Today while on lunch I did something that I had promised myself that I would never do. I listened to the sermon I gave back in the summer of 2014 where I spoke about Jesus being sinless. I had so many lofty goals for that sermon, I was going to create a narrative about the unblemished lamb that was acceptable for sacrifice in the books of the law, tie that into the prophet Isaiah speaking about the ultimate lamb who would die for all of us and our sins. I was going to use examples from the gospels that pointed to Jesus being that lamb, and tie it up with Paul’s declarations of Christ being the sinless lamb without blemish. I was going to wrap it all up nice with a great looking theological bow while talking about what sin is and isn’t, what being sinless means,
I talked about the things we do of our own volition, I talked about sickness and death, I spoke of my father’s surgery, and then I crumpled in front of all of you who were present that day. On the audio you can hear me clearing my throat, smacking my lips again and again because my mouth was dry and my throat felt as if it were constricting. The room was spinning first to the left than to the right, I am surprised none of the rest of your noticed that. I couldn’t breathe, I kept stopping and losing my place in my notes. I was so afraid and I could not tell any of you that.
I was afraid that if anyone found out I was having a panic attack I’d never get to preach again
I was afraid that if I couldn’t get it together you would all see me as the fraud that I am
I was afraid for my father who was still recovering from kidney surgery
I was afraid that at any moment I could fall over and die from a heart attack.
But mostly I was afraid of being alone.
This was the first time I ever listened to that sermon. It was so painful to hear it. I was having trouble 10 min in, but I bet none of you even guessed. But I could tell, I heard it in my own voice, my own speaking mannerisms.
My fear of this moment has caused me to sin, last year there was a beautiful article that came out about all of us and this amazing church we have. The article made mention of me and my autism and the panic attack I had in front of all of you. I hated that Rod and Eric and Julie brought this shameful horrible secret that I wanted to totally forget about to light. I sinned against all three of them, writing scathing emails and making angry phone calls
Since all this happened I have not been able to forget about the even as I had wanted to. God keeps bringing it to light.
A little while back when Rod was sick and collapsed right after his sermon I hurt for him. I hurt not only because he was sick and obviously wasn’t well enough to be preaching but I worried about how embarrassed he must have felt at that time.
I asked him about it a week or so later and he said he wasn’t embarrassed at all but he understood why I asked.
I thought about it last night when Eric told us to ask God what he wanted us to do next. At first I came up with practical answers, don’t eat as much sugar, love my wife, but then something bigger came to light
God was asking me to own my disease.
To totally take ownership of my autism and the anxiety disorder that may require medicine for the rest of my life.
What does it mean to own it though? I am still working that out but I can tell you what it doesn’t mean
It doesn’t mean using it as a crutch or an excuse
It also doesn’t mean that I can somehow miraculously figure out a way not to be sick. I cannot will myself well.
I think it mostly means admitting that it’s something I struggle with, even while medicated. It means letting people clearly see Jesus in the way he cares for me while I struggle with it. It means resting in his care, resting in yours.
I have always dreamed that my story could be one of victory, but not God’s, mine
Owning my disease means admitting that my victory, my looking better than I am, being applauded for being able to overcome all that has been placed in front of me is not as important as the victory that Jesus has when all of you see how richly he cares for me even when I suffer.
Owning my disease means inviting people to hear that sermon, to hear me who has been given gifts of public speaking, totally come apart in front of the church that loves me, to tell everyone that God loved me so much that he gave me a church who gave me comfort even when I totally fell apart. They loved me so much that they even told the newspaper about my struggle in the hopes that others who fight with mental illness would know that The Village is a safe place for them.
Owning my disease means that I want Jesus’ victory to be my own. That if, as Paul says, God’s power is made perfect in my weakness, than like Paul I should boast all the more about my suffering. Because through that suffering hearts might come to healing. that’s a much bigger victory than me looking good and speaking eloquently.
It’s also a victory that will have a more lasting impact.