Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Strength in the silence

Have you ever asked yourself, "If I had to choose to lose one physical capability, what would it be?" Would you opt to give up the ability to walk or talk? Would you choose blindness or deafness? Every option sounds terrible from the perspective of someone with full physical capabilities. The thought of becoming physically impaired just sounds like pure suffering.
In my mind I've grappled with this question, trying to decide which faculty I would give up if I were forced to pick one. After weighing the positives and negatives of every scenario I've always come to the same conclusion. Indecision. I can't imagine life without walking, talking, hearing and seeing. How could my life be full without those fundamental functions? How could I be happy, content and fulfilled if I couldn't hear or see? And not talk!? The thought alone is depressing.
It's been quite some time since I've thought on living without a basic physical function but today the question was brought to my mind once again as I greeted a smiling woman waiting in line at the food pantry.
Immediately I started out with a, "Good morning! How are you today?" She didn't respond. The woman just looked at me and then looked at the man behind her who quickly informed me that my guest was deaf and mute. He then gave the woman a little pat on the back and pointed towards me, indicating that she should follow me. My task at hand was now to make her feel comfortable and taken care of in spite of not being able to communicate. I love a challenge and this interaction certainly provided one.
As we made our way down the row of food offerings I picked up each can, box and bag, held it before the woman with the label clearly displayed and made a motion indicating that I was going to put it in her bag. She quickly picked up on my tactic. If she wanted the item she nodded yes. If she didn't want the item she nodded dramatically in the opposite direction. When we reached offerings that provided her with a choice between two options I held up both, one in each hand and moved my hands up and down to signify "one or the other." The woman caught on quickly to this communication technique, too. She pointed to her desired option and I put it in the bag.
Throughout our stroll down the row of food my guest's spirit was vibrant, gracious and grateful. She exuded a spirit of thankfulness without ever speaking a word. She smiled brightly, the kind of smile characterized by a genuine sparkle in the eyes. There was a calm and peace that poured out of her very presence. She didn't need to be able to talk to me or even hear me to connect. She did it by way of her upbeat attitude and friendly face.
As I watched this woman, whose name I couldn't ask and she couldn't say, walk out the door I chose my answer to that hypothetical question that has remained unsettled in my mind for years. I'd pick what that woman had. I'd choose to be mute and deaf but filled with compassion, joy and gratitude. What that woman showed me in a few short silent minutes laid to rest a question that I didn't even know I was struggling to answer. Can a life of purpose be lived in the face of limitations and barriers? The answer is yes.
I'm not the first to ask this question and struggle for an answer. Moses wondered, too and God answered. "Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what to say." (Exodus 4:11-12). Despite the reassurance of God Moses didn't want to be sent out with his lack of eloquence and insufficient abilities. But God's word was as true then as it was in 2 Corinthians and as it is today. "My power is made perfect in weakness."
Sometimes God chooses to use physically weak vessels to display His mighty strength. Being mute, blind, deaf or paralyzed certainly appears to be a weakness from our human perspective but what God sees in our inabilities in His overwhelming abilities. 
Today my guest at the food pantry had two major weaknesses but she had super strength through the love of Christ. God used her lack of speech to put on display the beauty of His spirit. She spoke silently and shined brilliantly the light of God that is brightest when it is on display in weakness. 
Weakness is not always easy. There are challenges and obstacles that come in being weak but there is overcoming strength when we release our weakness into the hands of God and allow Him to use it for His glory. He can show His grace and mercy when we give Him our inabilities, disabilities and limitations. We can boost in our weakness because when we are weak then He, our mighty God, is strong.

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