Wednesday, December 5, 2012
1. To mix clay with water or a modifier (grog) and knead (wedge) to a uniformmixture.
2. To harden (as steel) by reheating and cooling in oil.
I woke up in the middle of the night a few days ago with this word on my mind. The examples I immediately thought of were tempering steel and clay.
As I thought of the word, it became apparent that the last 13 years of my life had been an exercise in tempering, but the first two definitions were not the most accurate me, the one that really fits is one of the last definitions in the Merrian-Webster Dictionary, “ to make stronger or more resilient through hardship, toughen.”
Starting in 1999, I entered full-time ministry with my mother, first as part of a non-profit that provided food and clothing directly to the poor and to other ministries in the Los Angeles area and then December 24, 2000, we started “Agape Love Fellowship International Church in south Los Angeles and the ministry was extended to include street evangelism, a support group, bible study and Sunday Worship services.
In the process of doing this we, my mother and I, lost everything we own… a couple of times, but I remained faithful to the ministry until December 24, 2006, when my mother fell ill and I began to realize that many of the people we were ministering to, and our “home church” (and I use that term loosely) really didn’t have our best interests at heart.
My mother fell ill with a viral infection after my former pastor ordered her to leave the house we shared with another minister, knowing we had no place else to go, and didn’t offer alternative lodging. We stayed in our car the winter of 2006 and that’s when she became sick. She went to the hospital and was prescribed an overdose of antibiotics, which in turn caused Clostridium difficile, also known as C. diff, which is a severe inflammation of the colon, often resulting from eradication of the normal gut flora by antibiotics.
During her stay in the hospital, several of the members of our home church paid a visit, but our pastor never called or came by. My mother wasn’t even put on the prayer list until she was released from the hospital 11 day later. Considering my mother had served as a pastor, evangelist and intercessor at that church for over 10 years, I believe that this was a travesty, and should have been a signal to her to leave. Members were still calling and asking her for prayer while she was in the hospital, too sick and too weak to walk, and yet when she was in her hour of need, the church as a whole was no help to her.
I tried my best to get my mother to leave that place, but she chose not to and to this day is still a member. She has continued to go through trial after trial and I yet she remains, but this experience change me forever. I began to realize it isn’t just the fact that you serve the Lord that’s important; it’s the people you serve with. I had already severed all ties with that church before my mother’s illness, but her refusal to separate herself from that place after the illness caused me to sever ties from my mother’s church as well. I knew it was time to go my own way.
When I moved to Chicago in the summer of 2007, I was in need of a change and completely disillusioned. I needed to be in a place that wasn’t so hostile… where I could feel the love of family… where I could heal. I needed “home”… but can you really ever go “home” again?
Well, suffice it to say that “home” wasn’t exactly the way I envisioned it, but it was a real education. I’ve written about some of my experiences there in earlier blog posts… being hit by a car while walking across the street… the estrangement with my father and other members of my family… my experience teaching… it wasn’t exactly the welcome I was hoping for, but I did learn how to manage myself. I developed “equipoise”, a much needed state of equilibrium that taught me how to counter the extremes of that city, the experiences I’d had in the last 13 years of my life and the extremes in my faith… the differences between what the word of God says and the what I had experienced in today’s “New and Improved” Christianity. In this very hostile environment, I found MY faith… my very own tried and true faith that has sustained me and has indeed, made me stronger.
At the beginning of this post, I defined “tempering” as, “to make stronger or more resilient through hardship, toughen.” I can see with all certainty that I have been tempered. What did not kill me, has indeed made me stronger and I will “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14)