You Can Do Better Than That

 

 

By Phil Scovell

 

 

 

 

 

 

            I was just 20 years of age.  My wife and I had only lived in Denver for a couple of months.  That year was an extra harsh Colorado winter for the Denver area.  At that time, in 1972, the snowfall in Denver was 61 inches for the seasonal average.  That first winter we lived here, the weather service recorded over 100 inches of snowfall and a dozen major storms of 12 inches or more.  A couple of blizzards were over 20 inches.  Over the years, fortunately, this type of weather has dropped off to the point that the annual Denver snowfall total is down to about 30 inches.  The high country, as we call it here, in the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains, still continues averaging 10 to 30 percent above normal seasonal snowfall nearly every year.

 

            I remember these wintry details for many reasons but largely because I found myself out in this cold freezing, snowy, icy weather during November trying to learn my way downtown using my white cane.  At that time, we lived in west Denver and where I ended up working was about a 45 minute bus ride with an exchange of buses in between and that alone, the exchange, I mean, lasted several minutes just by itself.  I had already trained considerably with the use of the white cane for mobility but Denver was much larger, with more traffic, and streets that were less than the average squares created by corridors north and south, east and west, which provided for more convenient right and left turns.  I was more accustomed to traveling this way from living previously in Omaha, Nebraska.

 

            I also quickly learned that places of intersections in the Denver downtown area, at that time, had four-way stops.  That is, all four lights turned read at one time and people could cross diagonally to any corner they wished.  This made crossing such an intersection, especially since I learned the hard way the first time, quite difficult.  As a white cane traveler, you listen to the people in front of you, or around you, and judge direction by where they are going.  Logically, when the light turns, you cross just like everyone else around you.  Not so fast, Quick Draw!  I stepped out, the first time I learned otherwise, following a man in front of me when he suddenly swerve and makes a hard left angle turn.  I thought, "Where in the Sam Hill is that guy going," and fortunately I continued straight across the wide street.  A tip about this type of crossing is to listen for the waiting traffic to the side.  Cars are pulled up, engines idling, waiting for the lights to change.  This is, by the way, what kept me from following the man who curved away from a straight walk through the painted white lines of the crosswalk.  Later that day, I mentioned this event to a blind friend and he explained to me what was happening and indicated streets where this was permitted.

 

            Since I had a considerable bus ride, bus transfer, and several blocks to walk to work even after leaving the bus, a mobility instructor was appointed to come to my house during evening hours to teach me where to find the bus stops, going and coming from, work, and to learn the route in-between.  This was extra training just to get to work and it lasted two weeks.

 

            During this particular November, it was bitterly cold, snowy, and the streets, parking lots, and sidewalks all had a great deal of ice and snow incrustation.  After being outdoors for two and three hours, we both, my mobility instructor, and myself, were getting more than a little cold.  Such focus mobility in bad weather, for a blind person, creates, to say the least, extra stress.  You are listening at all times to your surroundings such as barking dogs, are they coming this way, cars backing out of residential driveways, not seeing you, and nearly running you down, sidewalks at intersections with cut down curbs level which assist in helping you suddenly find yourself in the middle of the traffic without realizing it until several car horns begin honking louder than a flock of geese flying south for the winter, and you scurry back to where you judge the sidewalk is and pray you don't get run down before you fine the damn street corner.  Of course, no respectable Born Again Christian, spiritual man of God such as I, would never think, let alone say, such a thing, but it is the way of things traveling blind and hoping your white cane isn't mistaken for a broom handle or mop handle before a driver squashes you, or knocks you into next week, which has, by the way, happened to a couple of friends of mine; one died and the other survived.  So we ain't talking about a warm Sunday afternoon stroll in the park type of relaxation sort of thing, when White cane traveling is via busy metropolitan streets, if you get my meaning.  Additionally, in such cold weather, wearing earmuffs, a stocking hat pulled down over your ears, or even just a common old hat can change the acoustical characteristics of the sounds around you and coming to your frozen ears.  If you think feeling around with a white stick with your eyes shut is dangerous, just let your hearing freeze up and find out now you can't even ear where you are going.

