Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bonhoeffer, iguanas and Jesus

"Our enemies are those who harbor hostility against us, not those against whom we cherish hostility… As a Christian I am called to treat my enemy as a brother and to meet hostility with love. My behavior is thus determined not by the way others treat me, but by the treatment I receive from Jesus." The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The following story is a bit of my husband's past as a missionary kid in South America, living at boarding school with all the other lost boys, er, young missionary kids:

The clay basketball court was hot, hot, hot in the afternoon. It lay baking in the equatorial sun, absorbing radiation that could be felt and seen as heat waves rising in the air.

A group of boys were walking in the grass and one of them disturbed a large iguana. The boys chased the iguana onto the basketball court. Quickly they surrounded the perimeter.

The iguana was getting burned. The boys laughed as its claws frantically scratched acrosss the court. The lizard tried to escape, hauling tail to the far side of the court. A boy ran to that spot and blocked his exit. In pain, the animal then ran in another direction only to be denied relief from the burning again as the bullies blocked its every attempt to escape.

I don't know how long they kept this up, or if the iguana was only tortured for a short time. My husband doesn't remember. He doesn't remember much at all from his childhood.

But I do know those hurting boys were acting out their rage and experiencing a cathartic release of repressed anger by tormenting the lizard.

The iguana certainly harbored no hostility against these boys. The lizard simply had the misfortune to catch their eye.

The hostility lay in the boys hearts long before and long after that moment of release, which I am sure brought only a momentary relief.

Jesus said many things about enemies. One verse in particular was used as a proof-text justifying the missionary lifestyle of the 1950s:

Matthew 10: 36-37

36a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' 37"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me."

Verse 37 was the verse used to demand the true disciples abandon their children to religious day/night/weekend/months-upon-months-at-a-time care in order to pursue their noble careers as missionaries. I guess they didn't read down to verse 42 where the Lord says that meeting a child's needs in his name is an act truly worthy of reward. Ironic, no?
42And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.

You want more irony? As Focus on the Family, home schooling and being a SAHM became the new Christian standard, my mother-in-law (yes the same one who sent her five and six year old little boys to full-time, twenty-four/seven, around-the-clock, ten-months at a stretch childcare!) confided how lucky she was that none of her daughters-in-law wanted to work outside the home.

She was the ultimate career woman, but because that career was religious then it was not only okay, it was proof of her commitment to Jesus?! But her daughters-in-law were considered good precisely because we didn't have a career outside the home? Confused yet?

The truth is whatever the Christian culture glorified as the most righteous, the most committed, the most spiritually earnest course of action, that was the one my mother-in-law wanted to be associated with. She chose her career path right after Jim Elliot's death, when all the truly committed seminary students were being urged to take up Jim's calling as their own. Going to become a Bible translator to Stone Age tribal peoples was what the most righteous, the most committed, the most spiritually earnest evangelicals would do.

Many, many seminary students responded to that manipulative calling. It was the QF/homeschool movement of its day. That's why there was a whole pack of angry, wounded little boys walking in the jungle that day.

Today the most righteous, the most committed, the most spiritually earnest evangelicals are the QF/patriocentric crowd. But some things never change. It is still the children who suffer.

The days of my husband's exile to boarding school are over. The pain and anger of abandonment are not. So if you read my blog, please say a prayer for my husband,that he would find true healing.

And if you are living your own life trying to please God by doing whatever the Christian culture glorifies as the most righteous, the most committed, the most spiritually earnest course of action today-


All you need to know about pleasing God is found in Hebrews 11:6

6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Pretty simple: believe he exists, try to get to know Him. God speed on your journey, seeker! The iguana and I would like to ask you to keep it simple. Love God. Love people. Live loved.


  1. AMEN!!
    By the way, LOVE Bonhoeffer. What a great reminder. Love & prayers, friend.

  2. What an awesome read. Praying for your husband today.

  3. Thanks, friends, for the prayers and the kind words. I appreciate both. =)

  4. That's a great post, it lays it out so simply. I hope I can show it to some friends who need to see it some time. Prayed for your husband.


  5. Thanks, L! I truly appreciate it.

  6. Thanks for commenting on my blog today. I'm so glad I popped over here. Great post! I look forward to reading more.

    How interesting ... to compare the patriocentric/qf movement with the missionaries of days past. I've always been concerned about both "movements" ... even though I am the mother of an extra-large homeschooling family and several of my older children have become missionaries. So, the underlying premises are not wrong ... but the implementing of these scriptural principles in a legalistic "formula" is where people get into trouble.

    As my book review of TTUAP suggested ... it is the children that are suffering, at the hands of the parents that are tying to be "oh so spiritual" ...


  7. Mama D.,

    I know missionaries who are filled with love for the people they minister among. They left compelled to find a way to move to where they are now, because LOVE drew them to be there. They live loved and loving in a foreign land.

    And I know missionaries who went to the field to be heroes, part of the ultra-committed elite. There is little evidence of love for anyone, though they do know a lot of scripture. My in-laws worked many years with nothing to show for it. When they left the tribe, all their translation work was lost and there was no church left behind to carry on without them. Ever read the Poisonwood Bible? A missionary friend assures me that it is a very realistic and believable story.

    I know people who have always wanted a large family, ever since they were young. They celebrate each child as an individual, and would (I think) not put mom's health at risk or keep having children for the sake of having children.

    And I know people who will not limit their family size, no matter how well it is (or is not) working, because they are filled with fear that birth control, family planning or sterilization would be a grievous sin against God. They are so scared that God hates these actions so much that they would rather die, literally, than take any action to space or stop having children. They are motivated by fear, not love.

    Everything depends on your motivation. Are you truly called and motivated by love? Then go with what your heart lives and loves to do.

    Or have you been told by others that this was what true commitment looked like? Are you motivated by pride and/or fear? Then please stop whatever it is you are doing and do nothing for awhile. Let love come and speak to you and give you a new direction.

    Walking with Jesus should be simple. Love God, and enjoy fellowship with Him every day. His yoke is easy and his burden is light.

    If your life isn't easy and light, maybe that's not His yoke, kwim?

  8. "Then please stop whatever it is you are doing and do nothing for awhile."

    Not to distract from the main topic for long, but that reminds me SOO much of horse trainers like Ray Hunt, who "preached" a contemplative, constantly learning lifestyle. They said every time you start feeling frustrated/unable/confused to sit down and take a break and not keep doing whatever it is that was leading to those "warning emotions." Sometimes you end up continuing with something very similar, just with a different attitude or slightly different focus. But the motivation and how you and the horse are feeling are always to be taken into account. It is not at all an indulgent method, BTW, horses trained that way have been top-level in every discipline.

    I tend to see lots of similarities with horse training and human to human, human to God relationships. It's interesting to me how God has basic ways things work across both the human and the animal kingdoms. OK, done with my diversion, carry on!


  9. L,

    The sort of horse training you are describing sounds more to me like "team training" if I may call it that. Both you and the horse are building a trust relationship and learning to work together as a team for the joy of it, the horse responding to your loving, and often challenging directives.

    God is so much greater, wiser, more loving, etc. than the most studious theologian can begin to comprehend. His bending to be in relationship with us IS similar to the sort of "team training" above, only we are for sure the horse in that simile!

    Like your insight. Thanks for sharing it with me.

  10. I just found your blog and read this post after doing some research on the patriocentric movement. First of all, I'm right there with you on Love God, Love others -- that's my mantra -- I like how you added, "Live Loved". That's great. That is where the grace is, and that is what is sometimes missing in some Christian circles. I *will* pray for your husband. I've heard of similar experiences with other MKs. I know the President of Compassion International, Wes Stafford, I believe, had a very similar experience as an MK growing up. His story is heartbreaking. Anyway, just wanted to comment. I'll look around more on your site!