A quarter of a century ago I became refreshingly impressed with an author arising upon the scene. Charles Swindoll's simple writing style matched my hungry heart. I picked up the phone and called an operator for information to Swindoll's office. His secretary answered and I asked to speak to him. A part of her role was to politely protect him from annoying callers such as myself. I knew what she was doing, but I hadn't called for myself.
When she said he was out I responded, Oh, that's all right. When he gets in would you just tell him a preacher with the Church of Christ in Tulsa is so grateful for his writings. Tell him that if he ever gets discouraged and wonders if he is doing any good, I'm one of many whose heart is being opened because of his efforts. It is important to me that he knows this. Her next words became the catalyst for an ongoing relationship held dear by Chuck and by me. She said, Mr. Rush, Reverend Swindoll is out of the office at the moment. He really needs to hear what you just told me. Would it be possible for you to call back tomorrow at 4:00? He really needs to hear what you just said.
It was 4:00 on the dot! I only wanted to encourage as I felt certain that those who live in glass houses also need words of support. Chuck was amazingly warm. He was slow to listen as if he was soaking in a word-bath. His kind and gentle voice seemed to smile through the phone. He was both gracious and appreciative. We exchanged letters over the next few months and one day had lunch....and then another lunch. He wrote me two weeks ago and I share a part of his note should it be something you find yourself needing to hear today.
So how do you deal with the tension of "shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves?" Let me give you a picture: you are standing with others, and all of you have sharp instruments in your hands. The first question is: "Are these scalpels or switchblades?" Both inflict injury to others, just in different ways and for different purposes. Be honest with yourself and others and commit to dealing with legalism and legalists as caring and compassionate surgeons rather than hostile street fighters. The temptation to do street fighting is very strong, and is the preferred method of the legalist. As a surgeon, you will be called upon to patch up those hurt by the street fighters.
As a team of surgeons, ask yourselves a second question: "What are we here to remove--a cancerous tumor or a wart?" Pick your battles: forget the warts since they do not kill.
If Swindoll's note cheers you on in your hard labor, good. If the sheer awareness that everyone we know---including the rich and famous---need our support, then you've gotten my message.