I had a plan. So one day I took him aside and gathered all the details: which hospital/doctor, how much it would cost exactly, how long it would take, etc. I was going to raise the money, arrange to take him there in my car, pay the hospital bill and help change the world!
I raised the money between myself and my colleagues within an hour. I was so amazed at people's generosity towards someone they didn't even know. I was so excited to tell him. (Apparently he had been begging for this cause for a couple of years already.) I arranged to take him to the hospital - date and time. Finally the day came. He never showed up. Sad and disappointed I wondered what had become of him. Finally I returned everyone's money and let it go (or try to, anyway). Then, out of the blue, about two months later, I went out for some "fresh air" and lo and behold... there was the man, begging for money for a procedure to have his jaw corrected.
In the end it (sadly) turned out this man didn't want to be helped. It had become his meal ticket, so to speak, his excuse. Without his disability people wouldn't pity him and he would be a less effective beggar. So he chose to hold on to his disability.
I will never forget this man.
In the broken world we live in there are more people with disabilities than we realize. I speak of an invisible kind of disability - emotional brokenness - pain from rejection, abuse, betrayal. The world we live in is proof of it: rape, murder, violence, abuse, divorce, suicide... And daily the brokenness begets more brokenness. The raped becomes the rapist, the abused the abuser. The molested becomes the promiscuous, the deserted the deserter...
There comes a time when we realize that our behavior is not acceptable. At that time we are faced with a choice: do we continue or do we find help and change? Like the beggar's deformed jaw had become his excuse to beg, our emotional pain and baggage can just as easily become our excuse for sin. We not only end up using it as an excuse but as justification for sin. And instead of humbling ourselves before God and repenting of our sin, we tell ourselves that we are just human - that all humans make mistakes. Therefore we are no better or no worse. According to society's standards we fit right in with "normal".
But we are not called as children of God to fit in with this world's idea of normal. In fact, the Bible says that if we choose to be friends with this world, we effectively choose to be enemies of God.
You are like an unfaithful wife who loves her husband's enemies. Don't you realize that making friends with God's enemies - the evil pleasures of this world - makes you an enemy of God? I say it again, if you aim to enjoy the evil pleasures of the unsaved world, you cannot also be a friend of God. James 4:4
We are called to live for his glory - to be salt and light. We are not called to be perfect - please don't misunderstand - but let us not settle for making every mistake in the book just because we have a past. I speak from experience when I tell you that our emotional brokenness (baggage) can trip us up (sometimes) real bad. We cannot run this race successfully and want to keep the brokenness and baggage. It would be like a man competing in a marathon with a ball and chain around his ankle and thinking he will win. You are fooling yourself. You are more likely to choke on the dust of the free man running ahead of you.
Does having brokenness and baggage mean all hope is lost?
No. Just like I took pity on that beggar and made a plan to help him, God has taken pity on us in his great love and made a plan to help us. He sent his Son, Jesus, to redeem us and restore us to righteousness (being in right standing with God). Jesus dying on the cross offers us reconciliation with the God of the universe - creator of all that is - the beginning and the end, the truth, the life, the way, the one for whom nothing is too hard. He is the only one not even remotely challenged by your past; not what's been done to you, nor what you've done. He already knows every detail and he already has every answer you need. Here's the thing though: you've. got. to. show. up!
Surrendering your life to Christ, humbling yourself and repenting of your sin, is just the first step. It is like being born. That first breath is just the beginning. After that starts the process of learning and growing - emotionally AND physically. You start learning about right and wrong, how to crawl, how to use the potty, how to stick a spoon in your mouth (and not up your nose). You learn speech, colors, etc. etc. Later on you go to school, learn about relationships and your body, how to work with money, driving a car.... it's endless, really. The point is: growth must take place. It is okay for a baby to wear a diaper, but if you see a grown man in one you would definitely think something is wrong. Growing spiritually is no different.
If I plant a pumpkin seed and after a year there's still no sign of a pumpkin, I think it is safe to conclude the seed has died. It either grows or dies. There is no in between. Therefore, if you've been listening to Biblical teaching and studying the Word of God for some time, you (and consequently your life) must change, or otherwise it shows something is wrong. We are called to bear fruit, and I firmly believe that what God touches - I mean really touch - must change. God is the giver of life. He cannot be anyone else. Therefore the seed of our faith must produce something over time resembling the God our faith is in.
"There is much more I would like to say along these lines, but you don't seem to listen, so it's hard to make you understand. You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others, but instead you have dropped back to the place where you need someone to teach you all over again the very first principles of God's Word. You are like babies who can drink only milk, not old enough for solid food. And when a person is still living on milk it shows he isn't very far along in the Christian life, and doesn't know much about the difference between right and wrong. He is still a baby Christian! You will never be able to eat solid spiritual food and understand the deeper things of God's Word until you become better Christians and learn right from wrong by practicing doing right. Let us stop going over the same old ground again and again, always teaching those first lessons about Christ. Let us go on instead to other things and become mature in our understanding, as strong Christians ought to be." Hebrews 5:11-14
We cannot come to Christ and years later still be using the same old past as an excuse for sinful behavior. Our sinful behavior will keep us broken and on crutches. God's plan is not to train us to become Olympic standard runners with crutches. He doesn't long to prosper us as emotional and spiritual cripples (in bondage). This is not the plan God has for us. He wants to heal us and set us free. Not only does he want to liberate us from our past and our pain, but he wants to give us a new, better future. The question is: do you want to be helped? It will cost you, but believe me when I tell you it will be worth it!
Have you heard the saying "charity begins at home?" The Christian walk is similar. God loves you and he is intensely interested in your well being and your progress. But the day you were born (both naturally and spiritually) he also already had someone else in mind - every person whose life you would help touch for his glory. But if we don't heal, grow and change ourselves, it not only renders us less capable of helping ourselves, but also less capable to help others. How do you teach another how to run if you can't even crawl yourself?
Your healing is not just vital for you to live your best life, but it extends to those you were born to make a difference for. It is time to stop being afraid to look our pain in the eye and with God's help face the Goliaths in our lives, our minds and our past. It is time to stop making excuses and repent. We need to get to the place of laying our baggage at the feet of Christ and allow him to work in us and with us, so we may be liberated from it and start walking in the victorious and good plan God has always had for our lives. He wants us to be free - not because our past makes us inadequate or undeserving of his love, but because he knows we can be (and do) so much more without it!
God has so much more in store for you. Won't you decide to lay down the baggage of your brokenness? Won't you choose to start on your journey of healing and redemption? Won't you lean into his purifying fire - even when it's painful - because the end result will be an invaluable treasure - worth more than silver or gold. May God lead you to a place where you are able to see beyond yourself to what God has called you to; to a life of fulfillment, joy and purpose.
Don't let your past ('disability') be an excuse not to have the future God dreams for you. May you have the courage to let go of the familiar pain of the past for the unfamiliar and exhilarating adventure of wholeness in your future. Surrender to his unconditional love.