The elderly Hungarian man stepped off the tram. Releasing a deep sigh he looked at the maze of buildings that made up the medical center. It was a sober day. He had made his choice and he was determined to go through with it.
He navigated his way through the labyrinth of old buildings until he found the right place. He stopped a nurse in the hallway and told her why he was there.
"Just sit down and wait," the nurse said. "I'll get the paperwork to sign you up as an organ donor."
Time passed slowly as it always does within the walls of medical bureaucracy. But in time, he got all the paperwork filled out, and he felt good about it. After the last page was signed, the nurse turned to the old man and told him he was finished and he could go home now.
"Go home?" The old man's brow furrowed. "What do you mean?"
"You're done with the paperwork, you can go home," the nurse explained.
"But I came here to donate my organs!" The old man protested. "I ate the last bit of food in my apartment this morning. I spent the last of this month's pension check on the tram ticket to get here!"
The nurse, clearly taken aback by the man's misunderstanding of how the organ donor program works, quickly called the doctor over. An education of organ donation proceeded, and the doctor paid for taxi to get the old man home.
This true story might make some of us laugh at the old man's simplicity. He had absolutely no grasp of how things worked. It was really beyond his comprehension and life experience. He took the information he had and staked everything on his understanding -- never considering for a moment that there might be more to it than that.
We laugh, but are we really so different from this old man?
So often we approach Christianity in much the same way that this man approached organ donation. We take what we know to be true (what we understand from God's Word) and act like we've cornered the market on spiritual knowledge -- and we bank on it, regardless of who we may hurt in the process.
We saw it most recently when self-proclaimed prophets predicted doom and gloom to descend on May 21. Many banked it all on that prediction. They were willing to sacrifice jobs and homes to be a part of this event -- the end of the world!
And let's face it they weren't totally wrong. After all, we know the world will one day end. And Christ will return. They were at least right about these facts. But none of them were willing to consider that the ways of God might be beyond their understanding in this matter and therefore the prediction might be wrong.
In less dramatic ways, we all have our dogmatic beliefs. Some are truly fundamental and foundational Christianity -- and are clearly laid out in Scripture. Those we should bank on and stand strong, unwavering. But many other beliefs are the product of the facts we've gathered from the Word mixed with our limited experience and cultural bias.
Yet we bank on them as if we have full understanding of the ways of God -- often leading to our own disillusionment. We are not so different from the old man who thought he was doing the greatest of deeds, only to end up going back to an empty home alone.
Oswald Chambers commented, "The counterfeit of obedience is a state of mind in which you create your own opportunities to sacrifice yourself."
True obedience doesn't require whole understanding. Self-appointed martyrdom is rooted in misunderstanding and ultimately leads to disillusionment.
Have you felt a bit disillusioned in your faith lately? Feel like God let you down in some area? Maybe like the old man, limited by your own experiences and cultural bias, you've misunderstood how the ways of God work. After all, "we don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. ..."
But take heart. It won't always be so confusing. At the end of time when all is said and done, the blinders will fall off and we will all have an amazing "aha!" moment. And I dare say, we may all be a little ashamed about how dogmatic we were about things for which we had no real understanding.