#5 Building Faith for Life's Journey I(29/12/01)

The Message

By Dr. Robert H. Schuller

So well today I am having an interesting experience at this stage of life. And as I've just finished my autobiography I've been asked to do it for many years, many publishers have approached me, tried to coerce me but I never wanted to do it. And Matt Lauer on The Today Show the other morning said, "Dr. Schuller, why have you never wanted to write your autobiography before?" And I said, "Matt, for one simple reason. I build buildings and I wouldn't take a picture of a building until the building was finished. Surely not before the roof was on and the landscaping is there. Go ahead, I can tell them the story now." At any rate, here it is, the title of my autobiography is, "My Journey."

And the lesson that I want to share with you today is very simple. My journey has had its share of bruises and blessings. To all of you, if you're living a journey, especially I talk to the young people: please listen to me. If you're a young person set your face to a journey that will honor God and make the world a more beautiful place, but expect bruises and expect blessings. Understand one thing: God does not send the bruises but He sends the blessings.

My journey has had its shares of bruises but always there have been the blessings. And I think now at the age of 75, Deuteronomy 12:7 is a Bible verse I wrote down here. "And you shall rejoice in all into which you have put your hand. You and your household which the Lord your God has blessed you." Wow! I rejoice at everything I have put my hand to. And my household with me. The Lord our God has blessed us. I've been blessed. Somebody said to me, "But Schuller, what are your bruises?" Well, I'm not going to tell you about all of my bruises. I shared some of them, most of them, in my previous book, which preceded this as my last book, "Turn Your Hurts into Halos." And many of you have read the book or you can read it if you want to.

But on this morning I want to tell for the first time in public the deepest bruise I ever suffered and how I got through it. You all know I was 4 years, 11 months old when Uncle Henry said you're going to be a preacher. Wow! I told my dad, mother - they were thrilled. And only a month later I went to school, started in the 1st grade, no kindergarten, and I was ecstatic. I was jubilant. Wow! Because my dad and my mother and my older brother and the 3 older sisters all made a lot to do over me. I mean, when I talked they all listened. I think I may have been a spoiled kid. I don't know. I won't admit that. But I got to school knowing I was somebody. I was going to be a preacher and I remember the first day in school. It was a one-room country school; there were 17 students from 1st grade through 8th grade. And the 7 of us in the 1st grade sat in the front row for our lesson. And the teacher said, "Okay, what do you want to be when you grow up?" And all of the kids were blank and I was waving my hand. She said, "Just a minute, Robert. We're doing this alphabetically. Geneva Corver comes before Robert Schuller." So I had to wait, nervously. Waiting. Geneva didn't know what she was going to be. And then she got to me, "Okay, Robert, now you want to tell us. What are you going to be when you grow up?" I said, "I'm going to be a preacher." She said, "Really?" "Yeah." And then I looked at all the other kids in the 1st grade cause I wanted to see their admiring glances. Or maybe they would applaud me. But they were just sitting there like this. They weren't even listening. They were not impressed. What a turn off! But that wasn't a bruise but it was setting me up for a bruise.

It wasn't long and the teacher said, "Okay, it's time for recess." And I said to the kid, "What's that?" "Well then we all go outdoors and play." "Oh." And she let us all 17 out on the playground. And she had a ball in her hand and a bat. I'd never seen a baseball bat before in my life. I'd never seen a baseball or a softball before in my life. And she picked the 2 tall boys, Eddie and Leroy Rose, 8th graders, big guys. She said, "Eddie and Leroy, you guys choose up sides." I said, "What does that mean - choose up sides?" "Oh," he said, "we're going to play ball. They pick the best kids until everybody's chosen except the last one and then the last one that isn't chosen goes to the other side." "Oh." "Listen, I don't want to be the last one. I want to be chosen." He said, "I don't think you have to worry because even if it came down to you and Geneva Corver is there." "And they'd pick Geneva before you so she's going to be the one that'll be the last one." So, this is what I looked like. Dressed just like that. I'm optimistic. I'm hopeful. Finally got down to only 4 that hadn't been chosen, then they got down to 2, and the last 2 that were not chosen was Geneva Corver and Robert Schuller. But I'm feeling pretty good. Thank God I'm not a girl. Poor Geneva. And then Leroy looked at the 2 of us, Leroy Rose, it was his turn to pick, and he said, "I pick her." That wasn't bad but the way I felt it should have been deeper than that.

And I can still feel the feeling. I was not wanted by anybody. I was rejected by both sides and I had to go to that side and they had to take me even though they didn't pick me and didn't want me. I think that was the deepest bruise I ever received in my life. But tomorrow would be another day. So tomorrow recess happened again, choose up sides, the same story. Down to Geneva and Robert and guess who they picked this time? Geneva. I had to play so I played. I got a chance to run. I don't remember how in the world I ever got on base but I do remember running from one base to another and stumbling and falling and everybody laughing and making fun of me. Not only was I rejected, I was ridiculed. I still can remember that. Shocking. And I said to the teacher alone, "Why don't they pick me? Why don't they want me? Why do they laugh at me?" The teacher said, "Well, (my name then was Harold. That's part of the story.) She said, "Harold, you know you don't run very fast. And Harold, you are fat. You know that." I had never heard that word before. Totally new word. Fat. Rejected. Nobody wants me. I have no value to anybody.

Chapter. This past Wednesday night I was invited to preach in the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. The whole downstairs was full of people that had come just to hear me and meet me. And when I walked up those steps and stood in that pulpit in the middle, I had a job to keep from crying. Because that's where I was healed of my negative self image, my low self-esteem. I was born at the dead end of a dirt road that had no name and it had no number and I was from Iowa. That's not the way to win prestige among the elite in New York City.

