Friday, July 07, 2006

Hope not fear

My sister Dinah has Prader-Willi Syndrome; the deformity of chromosome-15. Prader-Willi is random, it's not passed down through the genes or caused by any known factor - it just happens. Basically, my sister is mentally and physically handicapped. She is challenged is so many different ways, yet, she has always been a beacon of light for all those she encounters. Due mainly to my parents love and diligence, Dinah is the oldest known living Prader-Willi; she is 51. The person who lived the longest was 63. Most Prader-Willi's die in their 20 or 30's due to obesity and uncontrollable anger outbursts. My parents and those who work closely with Dinah have managed her weight quite well. The anger outbursts are something that happens - but, with Dinah some medications have been effective in mitigating their frequency.

Dinah has lived at home until her mid-thirties. At that point my parents decided that for Dinah's continued growth and development that she needed to be an environment outside of home. They researched and searched out several possibilities. The first group home worked well with Dinah for a while, but as Dinah has grown older it has become apparent that the smaller the number living in the home, the better she can function.

With more research my parents found a "Christian home." First warning sign was the "Christian label." It wasn't long before Dinah had an anger outburst. The couple that managed the group home didn't handle the episode too well. My parents and I were summoned to meet with the management team.

Quickly into the meeting the Christian couple who managed the home began telling us that if we would only pray harder and with more fervency that Dinah would be healed of being Prader-Willi. Honestly, I didn't handle their presumptions too well myself. It wasn't long before my parents moved Dinah into another more suitable place where she now resides most comfortably and happily.

I don't believe in a Santa Claus God. While it would be much easier to believe in a God who went around looking for all who was naughty and all who was nice to dispense either punishment or gifts, I don't find that God in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the gospel of Mark (5:22-24, 35-43) Jesus tells the father of a dying girl "Do not fear, only believe." Jesus' admonition about fear speaks volumes about the very heart of God. The Presence of God brings hope. Yet, more often than not, we act out of fear.

There is a powerful tendency inside all of us towards fear. We fear sickness, injury, death, change, the enemy, and the unknown. Michael Lerner in The Left Hand of God, writes "When our consciousness moves (toward fear) we believe that the Other is a serious threat that needs to be dominated and controlled before it does likewise to us." Jesus if offering hope as an alternative to fear. Jesus is summoning us to move out of the paradigm of fear into the prospects of hope.

Jesus goes to the home of the 12 year old girl. Everyone there is grieving her death. But, Jesus says, "She's not dead, she's only sleeping." Where some see death, Jesus sees hope. Well, that brought mocking laughter from all the mourners. They feared death so much they could not see the hope of the Presence of God.

Ignoring their ridicule, Jesus took three of his young disciples into the girl's room. There Jesus spoke the powerful words of hope, "get up." Jesus saw hope in the mystery of the unseen. While no one else could see hope, Jesus offered the Presence of God for healing.

I wonder what would happen if we responded to the Other with hope instead of fear? In our country today we are operating out of fear not hope. What if we offered hope for our enemies instead of reacting out of fear? Without hope there will be no healing.

In the Episcopal Church this very minute we are living our lives in fear. The fear of change and the fear of not changing. But, what if, instead of working from a place of fear we moved to a place of the hope of healing found in the Presence of God. Would we, like Jesus, see hope instead of death?

I once asked my mother if she could change Dinah into a "normal" person, would she? First, my mom corrected me in that Dinah was probably more normal than any of the rest of us. Then she told me, no, she wouldn't. "Dinah is a gift and we see life differently through her eyes than we ever could any other way."

God isn't Santa Claus. God is the Presence of Jesus seen in each of us offering the hope of healing. Healing hunger, healing hatred, healing the fear that breeds greed, healing that crosses the divide in theology and the healing that allows us to hear the words of Jesus, "you're not dead, get up."

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