The gift of learning to love unconditionally.
The gift of recognizing that life is not about competition, but about becoming the person we alone were created to be.
The gift of wanting others to succeed in their own journey.
The gift of awesome joy over small, but difficult, accomplishments.
The gift of the present moment.
The gift of freedom from living for image or others’ opinions.
The gift of your own best self being called forth.
The gift of patience.
The gift of tenderness toward all those who are vulnerable.
The gift of humane values.
The gift of courage.
The gift of seeing beauty in those different from you.
Every person who has not been blessed with loving a handicapped person, needs to attend a Special Olympics to experience these gifts.
The moment of insight for me was when one of the children fell
down in his race and the other runners turned back to help him up.
And every child was thrilled at finishing their race, even if they were the last to come across the finishing line.
And every parent cheered for all the children, not just their own.
The greatest blessing is learning that life is ultimately not about winning, but about loving.
When my youngest son was about two, I tried to get him to talk into a tape recorder for a family message to my mother, who lived in another state. When I held the microphone up for him, he froze. I tried to help him by saying, “Tell her who you are.” He remained mute with a tortured look on his face. As I prompted him again, he blurted out desperately,
“I’M SOMEBODY! I’M SOMEBODY!”
I think that is the cry of all hearts, “I’m somebody.”
Unfortunately, even as Christians, we think that means being somehow special from being better than others. Sibling rivalry carries over even into being the children of God. I bought a Tee shirt once, that said,
“JESUS LOVES YOU, BUT I’M HIS FAVORITE.”
I thought it was funny, but more and more I see that as the root of so much of the conflict in families, churches, countries, the world.
It’s not enough to be loved and loving. We want to be smarter, better looking, richer. We want to be a STAR. Our whole culture is built on this.
Being the least of God’s children is anathema to us in any setting.
And in every conflict, we need to feel we are right, PARTICULARLY when we lose.
To feel mistreated, wronged, unappreciated allows us to be self-righteous, to cling to our sense of being SOMEBODY.
We are of eternal value because we are loved as the unique creation we are. It is not relative to anything or anyone. We are called to be the best “us” we can be. We are not called to be better than anyone.
The only place I have seen this grasped and celebrated is in the Special Olympics. There, when a child falls down, the other children in the race will go back and help them up. Every child gets a ribbon for not giving up, for finishing the race, for doing the best they can. Every parent claps and shouts for every child, not just their own.
This must be how it is in the kingdom of God.
The Book, Mother Teresa * Come Be My Light is a collection of her letters and her journals, which she had wanted burned when she died. Through them we see her terrible interior struggle with despair and feelings of abandonment by God.
She had mystical experiences and years of a sense of God’s presence when she was struggling to get permission and the means for the ministry she knew God was asking of her. But once she actually begins working with the poorest of the poor, she loses those, and not only feels abandoned, but sometimes even doubts the reality of God.
In her uphill battle to get permission from Church Authorities all the way up to the Pope, she harasses them incredibly, all the while saying, “I accept your authority and your decision. But could you hurry, because this is God’s call and people are being lost.” I love that.
She says that she has no ego left, just her desire to love God more than anyone ever has. Hmm. I’m not sure that’s not a form of ego, but it beats heck out of most forms.She is honest with her Spiritual Directors about her spiritual darkness, but fakes it with her community for fear she will damage their faith.
At eighty years of age, she never slows down in her exhausting physical ministry and even after winning the Nobel Peace Prize, she still humbly does dishes and cleans along with the other sisters in her community.
All the time she is without faith, joy, or even meaningful prayer, she is having tremendous success in her ministry and accolades from the world. But she is only able to go through the motions, heart-broken, doing her duty by fulfilling her promises to a God that seems to be gone.
That seems to me to be more awesome, than her mystical experiences or winning the Nobel Prize.
And it confirms what my minister answered one day when I asked him, “What’s it all about?”
He replied quickly with great assurance, “Perseverance.”