Summary: A sermon about Suffering
I Corinthians 1:22-25 "The Weakness of God??"
We like winners. Our culture, our country, our society are caught up with the idea of winning. Winning, succeeding, getting ahead, overcoming great obstacles these are the ideals, these are the goals that society places on all people. We can see this as evidence by our pre-occupation with sports. We like to see our team win. We like to follow a winner. I get caught up in that mentality each basketball season as I watch closely the progress of the Iowa Hawkeyes on the their road to the final four. I cheer when they win and I become sober, down cast when they loose.
Not only in sports, but through out all of life, we like to see and know about people who have succeeded. We like to read, or watch stories on TV of people who have overcome great mental or physical obstacles, then making a success of their lives. In the Reader’s Digest, I get caught up in the stories, "Drama in Real Life" as someone overcomes great odds to succeed. We like to see the underdog get ahead and become a winner.
In 1982 a story appeared in the Des Moines Register about a high school basketball player who hurt himself while weight lifting, and how he had broken and strained something in his back to a point where the doctors didn’t know if he would walk again. But the feeling in his legs returned, and now the boy is at the gym trying to learn to run and shoot baskets again. The article talked about his winning attitude, about the way he has overcome his accident, how he was making himself a winner again.
I wonder if they would have printed the article, if this boy had remained paralyzed from the neck down and then had to live the every day unglamorous struggle of having someone feed him, dress him, help him in the toilet. I wonder if they would have printed this article showing the frustration, the hurt, the helplessness that someone who is paralyzed feels. I wonder if they would have told about the pain of isolation, the hurt of rejection, the feeling that society doesn’t like loosers only winners? I wonder they we only hear about those who make it back, and not about those who are daily struggling with the brokenness of life?? There are many people who live lives of quiet brokenness and frustration, sensing, feeling the strong cultural preoccupation with winning, getting ahead and knowing they have given their all, they have tried, but cannot break out of their individual brokenness and have to live day in and day out with the consequences of this struggle.
I have felt this quiet brokenness in my life as I now live with the consequences of post-polio syndrome which has left me without the strength, the stamina, and the endurance I once had. Now I live day to day wondering if I will be able to get out of bed, whether I will be able to care for myself, whether I will be able to help around the house a little as my wife goes off to work and I am at home in my wheelchair trying to make the best of this lousy situation. After serving the Lord as a parish pastor for over 11 years, the inactivity, the inability of physically being able to be as active as I once was, is difficult to take emotionally and spiritually.
I tried the parish for a year in a wheelchair and found myself becoming increasingly exhausted and stressed out. I couldn’t do it even though I gave it my best shot!! I tried!! I really did. But I too get caught up in our culture of wanting to win, of wanting to beat this thing, and pushing myself beyond the limits my body would take. I wanted to succeed so bad that I ignored the warning signs of my body until it was too late.
And now, I dream, I wonder about if I could really still do it, if I could functionally walk again if I only tired harder, if I could become a parish pastor again, if I only tired harder, yet my rational mind knows better. However, I am caught up in the mentality of my culture which says one should never stop trying. Each time I push, each time I make the adrenaline push my body beyond its limits, I pay for it with exhaustion, with muscle pain, with twitching muscles, with the frustration of being defeated again. I know now that each time I push, I loose a little more muscle tone and I become weaker for it.
I live with the quiet frustration of wanting something more for myself and knowing that no matter how much I try, I cannot ever achieve it. I live with the unglamorous live of not succeeding as society would have me, of not having that "miracle cure" that "instant healing" that some of my brothers and sisters in Christ have wanted for me, but did not happen. Some blame my faith as lacking for his non-miracle because surely God would want you whole, so you could continue in His work as a parish pastor.