Tuesday, March 03, 2009

2 Lent

Readings are here.

Paul makes me laugh sometimes when I read his letters. This line from this week is an example:
He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb.

As good as dead. Paul thinks that being old is the same as dead but praises Abraham's faith nevertheless.

How many times do I limit myself by thinking I am "good as dead" or "too barren" to take on one more thing. All through the Bible we have examples of people who don't think they have what it takes to do a new thing. Moses thinks he can't go to Pharaoh because he has a speech impediment. Gideon thinks his tribe is too small, too week and too insignificant to accomplish anything. David's family thinks he is too young to be the one chosen to be anointed king.

There are people in our world who might allow themselves to think this way - too small, too insignificant, too handicapped, wrong color. Stephen Hawking could have given in to his disability but still he uses his mind and communicates his thoughts that affect the whole world of science. Beethoven became deaf but continued to write music.
On a chilly windy day at the Chicago Marathon on Sunday October 22, Amy Palmerio-Winters, of Meadville, PA shattered another marathon record for female amputee runners. Running on two broken toes not completely healed on her non-amputated leg, and spending Thursday and Friday in the hospital due to anaphylactic shock, Ms. Palmerio-Winters finished the LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon in a time of 3 hours 4 minutes and 16 seconds placing 34th in her age group and 148th in the entire field of able-bodied female marathoners.

Our new president and his wife could have allowed themselves to be limited because of race but with support from those around them they are now in the White House. Other names come to mind, Lance Armstrong who overcame cancer, Jim Brady who was wounded by a gun shot, Nelson Mandela who spent years in a South African prison did not emerge bitter but became a statesman who continues to try to lead people in the ways of compassion.

Bishop Tutu was born in a township of South Africa - with out much chance of attaining anything in life. He thought as a child that life was just that way. Black people were down and white people were up. One day he was looking out the window and his mother was down on the street sweeping the step. A white clergyman walked by and tipped his hat - the action of seeing his mother treated as an equal changed his life.

These stories make me think that there are two parts to overcoming our limitations. One is not accepting limits but the other is our role in encouraging those who might feel limited by their life circumstances. This is not to say there are not real limitations that cannot be overcome. Before 1974 women could not become priests in the Episcopal Church no matter how much they believed themselves called. People worked for years to make it possible for women to become priests and 20 years ago this week Barbara Harris became the first woman bishop. Black children were not allowed to attend schools with white children before many people died and struggled to open that door. Gay men and lesbians are still struggling to have their relationships honored and upheld in the same way as others. But these examples testify to the need of the community to help open the doors for all to use the gifts the creator has given to each of us.

Faith is what Paul commends and is the source of Jesus' rebuke to Peter. Faith to see that we often limit ourselves and others unnecessarily. As individuals we are invited to step into a world where all things are possible and as a community we are called to make that happen.

Image from Georgia Cawley.

And someone sent me this video from youtube.


Mary said...

Thanks for this. I would also add that when we go beyond our supposed limitations, we may change the world in ways we never imagined. I attended the celebration of Bishop Barbara's 20th anniversary on Saturday. Our city is no paradise and we have a long, long way to go. But things have changed quite a bit since 1989.

Barbara W. Gray said...

I needed this this week--thank you!

Laurie Gudim and Rosean Amaral said...

I like what you're pondering here, Ann. For me the self-limiting also comes in the form of giving up on God just because God hasn't answered my prayers in the time frame I have designated. If God waits until I'm "as good as dead", what good is that, I wonder to myself.

I loved the video!


Ann said...

Sent to me from this reflection:
I don't know if you would want a personal story and I would prefer that you not use any identifying info like my name or denomination, but my story might be helpful.

I was raised in an abusive home. My father sexually abused me and my mother emotionally abused me. Of course back then nobody talked this so I had no idea that what was happening was wrong, other than a sense that I was somehow doing something wrong. I didn't know until I was forty that I was a victim.

