The Parable of the Enlightened Christian

leap of faith

Her most treasured photo, Dana calls this, “Leap of Faith.” I call it, “Enlightened Man.” Near Casablanca, Morocco.

“…that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth, he confesses, resulting in salvation.” ~ Romans 10:9-10

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All photos by Dana Hoggard Watkins

Two men.

Aydin, at 71, rests in a hospital bed. He’s just come to terms with an incurable diagnosis. It will take his life in days, if not, weeks.

Nabal is a Christian pastor, who for the last 40 years dedicated his life in service to the Lord. He’s led many flocks, built many churches. He updates his resume twice a year with an endless list of accomplishments for which he’s tirelessly worked. There’s a kingdom to build out there, and it requires a lot of work.

Circumstances prompt a meeting between the two men in Hospital Room 2008, and they form a kinship.

In the precious days to follow, Aydin opens up to Nabal. He describes a life of regret. Booze. Women. Foul language, and everything else you can throw into the kitchen sink. Aydin wishes his time had been more well spent.

But Nabal replies with a message of hope.

“What’s important is this moment,” the spiritual veteran says. “Have you made the decision to acknowledge Jesus as the Lord and Savior of your life? We can say a prayer right now and your scarlet sins will become white as snow.”

“I’m not ready, but maybe I will be soon,” Aydin replies. “I just need to think on things some more.”

Good News: Aydin now owns his sins and shortcomings.

No-So-Good-News: He’s still got baggage, and he’s carrying it around. Everywhere. And it’s heavy.

sunset near casablanca, morocco

Sunset near Casablanca, Morocco.

And so Nabal plants a seed. In the waning hours, the seed takes root, and grows in Aydin’s heart.

Days pass. Friends and family come to Aydin’s bedside for what everybody knows may be their final visit. The times are pleasant, good memories shared. There’s even laughter, and everyone who leaves Hospital Room 2008 senses something different. Something they can’t quite comprehend.

Despite the dire circumstances, Aydin seems relaxed, peaceful, happy, and not quite his former self. There’s a newness about him. Transparency. Freedom, if you will.

Three days later, something rouses in Aydin’s spirit. His new-found freedom stirs thoughts to acknowledgement, and acknowledgement, to action.

Aydin tells his faithful wife of 47 years he wants to be baptized.

And so Aydin’s wife, beside herself with joy, calls Nabal requesting that he come to the hospital right quick. No explanation of why. Just come, Nabal. Please come.

Nabal puts it on his list of priorities, but first preaches his Sunday sermon because he carries an obligation to his flock. He’s been charged with a duty he takes most seriously, and first things first.

He rushes through the normally relaxed three-point message, shakes a few hands on the way out and heads directly to Hospital Room 2008 where Aydin awaits.

Aydin’s faithful wife, meets Nabal outside the door.

over the skies of Greece

Somewhere over the skies of Greece.

“He wants to be baptized,” she says, smiling, knowing nothing else to say beyond just that.

“That’s wonderful. Praise the Lord,” Nabal replies, all the while, Aydin awaits anxiously in the bed inside Hospital Room 2008. “We’ll make the arrangements.”

“No, you don’t understand,” she says. “He wants to do it right now. He’s asked the entire family to come and witness, and everyone’s on the way.”

And Nabal goes silent. It’s a long silence before he offers a reply.

A baptism’s not possible in Hospital Room 2008, he says, because the Bible specifies the proper procedure, and it includes a “full-immersion.”

Aydin’s wife looks confused.

“We don’t care about the full immersion,” she says. “A sprinkling will be fine. He just wants to make the public profession of faith, and everyone’s on the way.”

“But he can’t be fully immersed,” Nabal responds. “I don’t conduct baptism with a sprinkling, or anything short of full immersion. It’s our doctrine.”

“But this is just for him,” she says. “It’s what he wants, and we don’t know how much longer he has left. It’s time.”

“I can’t do it,” he said. “He can’t be fully immersed.”

And Nabal returns to his home, and his flock. And he never sees Aydin’s family again.

Four days later, Aydin died, but he’s never been more alive.

TOMORROW: “The Parable of the Enlightened Church.”

For related posts see:

Days and My Dad

Forty Things You Feel 40 Days After Your Dad Dies

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NO

It’s been four weeks now since dad passed away.

It was on a Thursday. The Sunday before he died was a milestone moment in my life I may never forget.

Dad lived a hard life – drank, swore, mismanaged money. In other words, he wasn’t perfect. Because he set the standard so high for himself, he never saw himself of worthy of God‘s unrelenting grace and prodigal love.

That Sunday morning, the doctor told him flat out, he wasn’t going to get better.  They could pump oxygen into his lungs all day long, but they had lived their life. The lungs would no longer move the air and move the ogygen into his blood stream.

“You mean this is the way the rest of my life is going to be? he asked.

“We don’t know how long,” the doctor said.

I think it was at that moment Dad knew the only person who could help him was Jesus.

Many of us who cared about him had tried to impose salvation on him over the years. I now know salvation is not imposed. It is received. And it can be received only when God the Father draws you to Him and you say “yes.”

That day, Daddy said “yes,” and he wanted to be baptized as a public profession of his newfound faith.

Dad never really went to church and as  good fortune would have it, the pastor of a local church attended by some of my family members had befriended dad in the hospital paying him almost daily visits in the next to last week before he died. Daddy liked the guy and he had good heartfelt conversations with him.

So upon Daddy’s request for baptism, they called the guy. There was an urgency in the call. Any breath could have been Dad’s last. Not that the baptism made his salvation any more secure. He just wanted to do it, and we wanted him to have it.

So the pastor showed up, was advised of my Dad’s request and the joy of our dad’s salvation took a disappointing turn.

A half dozen IV’s were hooked up to Daddy’s arms. He could hardly move. His breath was short — and unfortunately for him there wasn’t a river nearby.

The pastor believed baptism could only be conducted by full immersion, and the situation and facilities just didn’t allow that.

“So would you consider another alternative … sprinking, pouring of water?”

“No.”

That’s the only way he could conduct a baptism, he said. That’s what he believed.

Let me try to recap and sum this up in a paragraph.

A 71-year-old man who had lived like Hell up to this point in his life and whose last breath could come at any moment had just asked the God of all Creation to come into his life and he wanted to celebrate with his family with a baptism.

But the preacher said no. That was not the doctrine in which he believed.

I thought about Jesus. What would Jesus do?

On the Sabbath, Jesus told the man to pick up his mat and walk.

Later in His journey, Jesus told a woman who should have been stoned “to go and sin no more.”

Did Jesus care if every square inch of Dad’s skin was immersed, or if water was just poured over his head?

I’d like to think not.

Weeks later, I’m still shaking my head, trying hard to forgive, and to move on.