in life. When I did not stop to help a stranded motorist or pick up a hitchhiker, I felt guilty; and I hated feeling guilty. I loved all the "strokes" I got for being seen as a "nice guy" who likes to help people. It made me feel good. Helping others, I guess, had a way of stroking my ego.
In some cases I became that tow truck that helped the same disabled vehicles over and over again. They did not let me take them to a good mechanic. These people just liked the idea of being towed and leaching off of kind-hearted Samaritans. Now I see them as leaches. Eventually I learned the hard way that they did not intend to get their car fixed. They loved getting a free ride from this dummy or any dummy they could find. As we all know, just hauling cars around becomes exhausting and in the long run is never rewarding. For a very long time I had no idea that I was being exploited. But now it’s time to shift gears and explain how night crawlers fit into the picture.
A few days after seeing myself as a tow truck operator, a memory of long ago flashed into my mind. I was maybe eight years old -- just an innocent little boy on his way to school. It had rained hard the previous night. The grass and pavement was still very wet. Many night crawlers -- hundreds, maybe even thousands had crawled out of lawns and onto the pavement. Cars, bicycles and pedestrians had already come along and crushed many of the worms that were on the street. I felt sorry for them and began picking up those that were still alive and put them back onto the grass. I finally realized that it was impossible for me to rescue all of them and went on to school. I was late. It was much later in life that I realized that Satan can disguise himself as innocent and helpless looking "night crawler." It is only after you pick him up that he can and will bite you.
I was finally able to put two and two together – the picture of the tow truck and my memory of trying to save every worm that could possibly be saved. I saw how impossible and stupid that was for me or anyone else. I saw how I had been literally tricked to believe that God had called me or anyone else to save every worm that had crawled onto the highway of life. I recognized the unhealthy "savior" syndrome both in myself and others. I saw how Satan and the world around me had exploited and twisted a heart filled with compassion for hurting and needy people. And suddenly it it dawned on me why I saw myself as a tow truck operator one day and as a little boy picking up all those worms a few days later. I did not hear an audible voice; but these were the thoughts and this was the inner dialogue with Jesus as best as I can remember it now.
"Peter, I never did anything unless I first asked my Father for permission. Only when I saw my Father doing it, then I went ahead and did it. That is why I did not fail in my mission. I always obeyed my Father. That’s why I am the Savior of the world; and there is only room for one savior. Anyone who sees himself as another savior is being tricked and is bound to fail. Like myself, humble yourself and always ask and obey. Ask Me first which worm you are to pick up or if you are called to be a "worm-picker-upper."
"But Lord, when I drive down the highway of life and see a stranded motorist or a hitchhiker or someone begging for alms, I have always felt compelled to stop and give aid. If I did not stop, I felt guilty and condemned. In fact, my mind often resembled a battle field, especially at night. There has always been a lot of confusion and torment in my thought-life. You told us to give aid to those who are in need. You have given us a heart of compassion for the homeless, hungry and lost. Lord, there are so many of them; we cannot possibly help them all."
"Peter, Satan is the accuser of the brethren and can also appear as an angel of light. He always has been and always will be a deceiver and accuser. He uses every opportunity to make us feel guilty, confused or condemned about something. He often uses the night hours to do his hideous work. Peter, you must be on guard. Know that it gives Satan great pleasure to torment our minds with guilt, fear, pride, anger and lust. You must learn how he operates. He is a trickster. His game is to drive us insane and over the edge.
"If you ask Me for wisdom, I will tell you when and where to stop and give aid. I will tell you and I love to tell you; but you must always ask first. Ask Me for wisdom, don’t ask anyone else. I am not only your Savior but also your Wisdom. You will find Wisdom in my Word. My Word is rich with counsel. No question you ask is trivial to Me. Remember, I can only be your Wisdom if you ask."
"Thank you Lord. I feel so much better now. I realize now that I have been far too spontaneous, even impetuous and have forgotten to ask You for counsel. A huge burden has been lifted from my shoulders. I have been so confused and tormented all my life. Thank you Lord for removing the guilt and confusion that has clobbered me so often and robbed me of sleep and health.
"Lord Jesus, from now on I will only do what You show and tell me to do whether it makes sense to me or not. And if I forget to ask, I know You will forgive me. These life-long patterns are so hard to break. From today on I will trust and obey You in matters large and small. I will only pick up those worms, those hitchhikers you tell me to pick up. And if someone does not want me to take them to You, our Master Mechanic, I will just let them go. This will surely make me sad, but I will follow your instructions to the best of my ability. I now see that it is a matter of life and death that I do."