Straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel

By Loren Hardin - Contributing Columnist

This is part two of a series about Charlie and his wife Carolyn. I include Carolyn even though she departed from this earth almost two and a half years ago. After all, Charlie is who he is, to a large degree, because of Carolyn. Carolyn didn’t take a piece of Charlie with her when she departed; she left a piece of herself with him; and in my opinion, Carolyn was, and still is, indisputably Charlie’s “better half”; “Sorry Charlie”.

I’m always anxious during my first visit with a patient and family. I liken it to the first play from the line of scrimmage in a football game; after the first couple hits, you have some idea of what you’re going to be up against. Charlie, Carolyn, and I immediately bonded; it was friends at first sight. As I stood to leave and walked towards the door Charlie commented, “Well, I see that you aren’t a very religious person, are you?” His comment took me by surprise. I hesitated and contemplated and then replied, “No, I’m not”; then Charlie explained, “I meant that as a compliment”, and I replied, “That’s how I took it”.

Charlie pastored and taught at local churches and worked for several years at Copeland’s, a compressor manufacturer in West Union, Ohio. When the company went out of business Charlie was recruited to be a teacher’s assistant with the Adams County Schools. Charlie worked with students in the multiple handicapped classes, ages twelve to twenty. Charlie reflected upon his relationship and experiences with one particular student, who for the purposes of this story, we will refer to as Johnny. Here’s Charlie: “Johnny had severe autism. His mom took him to specialists who told her that he would never be able to do anything for himself. When I told his mother that I was going to teach Johnny how to tie his shoes she said, ‘He can’t, he’ll never be able to do that’. But I told her, ‘Sure he can!’

It only took me a couple days. I always made him feel like he was able. I never made him feel like a failure and I never spoke any discouraging words. When I sent a note home with Johnny reporting that he’d learned how to tie his shoes his mother came to class the next day and said, ‘There’s no way Johnny can do that!’ So, I told Johnny to take off his shoes and put them back on and tie them, and he tied both. She nearly fell off her chair and then she gave me a great big grin.

“One morning Johnny jumped off the school bus and ran through the entrance of the school and fell on the floor. I had to write up a report since I saw him fall. When I handed it to the teacher, he looked at it and then criticized the form, the grammar, the spelling, the punctuation but he never made a comment on the content. Then he asked me, ‘Where did you graduate from high school?’ I probably could have taken more time on the grammar but I told him, ‘I don’t care about dangling participles. The only thing the English language is good for, whether written on spoken, is to convey a message from one person to another.’” Charlie clarified, “Don’t get me wrong, he was a pretty good guy. He just smiled and moved on.”

The teachers response to Charlie’s report reminds me of what Jesus said about the religious Pharisees of his time, “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel,” (Matthew 23:24). They were more concerned about outward appearances, rules, rituals, and traditions; more concerned about the form than the content.

Charlie continued, “I had to give the report to the superintendent and when he read it he didn’t make one comment about the grammar or the form. As a matter of fact, he told me, ‘Charlie this is one of the most detailed reports I’ve even read.’” Evidently, the superintendent wasn’t bothered by “dangling participles”, to him the content was more important than the form.

Charlie’s story reminds me of the well-known American evangelist, Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899). You may already know that Moody founded multiple ministries and schools including the highly respected and renown Moody Bible Institute and Moody Publishing still in operation today in Chicago. But you probably don’t know that he was one of nine children; that his father died when he was only four-years-old resulting in him living in abject poverty. You probably don’t know that he only received the equivalent of a fifth-grade education. When he first started in ministry, It was said of him that, “His grammar was impossible, his vocabulary was poor and his spelling could be described as imaginative…and he stumbled when he read.”(Google) It was reported that when he read the story of the Prodigal Son that he had to skip words because he didn’t know what they were. The common people in the streets of Chicago described him as “uncouth”, a “Country bumpkin” and called him “Crazy Moody.” Moody even said of himself,” “I know perfectly well that, wherever I go and preach, there are many better preachers…than I am; all that I can say about it is that the Lord uses me.” By the time of his death at age sixty-two he had preached internationally to over 100 million people. He believed, “If you only make a man believe you love him, you have won him.” Evidently God wasn’t bothered by Moody’s “dangling participles” and neither is he bothered by ours.

“Man is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. Man is God’s method,” (E.M. Bounds, “The Power of Prayer).

By Loren Hardin

Contributing Columnist

Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at [email protected] You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course”, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Loren Hardin is a social worker with SOMC-Hospice and can be reached at 740-357-6091 or at [email protected] You can order Loren’s book, “Straight Paths: Insights for living from those who have finished the course”, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.