As many of you know I grew up with a learning disability, a derivative of dyslexia. I do not shy away from talking about that; in fact, at times it is something I joke about, but I am often surprised at how often people judge me for it. I say this because by the time I finished my doctorate, I came to look upon this disorder as a gift. No, unlike most “gifts” it did not make my life easier, it was not fun, it did not garner me really anything. It did, however, give me an understanding within the world that we all see and approach things differently.
Because of my learning disability, I had to learn patience and I needed to listen, research and understand. I had to own the areas that I am weak in and I needed to find ways around them or make those weaknesses work for me. More than anything else it made me realize that I do not experience the world as others do. In ministry, this is important, because often what one person lives for in the church to bring them closer to God, is the exact thing that another person finds revolting.
The problem that we often face in society and in the church is that we forget the diversity of where everyone came from and own who we are. I think of a family I worked with once. Their child was suffering through school, hated going, and refused to do his homework.
The parents were at a loss and did not know where else to turn so they came to me. As we talked I came to a point where I asked them if they owned their child’s learning disability? They had not; in fact, they were doing everything they could to hide it! Interestingly, when I told them about mine, they began to open up, accept the difficulties their child was having and begin to work on ways to adjust to accommodate the different learning styles. Interestingly, once they did that, while the child never did get straight A’s, he was able to be comfortable enough with himself that he was quite successful and found many places to excel in school.
Owning oneself, being authentic in strengths and weaknesses, allows us to connect with others in a more profound and honest way. In the church we are always struggling with understanding who we are. We know the things that make us happy, and we know the things that don’t, but often times we get frustrated along the way. Often that frustration comes from not owning who we are and often talking past or bypassing the strengths that we may be mislabeling weaknesses.
This week we explore in worship the text from Micah 6:1-8. This is one of my favorite verses; it is even on the back of my business cards. “It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, and don’t take yourself too seriously-take God seriously.” The Message, Micah 6:8.
Through the whole passage, we get a taste that God requests that those who follow him relax and learn to accept others and accept themselves for who they are, NOT who they think they should be or why they aren't something else, but who God made them out to be. In a very real way, this takes a lot of strength and courage, because in order to accept yourself, you must accept fully who you are and who God calls you to be. Moreover, you have to accept your neighbor for who God made them to be and find the humility to accept that you’re not perfect and can never be perfect on your own.
I know I have an affinity with the text for that very reason. I know that when I am being me I find great success in my life, but when I try to be something I am not, I tend to fall and often find myself lost and disconnected from God.
As you prepare for worship this week, take time to pray and think on Micah 6:8 and what that means for you.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen