DTS Magazine

Extreme Makeover: The Interior

In Adventuring through the Bible, the late Ray Stedman
(CTh, 1950), told about Rex Stout, a famous mystery writer who also
considered himself an architect/builder. In the 1930s Stout designed
and built a fourteen-room house in Connecticut. Then he invited Frank
Lloyd Wright to come give his opinion.

On his arrival
Wright examined Stout’s work with a practiced eye. Stout held his
breath, hoping to hear a word of praise from the master architect.
Wright remained silent for a long time, but finally he spoke.
“Beautiful spot, Rex,” he said. “Someone should tear this thing down
and build a house here.”

Whether or not Stout took Wright’s
advice, I don’t know. What I do know is that last summer, I began to
believe God had decided to tear down the “house” of my life that I’d so
carefully crafted.

It all started about thirty years ago. My
wife Laurie and I came to Dallas to fulfill a dream. I came to prepare
myself for ministry where so many others had prepared—people who’d had
an impact on my life not because they knew so much about the Bible, but
because they knew the Bible itself and communicated it clearly and with
confidence.

In the spring of my second year of study,
however, I experienced a complete mental breakdown, for reasons I
didn’t understand at the time. I had to leave my studies, and my wife
had to leave her duties as president of Wives Fellowship that semester.
We moved to Connecticut, where my parents lived, and I began five weeks
of medical treatment and several months of recovery.

After
my release I returned to DTS, where Frank Minirth, MD (MA[BS], 1983), a
Christian psychiatrist who was serving on the DTS faculty at the time,
confirmed my diagnosis: I had what is believed to be a genetically
influenced condition called bipolar affective disorder. It manifested
itself in destructive symptoms exacerbated by the stress of
graduate-level studies. Dr. Minirth encouraged me to continue preparing
for the ministry, with the aid of medicine.

After graduating
with a ThM in 1976, I set out with Laurie to serve the Lord. We spent
thirty years in ministry, twenty of them in Texas. At times during
those years I would soar at the privilege of preaching God’s inspired
Word. At others I felt like I couldn’t make it to the end of a message.
Though I counseled others struggling in deep emotional waters, I
struggled to keep from drowning myself.

Laurie and I endured
the opposition of some stiff-necked church leaders, yet we learned to
love the ministry and the diversity of the Lord’s people. Both Laurie
and I loved what the Puritans used to call the “enthusiasms” of the
ministry.

Then last year, after ten years of
fruitful ministry in New Jersey, I had a stroke. This was compounded by
a severe toxic reaction to medications. This left me with a Social
Security classification of “totally disabled.” My daughter and
son-in-law had moved to New Jersey from San Diego just in time to help
Laurie with the demands of my care. My daughter, Elizabeth, had to
shave me and she and Laurie had to feed me. Severe tremors prevented me
from keeping food on my utensils. My son flew in from Houston and
stayed for a while to comfort me and to help Laurie move much of the
parsonage furniture to the first floor. Elizabeth and Laurie felt they
might have to put me in a nursing home because of their physical and
emotional inability to care for me any longer.

When my
symptoms became most visible to my congregation, one of our leaders
spontaneously called forward all the men at the end of a worship
service. He then asked them to lay hands on me and pray boldly
(yet with reverent humility) for God’s healing.

The Lord was gracious.

After
a stay in a local hospital, rehabilitation, medicine, and the
ministrations of kind physicians, my brain adapted to the injury it had
sustained. The tremors disappeared, and I was able to speak and walk
normally (although with some weakness).

Because the toxic
reaction damaged my kidneys and affected my overall ability to lead a
local church, I resigned. Laurie and I moved in with my
eighty-nine-year-old father, for whom we cook and care, living in his
mortgage-free home.

I confess that I have, at times, felt
bewilderment because of the physical, financial, emotional, and
spiritual challenges I now face. No amount of planning could have
prepared us for them. I had given my life to bring people to greater
maturity in Jesus Christ, counseled people in great pain, and endured
battering and bruising opposition from obstinate church leaders, only
to find myself in this condition. Is this what I get for enduring a
life that conquers seemingly insuperable hurdles? Where was the
warm vision that Robert Browning expressed in his poem, Rabbi Ben Ezra, “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be—the last of life for which the first was made?”

The
prophet Habakkuk found himself in a similar predicament. Facing what
appeared to be the “tearing down” of his own “house,” he cried out to
God.

“Though the fig tree may not blossom,
Nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail,
And the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,
And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will joy in the God of my salvation.
The LORD God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer’s feet,
And He will make me walk on my high hills” (Hab. 3:17–19, NKJV).

Habakkuk dealt with his personal terrors by capturing a renewed glimpse of his God.
“If
Habakkuk had depended on his feelings, he never would have made [his]
great confession of faith,” observes Warren Wiersbe. “If Habakkuk
looked ahead, he saw a nation headed for destruction, and that
frightened him. When he looked within, he saw himself trembling with
fear, and when he looked around, he saw everything in the economy about
to fall apart. But when he looked up by faith, he saw God, and all his
fears vanished. To walk by faith means to focus on the greatness and
glory of God.”

More and more I am making this perspective my
own, even as I am making gradual progress in physical therapy. I hang
on to the truth that my wife has repeated to herself and to me
throughout our ordeal, “God is in control.” There are no accidents,
only incidents, in the perfect outworking of God’s will. The King of
the universe is too good to be unkind, too wise to make mistakes, and
too deep to explain Himself. As the great British expositor G. Campbell
Morgan once said, “Our joy is in proportion to our trust. Our trust is
in proportion to our knowledge of God.”

Since moving to Connecticut, Laurie and I have settled into several comforting rhythms. One is to watch Extreme Makeover—Home Edition.
Seldom do we make it through the program without crying for joy at what
is accomplished to change a family’s life. At the beginning of every
program there is the demolition of an old home to make way for one that
is “made new.” That seems a fitting metaphor for our lives. And as the
dust settles after our own “demolition,” we look up with expectancy to
discover what God is going to do next.


Lee
Anderson (ThM, 1976) and his wife, Laurie, now attend Greenwoods
Community Church in Ashley Falls, Massachusetts, where Ed Eastman Jr.
(ThM, 1979) is pastor.

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