Monday, March 3, 2014

It's Not On The Outside

Have you ever been buzzing with frustration after one thing after another, after another has gone wrong?  Ever thought, "if only I could just have a break..."?  Ever felt so wound up you think you might explode?

No matter what is going on in your life, though, none of that frustration is coming from the outside.  Frustration, anger, rage... they all start on the inside.  Yes, sometimes you should be angry and frustrated by the world you live in.  We should all be upset by injustice and cruelty, but letting that anger stew on the inside is not going to help.  It's not God's way.

Jesus is the perfect example of perfect balance.  He got angry, He expressed anger, and He always did it right.  It's pretty incredible to read some of the things Jesus did and said and to realise that He was always in control - He always spoke and acted in perfect love, not simply as a reaction to how He was feeling at the time.

When God created us in His image, He gave us the power of choice.  Animals, on the other hand, simply react to the physical conditions on the outside.  They are driven by circumstances.  Too often, we behave as though we are animals.  Something happens.  It makes us feel bad.  We let the bad feeling drive our response.  We give up our power to our emotions.  But no matter how we feel, we can choose how we respond - if we depend on God to empower us to do what is right.  In fact, even when we let our emotions control us we are making a choice - the choice not to do the hard work of thinking about what we're doing.

Often we try to control life.  We try to protect ourselves from bad things and ensure that good things happen to us.  There's certainly a place for taking sensible precautions, but we can't control our world.  No amount of preparation can protect us against all disease and natural disaster.  No amount of manipulation can stop other people from doing things we don't like.  What we can control, what we can choose, and what really matters is what comes from inside us.  It's our reaction to whatever happens, whether we like it or not.  We can choose to act in love despite pain and frustration.  Or we can let our emotions carry us.  What will you choose?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Person's A Person

Did you ever read Dr Seuss's book, "Horton Hears A Who"?  Perhaps the most memorable line in it is:
"A person's a person, no matter how small"

Dr Seuss was teaching children something profound. In the Bible, God talks about there being
"neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female..." (Galatians 3:28)

According to God, all people are of equal value.  A person's a person no matter... what.

I've just read a book called "Ghost Boy"* written by Martin Pistorius, a man who spent years unable to move or communicate on his own and yet fully alive and aware in the prison of his own body.  His story is a reminder of the truth that God told long before Martin existed: God has put a spirit in man that makes us unique in His creation.  God has given each of us something that makes us people, a completely different creation to animals.

One of my great longings is that we all remember this whenever we see a person with a disability, especially an "intellectual" disability.  The brain is just part of the body that can be broken like a leg or an arm.  The brain can get "sick" just like a heart or liver.  BUT if someone has a broken leg or heart disease or cancer, we don't assume that they are less of a person.  We don't think that they won't mind eating custard every day for the rest of their lives and sit them in front of children's television for days on end.  On the other hand, if a person drools and mumbles apparent nonsense (or doesn't talk at all) or rocks back and forth endlessly - if their brain is "broken" - we tend to treat them as though they're not people at all anymore.  In fact, we often call them "vegetables".

But God said that He is the giver of every good gift.  One of those gifts is the human spirit.  Is God capable of giving us something that is broken?  The brain might be broken, but inside every person, no matter how vacant or weird or scarey they seem, there is a human spirit, and just because the brain is broken doesn't mean the spirit is.  There is neither slave nor free to God - surely being trapped in the prison of a dysfunctional brain is another kind of slavery.  But God sees the person inside the prison.  A person is a person no matter what.

Jesus came so that everyone could have an opportunity for eternal life.  No exceptions.  God sees and values the person inside the prison.  God sees everyone as equally valuable.  Do we?

*While this was an excellent book in many ways, it does include some very disturbing content about the author being horribly abused in a care home.  Sensitive readers may prefer to skip chapters 35 and 36 (titled "Memories" and "Lurking in Plain Sight").  I would have preferred not to read the graphic details myself.