All of us have stories of love and loss. Our lives are sometimes stories of ambition thwarted, of hearing confused, of drive that drops into nothing. We find ourselves grieving the person we hoped to become, with few willing to listen or understand. To most, we are people who need to embrace a limited “recovery” identity, not the fullness of the humanity God created in us.
The “strengths-based” recovery model tells us “you are defined by these limitations BUT you also have these strengths.”
We say: We have these strengths. They co-exist with weaknesses. That is the nature of being human in a fallen world.”
Our willingness to acknowledge our experience of suffering and limitation makes us more able to “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor 1:4). We find ourselves surrounded by others who face challenges because we are the ones who are willing to listen. Sometimes we wonder: am I surrounded by people in pain because there is something wrong with me?
People in pain flock to us because we allow them to speak the truth of what it means to live in a world that will not be perfect until Jesus returns. Life is hard. Life is not fair. And, despite the teachings of excited conference speakers and “itchy ears” false Christian prophets, it isn’t possible for every person to become any thing they open their mind to become.
My friend Jamie had, to his death, a learning disability that limited his employment options. Still, he was always better at remembering my birthday than I was at remembering his because he made a priority of “brightening up other people’s day.” When I asked him how he did it, he eagerly shared his secret. “You get a little book and you write down everyone’s birthday so you won’t forget.”
My brother Don is not an “academic” learner. He can fix anything, which any of his hundreds of friends could attest — any time they need anything, he’s on the spot. But he didn’t ever get a college degree, which he sometimes regrets. He feels it limits his life. I don’t see a limited life. I see a life driven by a profound calling to serve others. I see a man whose funeral, when it comes, is unlikely to fit into any hall in town.
Will we see our lives through God’s eyes, focusing on the gifts God has given and learning to minimize the impact that the fall has on us each? Or will we choose to live with our eyes on the Fall and acknowledge grace as just a fortunate addition to our unfortunate lives?
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land … Deut. 30: 19-20