Then there came a time, 38 years ago, and this church was starting to grow and I got a letter from Norman Vincent Peale, who at that time was like the Protestant Pope of America, the single most prominent clergyman of the day, serving in the most prestigious church in the United States, the Marble Collegiate Church in New York, which started in 1628 with 54 Dutch colonists, commissioned by the Queen of the Netherlands. And he was the head pastor and here I'm in a drive-in theater and I get a letter from him saying, "I want to invite you to come and preach in the Marble Collegiate Church." Gosh! And this week I went back and what a great crowd welcomed me. And I stood in that little place and remembered. I remembered how nobody wanted me at the playground. I remembered how Norman Peale saw something in me and believed in me when nobody else did. And when somebody believes in you and nobody else does, you never forget that. That's why many of you have a healthy self-esteem. You probably didn't get it from your dad or your mom or where you were born or how you grew up. You got it from a teacher, a schoolteacher, a 1st grade teacher, or maybe an 8th grade teacher, or a high school teacher, or a preacher, or a priest, or a rabbi. And when I stood at that place the Marble Collegiate Church has not changed. They're so close to where the towers collapsed, at 29th Street and 5th Avenue, gosh! But they didn't lose a single member. Unbelievable. All of their members that worked in those towers either didn't go to work that day or they were late for work that day or they were rescued by firemen. So, I had a tough time controlling my emotions. To say to them, "You gave me the greatest gift I could ever get. And that is a healing from the bruise on the playground of a country school when I was only 5 years old."

Now that bruise became a blessing. Only God could have planned it that attractively. I had been consumed by the passion to take my life's ministry, from beginning until the end, and use it to encourage people and tell them they're terrific. Thank you. And I learned something and that is it's when you meet somebody that you look up and you admire and you respect and you know that this person is at the top and you're at the bottom. If he treats you like you're at the top with him, oh man! Now I offer that to you when I ask you to get acquainted with Jesus Christ. He's alive. Read the Bible. Go to a Bible class. Talk to Him. How do you talk to Him? Well, alone. Just talk to Him. He's there. He'll hear you. And He treats you like you're as good as He is and you know that He knows what you are at your worst, and He treats you as if you're the best. Now that's the blessing that heals the bruise of a low self-esteem. Wow!

You know I want to thank all of you who've done so much for America these days. But especially, I want to thank you, Carl Everts. I was here at the church the other day and one of my staff persons, Jim Coleman, said, "You know there's a fellow in the church with a couple of friends. He came from New York. He was a paramedic. Got the call immediately when the tower was struck and drove to it and he worked 30 days, 15 hours a day. And so he and a couple of hundred others were given a special vacation. They needed it. And the others I think went to Florida but he wanted to come to California. He wanted to come to the Crystal Cathedral. We're very, very honored by that. And Carl, I want you to come up here because I want to see your hands. I just want to see your hands. Just come on up right here.
CE: Thank you, sir.
RHS: You too. You may sit down. "Where was God when it all happened?" I said, "Oh my God! Can't you see? Can't you see the firemen running in there? Didn't you see the policemen? Didn't you see these people with their hands in the blood and the dirt and the dust?" And many never came out. Many were like Jesus Christ who...Jesus spent His whole life like a fireman to save souls until He went back in for a last time knowing He wouldn't come out and that was on a cross. These 2 hands have been the hands of God, Carl. Your mind was given to God. Your heart was given to God and He needed hands and you said, "Lord, use them." Thank you. Thank you. And may God bless you where you need the blessing most. He knows that better than us. And may God take the memories that you will live with all your life, they will be emotional bruises in many cases, but they'll turn into blessings. Right?
CE: Right.
RHS: When you were driving your car fast and you saw the towers collapse, I find that very interesting when people say, "What did you do?" Tell them.
CE: I stepped on the brakes.
RHS: And you were saved.
CE: Yes, sir.
RHS: Why did you want to come here? Did you know us from television?
CE: Many years.
RHS: In New York. CE: Yes.
RHS: I make you an honorary member of this church.
CE: Thank you very much, Sir.
RHS: You're welcome. You're welcome. We love your smile and I love these strong hands.
CE: I owe it all to my wife. RHS: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Carl.

And now go out, don't be surprised if you have a bruise, but then if you do, get ready for the blessing. The 23rd Psalm has these words: "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." Surely, not hopefully, not predictably, not maybe, not possibly but surely, surely goodness shall follow me all the days of my life. Goodness and mercy. Oh there will be the time when you will be hurt. It may be much more than a bruise. Then what. And if you can't experience the goodness of God and you pray and nothing seems to happen, get ready. He will come. He will kiss you and the two of you will dance. Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. The bruises will always be followed by a blessing. You say, I don't know, Dr. Schuller. It happened a long time ago and it's still there. When you get to be 75 years old, and you haven't found the blessing after the bruise, you come and see me. Give God time. I'm being blessed after some bruises that are 30 years old today. It's amazing.

Eternal Father, strong to save, Whose arm has bound the restless wave, Who bids the mighty ocean deep its own appointed limits keep. O hear when we cry to Thee, for those in peril on the sea.

O Trinity of love and power, your children shield in danger's hour; from rock and tempest fire and foe, protect them wheresoever they go. Thus evermore shall rise to Thee glad praise from air and land and sea. Glad praise from air and land and sea. Amen!

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