 

            Another unique experience for a blind person is crossing a street with a situation of a parking lot, or in my case, a gas station on the opposite corner.  Since there are few, if any at all, reference points in which to allow you safe passage traversing such a place, it is common, if you aren't staying focused, especially to the traffic noise on one side of you, to veer off a straight line into the parking lot or gas station.  In such cases of drift, you end up walking into a parked car gassing up, or you'll be introduced, somewhat embarrassingly, to a gas pump with which you have collided, , or perhaps you'll miss everything and walk right into the front of the gas station building; breaking out a large display window with your head.  Then there is the likelihood of being run down by a car pulling into, or out of, the gas station just as you are crossing the entrance or exit driveways.  This was one of those cases.  Due to the extreme cold, frustration of learning a difficult mobility route, I drifted off to my left.  I was tired and cold and sick of trying to remember all the left and right turns to reach the appointed destination.  In fact, I occasionally, to this very day, still have nightmares that harkens back to those days of watching your step, sort of speak, or be killed on the way to work.  The mobility instructor, who was following at a considerable distance, began yelling, no, screaming at me, "Think, Phil!  Think!"  There was something to the tone of his voice that angered me.  In my ears, his words sounded more like, "You idiot.  Can't you do better than that?"

 

            Many decades later, I was seated in a friend's office as we talked about my daughter being a meth addict, the stress of closing a church I was pastoring, and a dozen other things that had finally gotten me down.  I was depressed, hardly sleeping, hearing voices, and was suicidal.  A ministry a man was doing is quite similar to what I do as an intercessor and praying with people, allowed me to make an appointment with him.  The anxiety and panic attacks I was having at this point in my life were more than I could handle at the time.  During our conversation and time of prayer, my friend said, "Phil, you know what to do; you just aren't doing it."  It was true, of course, that I knew what to do, at least, based upon what he had taught me and that I had learned from other Bible teachers and preachers.  The problem occurred when I found myself doing all the things I had been taught by such people but it wasn't working for me.  "How could the Bible," to which I was obedient, "not be working for me?"  This was pushing the anxiety level off the meter's scale.  I honestly did not know what to do.

 

            Recently, at a low point, these two memories collided in my thoughts.  I could not identify the emotions associated with either of these two memories which had caused me to instantly conduct my standard automatic (SAD), Search and Destroy mission.  I felt, based upon the Lord displaying both memories at the same time, they had to have a common theme, commonality, or buried lie, but how and where?  I could not see the connection but I knew it was there.

 

            Several weeks passed and I had, of course, prayed about these two memories repeatedly and seemed to make little, if any, headway in understanding the memories and their relationship.  One day, as I sat at my computer, not typing but just finishing a task, I felt the Holy Spirit say, "So how did you feel in both these memories?"  Since I was finished with that which I had been working, I stood up and walked about 6 feet to a secondary room where I have a reclining rockingchair I sit in when praying with people on the phone.  Sitting down, I allowed my thoughts to instantly focus on these two memories and straight up, whatever first came to my mind, answered the Holy Spirit's question.  I named things such as rejection, a feeling of defeatism, and other related emotional feelings but somehow, none of what I felt really touched the core of the woundedness these two very vivid memories brought to my mind and emotions.  Then, I heard it within the flow of my thoughts, "You can do better than that."  It was actually a more menacing and threatening thought in my mind along the lines of, "You can't do anything right.  You're blind.  Blind people can't do anything right.  And you call yourself a Christian."  These fiery darts of outside thoughts attempted, and accomplished, penetration into my mental flow of thinking patterns, (I.E. my mind).  .  Recognizing what it was, demonic oppression with a truck load of lies they were dumping on me, I took every thought captive, praying against it, and authoritatively cut off their ability to continue trying to gain a spiritual handhold in my thoughts and mind.  The two memories, although different, were linked.  Thus, the Christian and the secular crossover perpetrated a dual mental attack.

 

            In such wounded memories, there is also the truth that is needed to bring healing to the circumstances and the damaged emotions associated with the pain one feels.  I was stumped as to what the truth might be and turned the memories over and over in my mind trying to probe for the truth that Only the Lord can give.  It eventually dawned on me that the lie the Enemy was attempting to hide was, "You can do better than that."  The problem was, this type of a lie contains truth.  We all can most certainly do better.  We all can achieve personally.  We all can succeed in any area of life we desire.  In short, there is no limit to what we can do but even great achievers in life often suffer from depression and overwhelming thoughts beyond their control.  So what's the truth?  Usually doing better means based upon someone else's standard, that is, "Do it like me, and as well as I am doing it, and you will not only be ok, you'll be like me."  WRONG!  I want to be like Jesus and I am, so buzz off.  This attitude, though normally unspoken, creates an endless and impossible level of accomplishment because, quite simply, everyone is uniquely created differently.  So, in short, in an earthly sense, there is no human standard of success or failure.  In this case, Jesus answered my question concerning the truth and He said, "I have already done all that needs to be done.  I accept you as you are.  You don't have to become a better person to impress me.  I am already impressed with you just as you are now, and this is because you are just like me.  I have made it so."

 

            If you try and improve upon this concept, you will discover you can never do enough; you can never achieve adequately, to the point, that you are fulfilled or satisfied with yourself.  You will be that little cute hamster in his wheel; running, and running, and running, and spinning, and spinning, and spinning, yet without ever reaching your goal and satisfaction that you have done well in the sight of the Lord.  You will, in short, spin yourself into what I call, (CQG), Christian quasi genericism simply put, performance based Christianity.

 

            Aren't you sick of living like all your Christian friends?  Haven't you, by now, exhausted about everything the pastor has told you to do to become a well behaved good little Christian?  Haven't you read one too many Christian books telling you how to live a successful, productive, Godly Christian life?  Hasn't legalism, in all it various shapes and ugly forms of phony spirituality, gotten the best of you by now?  When will you ever achieve the best you can be and how will you know you have spiritually arrived?  My answer is simple.  Whatever I can't do, Jesus already has done.  Why should I reinvent the theological wheel, whipping up a denomination in the process, or in order to maintain a good strong hold, that is, control, just have one big megachurch with thousands of Sunday-go-to-meetin' folk and thousands more on television that send me money.  Boy, ain't we having church now!

 

Recently, a good Christian buddy of mine tried reaching me three times over the weekend.  I don't know where I was but it wasn't where I could hear my office phone any of those three times.  He did record each time, a voice mail message, leaving strong words of encouragement and instruction.  How did he know I needed to hear his encouragement?  He knows how to pray and how to hear the Holy Spirit.  It's easy; anybody can do it who learns how to pray.  In his direct words of challenge, it included mild rebuke for trying too hard and forgetting to let the Lord do all the heavy lifting, plus confirmation of his personal love and concern for me as friends and Christian brothers in the Lord.  He also told me a story you also need to here, so I'm going to tell it to you.  It is more than worth retelling.

 

            A good old boy is walking down a dusty old road in the summers heat with a 100 pound see bag toss over his shoulder.  During his long walk into town, an old beat up pickup, with bald tires and rusting paint, slowed and stopped next to him.  "Say, son," he called out the open window which handle had busted off three years before, hop in the back and I'll give you a ride right on in to town.  I'd let you ride up front but got my wife and two young-uns already up front, if-en, that is, you don't mind ridin' yonder in back."

 

            "Naw, sir," the young boy replied.  "I'm much obliged and I surely thank yaw kindly."

 

            The boy, with his heavy feed sack, climbs into the back and sits down with his seed sack still hanging off his right shoulder.

 

            As they drove on in toward town, the driver of the pickup looks back and notices the boy is still trying to hang on to that heavy feed sack tossed over his back.  Since the back winda of the truck had been blowed clean out accidentally by the farmer's shotgun discharging last fall when he had been hunting rabbits and squirrels, blowing the winda to Kingdom Come, nobody hurt, praise be to the Lord, the farmer said, "Say, son.  I knowed this here truck ain't much but she's strong and big enough to carry that feed sack you be trying to carry.  Drop the load, boy, and enjoy the ride."

 

            Do you see it?  Even as Christians, and I don't care if you have a radio or television show, have written 50 books on how to be a magnificent specimen of Jesus Himself, are a millionaire and give a 20 dollar bill each week in the offering at church, or even if you've been saved and healed from disease, bowlleggedness, bald headedness, an athlete's foot, if you are still dragging that heavy sack around when Jesus has done already done all the heavy lifting, you best be getting your head examined real soon like.  And if you cannot understand plain English, you ain't never gonna be free in Jesus.  If you need help finding out how to get rid of that heavy old sack, you all give me a ring.  Yaw hear?  Better yet, give Jesus a ring and talk things over with Him.

 

Safe Place Fellowship

Phil Scovell

Denver, Colorado USA

Mountain Time Zone