“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The Message
There was a post on Facebook this week about a new Barbie doll. The post that had gone viral was from a wheelchair user called Laura (see the post here) who said how a Barbie doll was given her as a child “to encourage her to walk”. She felt from that early age that she was not enough because she could not walk. The new Barbie doll, one that had a wheelchair like her, seemed to go some way in validating that it was okay not to walk. It was okay to be her.
And I had a wonderful catch up with a friend this week. A friend who a couple of years ago was diagnosed with autism. As is often the case, autism in females just wasn’t recognised when she was younger, and she spent her life wondering why she wasn’t enough. She’s been almost burnt out with religion (hence using the verses from The Message Bible) and we both felt that the pressure to fit in, be doing stuff and to be someone else’s idea of good Christian was making church and faith joyless and actually sucking the faith out of people who can’t fit into the box that is created for people to fit into.
Another friend who was born with foetal alcohol syndrome was told he couldn’t be in the Sunday school with the other children as he was too much to look after and wasn’t clever enough to keep up with the other children.
But we are finding out something really important, and my friend gave words to it…
We have permission from Jesus to be us!
“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.” Psalm 139:14-16 The Message
I have been privileged to meet Elly Chapple who has started a revolution called #FlipTheNarrative (see her short Ted Talk here) – it’s about how we view and value people with differences and disabilities. How we treat them as if they are not human and we need to change our perspective. So many people cannot speak up for themselves, either because they have no speech and people do not listen to their communication, or because people have been bullied into thinking they have no valid voice – that they are not enough to be acceptable. But everyone needs to be at the table and valued for who they are. Does this remind anyone of the Gospel? Jesus told the parable of the banquet and one aspect is that people only wanted to invite certain people, but Jesus said invite those who are on the outside. It’s so important that we don’t try to invite people into God’s family by telling them “but first you must _______” (try to walk, want to be healed, do what is expected, be more like the rest of us… fill in your own version….)
I have realised that in some parts of the church, the Pharisees are alive and well, still telling us who can be in God’s kingdom and who is not enough to be included.
“But Jesus put it right back on them. “Why do you use your rules to play fast and loose with God’s commands? God clearly says, ‘Respect your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone denouncing father or mother should be killed.’ But you weasel around that by saying, ‘Whoever wants to, can say to father and mother, What I owed to you I’ve given to God.’ That can hardly be called respecting a parent. You cancel God’s command by your rules. Frauds! Isaiah’s prophecy of you hit the bull’s-eye: These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it. They act like they’re worshiping me, but they don’t mean it. They just use me as a cover for teaching whatever suits their fancy.” Matthew 15:3-9 The Message
So this post is reminding you, whoever you are, whether you feel ‘typical’ or have differences that you think are too much or not enough in this world…
You have permission to be you.
You don’t have to join in the peace, you don’t have to stand up for songs, you don’t have to be sociable when you need time alone, you don’t have to sing or go to meetings or pray in a set formula. So many ways people try to control and manage how we live out our faith. I confess, I have done that too. I have learned as God has shown me his grace, and shown me how to see his grace for everyone. I am full of joy for the people in all parts of the body of Christ that are learning this as well. I am continually encouraged, challenged, loved and prayed for by people who cannot do groups, or find Sunday services exhausting. Yet on a 1:1 they are the best people to help me grow in my faith. They don’t seem to mind me getting a bit over-excitable, or when I interrupt or go off on tangents either!
We have permission to stim, to fidget, to laugh, to cry in a service. We have permission to answer rhetorical questions and ask questions we don’t know the answer to. We have permission to sit at the back, on the floor, lie down or walk around. We have permission to have a quiet day at home instead of forcing ourselves to go to church when we might be in pain. We have permission to make church a free and accessible place for all of us. (Radical idea…might be different…ha ha!)
“The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:23-24 The Message
We were told by Jesus to love God and love others. All others.
These are the best (but not easiest) commands EVER!
And here are some of my favourite songs that I listen when I am needing God’s extra care and want to be reminded of His truths, click on the title to listen…