“A perversion of nature. Cursed from birth. A man, if you could even call him that, whom God Himself has turned His back upon.” Mendez sneers sarcastically.
“How can you say such horrible things? said Will.
“Because you believe it! But if you could only see the beauty that can come from the ashes.” encourages Mendez
Have you ever felt like this? A freak of nature? A total screw up? If so, you are certainly not alone, but you need to know there is more to you than you may know.
In this powerful exchange between the two main characters, Will, born without any limbs is more debilitated by beliefs about himself than his obvious and significant physical handicap. Mendez has the uncanny ability to look beyond what circumstances might dictate to something deeper and call it forth -and in this exchange with Mendez Will’s eyes are opened to see a lie he has believed his entire life! As a result, Will was able to realize for himself an inherent dignity which was there all along, enabling him to begin to shed the identity, the judgments others had placed upon him!
"Every child, every person needs to know that they are a source of joy; every child, every person, needs to be celebrated. Only when all of our weaknesses are accepted as part of our humanity can our negative, broken self-images be transformed. - Jean Vanier, Becoming Human
Life isn’t always “fair”. Everyone of us face a multiplicity of challenges from our past and present circumstances. These challenges may need to be accepted, but it is not healthy to allow them to define us. To be defined by our circumstances will make it difficult for us to ever transcend those circumstances and to become all that we are created to be. Why? Because if we can only see our deficiencies and that’s all we ever see we are blinded to the “something more.”
The challenge is to overcome and triumph over those circumstances, often in spite of them makes for a significant life. In the words of Mendez,”The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.” Not allowing our past, our present or physical or mental challenges to become our identity. We often are given the gift to see value and beauty in a deeper more profound way than that of a generally superficial culture that would seek to exploit a weakness than overcome it. This involves a choice to love in the face of hate, to mercy in the face of revenge and anger and weakness in a world which values strength. In the words of Henri Nouwen who worked among severely mentally and physically handicapped people in L’Arche communities:
“A theology of weakness challenges us to look at weakness not as a worldly weakness that allows us to be manipulated by the powerful in society and church, but as a total and unconditional dependence on God that opens us to be true channels of the divine power that heals the wounds of humanity and renews the face of the earth.”
This metamorphosis, the process of attaining significance comes only through the forge of real life and the struggles that each of us face. It is in our ability to choose love for ourselves, to recognize the beauty and wonder that we truly "are" regardless of the noise around us. This takes a courage few find.
At the age of two, I began to shake physically. A tremor which affects my entire body but most noticeable in my hands. It is just one of those genetic curiosities that arise and one I share with my mother and a few others on the maternal side. It was really hard growing up because my tremor was fairly noticeable and made me a little less coordinated than other children and the target of teasing and bullying.
I would be penalized through grade school because I was not physically capable of the fine motor control necessary to write neatly or colour within the lines of a map. These issues made a constant appearance on report cards. The shame of spilling food or drink, the lack of coordination and neat writing and coloring significantly tainted my academic career for the first nine years of my formal education. As such I developed a mental block towards learning and a very negative self-image which influenced how I interacted with others and various choices I made. Like Will, I was a frighten angry man.
I had several instances post high school when my negative self-image was challenged in significant and profound ways, not unlike Wills encounter with Mendez. I began to see abilities, gifts, and talents which I was oblivious to previously and with the support of some ‘faithful, forgiving friends’ I learned to step out and explore the new discoveries within myself!
I will probably never be asked to color maps or win penmanship award. Nor is performing vasectomies or brain surgery an option for me but I have overcome my tremor and learned to manage life deeply. I have am accomplished academically, professional and relationally. Yes, I still have a tremor but it no longer dictates how I feel about myself, and while there are certain realities, I in no way feel diminished by it! I resonate with Mendez’s assertion “The greater the obstacle, the greater the glory!”
A Few Thoughts to ponder:
Good Company - “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.” Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to be who you really are, who will watch and call forth the “something more”. Beware of folks who have something to gain by you remaining a victim.
Identify Triggers - Learn to recognize the situations which occur which cause you to default to your false identity. It is not always possible to avoid these situations, but you can recognize them and make a conscious choice to respond differently!
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” - Serenity Prayer
Become aware of the negative self-talk and thoughts and address them. Identify them, make a conscious choice to reject them holding them captive to the something more!
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. - Psalm 19:14
Look Up! - Did you know the happiest people are those who live for something bigger than themselves? Those who are not focused on themselves, their problems, the reasons why they can’t and focus on why they can!
“I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” Philippians 4:8 The Message