This past Sunday at Grace Covenant, Mark Ramsey preached a sermon about Gabriel and how he came to Mary that affected me greatly. (Luke 1:26-38) It was called Nothing and you can read it here: http://storage.cloversites.com/gracecovenantpresbyterianchurch1/documents/sr-18dec11-alt.pdf
Of course listening to a sermon is always better so if you have time, go to http://www.gcpcusa.org/ and click on the section called “sermons/evotionals” where you can launch the media player.
I remember sitting in the pew listening to him repeat Gabriel’s words over and over again, “nothing is impossible with God.” He included present day situations such as a single parent struggling with poverty and someone struggling with a health problem, before repeating those words. I wanted to scream right there, “But what about a TBI survivor who can no longer walk and talk? What about a survivor who has difficulty controlling his or her emotions? What about the survivor who wants to work but never will again?”
I thought back to the time when we were doing a demonstration in front of my church in Atlanta when a man with a TBI lost his temper. He began running after a motorist screaming at the top of his lungs. This man used to be mild mannered and would never have done this before. I’m fairly mild mannered myself but my fuse is much shorter now. I remember several times losing my temper and throwing something across the room in anger.
Having a short fuse is a huge issue for survivors. I’ve learned how to put something down and go back to it later when I’ve calmed down. Sometimes I can’t do this or my temper rises too quickly for me to catch it. When I get to this point there is no turning back. One cannot reason with a survivor in this situation. All one can do is make sure he or she is safe and let the anger run its course. You can talk about it later but not then. God has helped me learn to deal with this challenge and I usually catch it. I was mad after Mark’s sermon and in my anger, I blocked out a whole lot of what he said before Gabriel’s words. I did have the presence of mind to talk about my concerns with him and read his sermon later.
After re-reading it, I see how much I missed. He shared a suggestion by Sam Wells, Dean of the Chapel at Duke. Wells suggested we find someone to have a conversation with regarding the following questions: “Tell me about the ways in which you are rich. Tell me about the ways in which you are poor. Let me tell you about the ways in which I am rich. Let me tell you about the ways I am poor.” As we do this, we are using Mary’s song as a basis for conversation.
I had a WNC Brain Injury Network meeting this week and I knew several people there believed that “nothing is impossible with God.” They walk now only because of God’s power and strength. Instead of getting angry inside because I know lots of people who are loved by God who cannot walk, I considered the questions above. As each person spoke, I heard the answers indirectly and my anger dissapated. Brain injury had made us all rich and poor together. We may disagree on how God works in us but we’re still connected by similar adversities.
In an email to me, Mark wrote, “I don’t think the promises of scripture (“Nothing will be impossible…) are intended to be, necessarily, results-oriented or a cause -and-effect construct. I think they build imagination in us to stay connected with God through good and bad times….But I at least want some places in our life and faith – and Christmas seems like one of them – where we can give full throated expression to the boldly audacious claims of God through scripture without footnote or qualifiers. Anyway, that was the aim Sunday.”
Speaking for myself, I’m not sure how successful Mark was with this aim. However, he did cause me to dig deeply into my own beliefs and to try and understand folks who’s beliefs are different from mine. In the world of brain injury , this has been a bit of a struggle for me. Sometimes though, I must look at a person’s deep poverty and riches and be willing to share mine. This deep understanding of each other is what is possible with God. So perhaps Mark did achieve his aim afterall.
Do you have a quick temper now? How do you manage it? What do you think of Gabriel’s words, “nothing is impossible with God?” See above right for commenting instructions. Know that due to a computer glitch, I’m unable to comment here so if you want a response my email is firstname.lastname@example.org