Even so, I was too ashamed to seek the kind of help I needed. I had never dated and married the first man who claimed to love me. While he didn't physically or sexually abuse me, our life together was anything but a blessed union. In the first year of our marriage we had a daughter who was diagnosed (mis-diagnosed) as retarded when she was four. She spent ten years in a school for the moderately to severely retarded before it was discovered that she had a normal IQ. Six years into the marriage we had a son who thankfully was pretty normal.

Over the twenty-four years of our marriage I or we were in counseling a number of times. Each counseling experience helped a little to free me from my life of shame. Then when I was forty I was listening to a public radio interview of a woman who did victim counseling. Somehow, I got up the nerve to call into the station and ask to speak to her. I told her the short version of my "sinful" story. I remember saying to her, "Now, you don't mean that when a child is old enough to know what is happening is wrong that she is a victim, do you?" Her response still rings in my ears, "Listen to me, YOU WERE NOT RESPONSIBLE. YOU WERE A VICTIM"

I still had a lot of work ahead of me, but ultimately I got into a relationship with a wonderful accepting spiritual director who not only helped me over ten years to continue growing emotionally and spiritually, but also walked with me through my leaving (and divorcing) my husband and recognizing my call to the ministry.

Even once I was ordained and finally serving God as I'd always felt called to do, I still had shame and self-esteem issue. You probably don't remember me from "Wilderness". I was too timid to really participate. Anyway again, God sent me an angel. When my mother was dying she went on hospice. A part of the service was contact (even long distance) with a pastoral counselor. She wouldn't let me play my "I'm okay" game and push her away. She hung in with me for several years until I really finally did develop the skills necessary to combat the old voices when they arise.

I still struggle sometimes, but I can take pleasure and pride in all the things I've accomplished, from managing to finish college and go to sem to surviving two unhealthy congregations and having materials I created published (like for real money even). Again and again through my sixty-four years God has made my journey possible and even given me some wonderful guides along the way.

Well, that's my story. I don't know if it's what you are looking for, but I'm sharing anyway.

Ann said...

And another:
I am a 52 year young Pastor who has endured diabetes for 45 of those years... 30 of which have been spent totally blind... 8 of the last after having 5 bypasses... and 7 of the last years minus my right leg below the knee.

I was already seminary bound when I lost my sight back in 1979 although the year off from school to learn how to be blind was most helpful in developing my Call into the ministry and my faith to support that journey.

There are always frustrations in a vocation such as Pastor where eyesight might seem to be the number one priority for success. Yet more times than not it is exactly the opposite that becomes the basis for not only success, but continuing relationships because folks see what I accomplish and say to themselves, "if the one-legged blind guy can do it, perhaps I can, too?"

My philosophy in life is not to expect others to reduce themselves to the lowest common denominator of my disabilities... but to allow me to lift myself up to the standards of the community in which I exist. I deeply appreciate those who accept and respect me for the skills, talents, abilities, that I offer as gift rather than to label me as "handicapped" and/or perhaps "incapable".

Thus, through adaptive, procedures and systems I tend to function quite well in an established vocation that one might otherwise consider unaccessible because of. I'm never at a loss for a ride to an appointment, I'm always on top of what needs to be accomplished with a realistic timeline, and most of the time I am the one who "sees" the larger picture before those with sight. In fact, I often times get accused of forgetting that I can't see.

Hopes this helps.

P.S. check out my webpage at http://www.markschowalter.com

Josh Indiana said...

Your example regarding Gay people, that we struggle to get our relationships affirmed, is awfully weak. It's not just about relationships but personhood, the right to live, much less with some semblance of dignity.

Starting as children we are constantly subjected to soul-murder, and some of us are subjected to the physical kind.

It's fine if you want to talk about Gay marriage, but spare me the Hallmark card.

Ann said...

Thanks Josh - having worked for 30 years on full human rights for lgbt persons -- I appreciate your comments -- always good to have an "up short" --- though this is a sermon for a specific church where we just worked to get a Wyoming DOMA legislation defeated -- not an essay for all time.

sue said...
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