The Detox Diaries: Tough and Tougher

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Gentle Reader,

TOUGH

Last night was awful.

Yesterday was my first day back to work after a week away. I didn’t feel that great when I woke up, but that was expected. No new or frightening symptoms. My head hurt a little and my stomach was queasy. This has been my basic experience for weeks now.

I hoped that the headache would go away, but it just hung out with me all day, like an annoying relative who is prone to overstaying his welcome. Still, I was not alarmed by this. Headaches are the prize in the genetic lottery that is my family.

But when it was still there at 7:00 p.m.? And the pain was so intense that I started crying?

That’s tough.

I can only recall one other headache that made me cry, and that was before Chris and I got married. Have I had nasty migraines? Sure. Have I had them to degree that part of me longs for death? Only twice. Last night was the second.

I’m not supposed to take any painkillers at the moment, so I tried a turmeric pill. (A friend suggested these). Well, turmeric can bite me. It did NOTHING. Desperate, I gave in and took 4 ibuprofen and a Phenergan (a prescription anti-nausea medication). My liver probably heaved a great and slightly-distressed sigh, but I couldn’t handle the pain anymore. Call me a weenie. I’ll agree with you.

It’s really hard to be forced into position where you have to learn new ways to deal with pain. It “involv[es] considerable difficulty or hardship; requir[es] great determination or effort.”

TOUGHER

I’m not sure if the connection I’m about to present will make sense to you, but it’s what I’m pondering right now. For a long time I have asked God to make me a Barnabas. There’s something about this man, written of often in the first half of Acts, that has always appealed to me. I like the meaning of his nickname (he was actually named Joseph): Son of Encouragement. I want to encourage others. I want to build them up. Don’t always succeed and sometimes chose the opposite, but this is a personal goal of mine.

Lately I’ve been thinking about another aspect of Barnabas’ character, though. He wasn’t just a encourager. He was “strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough or careless handling.” When Paul showed up in Jerusalem claiming to be a Christ-follower, it was Barnabas who stepped in and brought the former persecutor of the Church before the apostles (Acts 9:22). He fought for Paul, and don’t think for a second that there wasn’t at least some concern about this fire-breather suddenly claiming to be a brother.

Barnabas apparently traveled by himself from Jerusalem to Antioch and on to Tarsus (Acts 11:22-26) at a time when being a Christ-follower in that Jewish area of the world wasn’t popular. He fetched Paul and brought him back to Antioch where they ministered among the believers. The two of them then brought aid to the believers in Jerusalem (Acts 11:30) before setting out on the first of many missionary journeys (Acts 13:3).

Barnabas was willing to go and preach to the Gentiles (Acts 13:47), a spankingly brand-new idea among the Jewish Christians (notwithstanding earlier interactions described in the book). He endured persecution and got kicked out of the area (Acts 13:50).

He refused to be worshiped as a god (Acts 14:12-18). He battled through the conflict over circumcision (Acts 15:1-29). Then Barnabas had a fight with Paul, a fight so bad that the result was the two of them going their separate ways (Acts 15:36-40).

Most reckon that Paul had a big personality. A forceful one, even. Based on his writings, I don’t doubt that he was a passionate guy. He was certainly a leader in the early Church. We today owe him a great deal of gratitude for his obedience to the Spirit’s prompting in composing a good chunk of the New Testament. So, the fact that Barnabas stood up to him and refused to go with what Paul wanted? The fact that Barnabas was willing to take on John Mark, who had previously abandoned him?

That’s a tough guy.

TOUGH AND TOUGHER

We don’t have any details about Barnabas’ life. We don’t know what he went through. But I have a sense that the two definitions of tough referenced above provide something of a picture. The “considerable difficulties and hardships” that Barnabas faced, those moments “requiring great determination and effort” became the catalyst, in the hands of God, to make him into a man “strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough or careless handling.” Certainly he had emotions. Certainly he wanted to give up sometimes. Certainly he wasn’t perfect. But I just don’t think you get to be a person whose word is good enough for apostles, who will travel alone, who will preach to strangers, who can withstand persecution, whose ego isn’t the least bit stroked by being seen as god-like and who’s willing to disagree with and leave a friend for the sake of a second chance without being tough.

Yeah.

I want to be like Barnabas.

My journey to faith. (15)

To read all the posts in The Detox Diaries series, go here.

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