A WALKING PARADOX
“I always wanted to be a doctor. But I took some tests in high school, and the tests showed I was not quite smart enough.” A wistful note creeps into his normally cheery voice, and his dancing eyes don’t twinkle quite so much as usual.
I’m gaping at him in surprise, for the speaker is anything but mentally challenged. In fact Mr. Greene, my twelfth grade psychology teacher, strikes me as a genius. Assuming the role of a schizophrenic listening for CIA bugs inside his head, or an obsessive compulsive scrubbing his hands after twisting a doorknob, he crams us full with knowledge while we’re laughing and applauding the Greatest Show on Earth. His lively lessons cling to every whorl of my brain, earning me 100’s on his tests without the need to study. In his class, I too begin feeling like a genius….
I smile at this picture pulled from my memory, for I don’t feel like a genius often.
“You can do anything you want to do in life,” my grandpa told me once when I was ten. “You can even learn to fly an airplane!” But I didn’t. I reached age forty-eight without learning how to drive a car. Or make change of a dollar. Or load a dishwasher. Or follow a three-way conversation without growing hopelessly confused. I did graduate from college; classroom knowledge flowed into my brain easily. Today I can still discuss neo-Classicism, or describe how art and science reflect a paradigm shift from the nineteeth to the twentieth century. But I still struggle to keep my shoelaces tied, and a six-year-old can still cream me at checkers. Two years ago I wrote a book about the creation-evolution debate…and figured out, for the first time, how to change a light bulb.
Am I a genius? The opposite? Or something worse than either?
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Boomed through the sonorous voice of a finger-jabbing preacher, the Scripture verse slams into me like an accusation. Am I nothing but a sinner who’s let sloth and cowardice cripple her from serving in God’s Kingdom? I wince, for there is just enough truth here to crush me under guilt. Yet I know my Lord is merciful; He does not stand as my accuser. He knows every quirk inside my backward-gifted autistic brain. Yet He loves me anyway, and He’s teaching me to trust Him as He gently guides me through my simple world.
Yes, my world is simple. I sing hymns and read picture books with my kindred spirits…who’ve been labeled with everything from Parkinson’s to Alzheimer’s to Down’s. Most of us, including me, love to sing the same songs and hear the same stories read again again again. Change comes hard for us. Yet through these very servants He’s given me as friends, my Lord is slowly seeking to change me every day.
I try to please my family within the tornado-wreckage of our house. Sometimes my husband becomes a single dad, raising three daughters instead of two. Sometimes my daughters become mothers, teaching me how to comb my hair or scrub the kitchen countertops. Yet they all claim to need what small gifts I have to offer…such as spelling words for them dredged from my photographic mind. Or being there to listen and to hug.
Slowly I am learning to believe them.
We are not all called to cool careers or shining spotlights. Some of us are walking paradoxes. Our genius gets lost inside a snakepit of chaos, with no ropes available to pull it to the surface. The outside world feels too bright and loud and fast for us; we enter it with faltering steps, view it through the puzzled eyes of Martians touring Earth. Of lifelong children inching step by step towards adulthood. Or of mentally challenged seekers struggling to navigate the baffling maze of normals.
A rope is flung to me. It is woven from ideas translated into print, of those who would use these tools in love to haul me to the surface.
I pray daily for courage to grab hold of this rope. For faith in the Savior who will pull me finally free.
Like my teacher Mr. Greene, I will never become a doctor. Nor will I become a brilliant teacher of Psych I. But through Christ who strengthens me, I can become uniquely who He’s called me to become. And that is all He asks of me.
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