In July, 2013, I will celebrate my 10th anniversary of living with Parkinson’s disease.
What is there to celebrate? I cannot walk like I did in the past, and I used to walk at least a mile every work day during my lunch hour. I have fits of pain and discomfort, despite the medicaton, at the most unlikely and inconvenient times. I have tried to no avail to command my right hand to stop its tremor and my right leg to straighten up and help me stride in a productive way.
Actor Michael J. Fox says “Parkinson’s is the gift that keeps on taking,..one little bit at a time.”
And yet being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease has driven me to see more clearly, believe more deeply and cling more desperately to the grace of God.
Maybe it is because I was coached as a young Christians to read and study The Bible and look for ways that the scriptures apply to me and others. I must admit that I am one of those people who enjoys research and pursuing the truth.
Shortly after receiving the diagnosis, I turned to 2 Corinthians 12. I remember the Apostle Paul pleading for God to remove a “thorn in the flesh.”
Now sometimes the Holy Spirit chooses to scold me first and comfort me later. So imagine my reaction when I came to the latter part of verse 7 in 2 Corinthians 12.
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.
Conceited? I had put in 30 years of service to the Lord by 2003. I had served as a minister, elder, deacon, Bible school teacher and Christian education committee chairman. I..I..I got the message.
After all, it is not about me. It is about Christ’s power to speak through me whether it is by word or by deed. What was the philosophy of Saint Thomas of Assisi? “Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words.”
I turned back to 2 Corinthians 12 and read verse 8 and the beginning of verse 9:
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
What a startling statement! God’s grace and His power is made perfect through my weakness!
And to bring this section of scripture to a rousing conclusion, Paul inserts the word “therefore” as a bridge between his weaknesses and Christ’s power:
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10)
As a boy, I was fortunate enough to hear a number of gifted men and women share great words of wisdom. I especially enjoy the eloquence of the late Robert F. Kennedy:
“Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one person can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills, misery, ignorance, and violence. Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. And in the total of all those acts will be written the history of a generation.”
Great is the faithfulness of God. Holy is the Lord. The Spirit lives within me (and you). I know only one way. It is forward. See you along the way!