|Rev. Clinton Lee|
Scott (1887 - 1985)
"Now it came to pass that while the elder in Israel tarried in Babylon, a message came to him from a distant city saying, come thou and counsel with us. Help us to search out a priest for the one that has served us has gone mad. And the elder in Israel arose and journeyed to that distant city. And when the men of affairs were assembled, the elder spake unto them saying, what manner of man seeketh thee to be your new priest? And they answered and said unto him, we seek a young man yet with the wisdom of gray hairs. One that speaketh his mind freely yet giveth offense to no one. That draweth the multitude to the temple on the Sabbath but will not be displeased when we ourselves are absent. We desire one who has a gay mood yet is of sober mind. That seeketh out dark sayings and prophecies yet speaketh not over our heads. That filleth the temple, buildeth it up, yet defileth not the sanctuary with a Motley assortment of strangers. We seeketh one that puts the instruction of the young first but requireth not that we become teachers. That causeth the treasury to prosper yet asketh not that we give more of our substance. Verily we seek a prophet that will be unto us a leader but will not seek to change us, for we like not to be disturbed." (Scott)Sometimes we say, “well, no one’s perfect” – when the point really might be better expressed as: no one simultaneously exhibits contradictory qualities. If your gift is the wisdom of experience, it’s not a fault to not have youthful exuberance. If your gift is youthful exuberance, it’s not a fault to not have the wisdom of experience. If your gift is speaking your mind freely, it is not a fault that you occasionally give offense. If your gift is diplomacy, it’s not a fault that you don’t speak your mind freely. If your gift is being tall enough to dunk a basketball, it’s not a fault that your aren’t small enough to be comfortable in the back seat of subcompact car. Not a fault – but we might say it’s the shadow side of your gift. It’s the thing that you aren’t and don’t that makes possible what you are and do.
So the first point is that the shadow is not some unfortunate, if forgivable, shortcoming. The shadow is the necessary enabling condition of the gift. Now let’s go a little further with that. The shadow is not merely what makes the gift possible, but actually is the gift itself. Our broken-ness is itself the very thing that is our strength. That’s the paradoxical truth: the weakness is the strength.
Here’s a story to illustrate. It’s a story of a young man who lost his leg – his leg had to be removed at the hip to save him from bone cancer. Rachel Remen is an M.D. and now Clinical Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. She’s a pioneer in the mind/body holistic health movement and sees the practice of medicine as a spiritual path. This young man was one of Dr. Remen’s patients. She writes:
“He was twenty-four years old when I started working with him and he was a very angry man with a lot of bitterness. He felt a deep sense of injustice and a very deep hatred for all well people, because it seemed so unfair to him that he had suffered this terrible loss so early in life. Over the course of more than two years, slowly a profound shift began. He came to look beyond himself, to reach out to others who had suffered severe physical losses, to make visits. Once he visited a young woman who was almost his own age. It was a hot day in California. He was in running shorts, and his artificial leg showed as he entered her hospital room. The young woman had lost both her breasts to cancer. And she was so depressed that she would not even look at him. The nurses had left a radio playing, so, to get her attention, he unstrapped his leg, and began dancing around the room on one leg, snapping his fingers to the music. She looked at him in amazement, and then burst out laughing and said, 'Man, if you can dance, I can sing.'” (Remen)A year later, Remen says,
That man’s one-leggedness became the way that he was able to shine in this world. The broken-ness is the gift.
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This is part 2 of 4 of "Blessed Affliction"
Next: Part 3: "Failure and 'Should'"
Previous: Part 1: "Nobody's Perfect?"
Acknowledgment: I'm indebted to Rev. Mary Katherine Morn for bringing the Remen material to my attention.