I came across an entry in a diary I wrote many years ago when I was threatened with quadriplegia from multiple sclerosis. It was a time of I radical and risky therapy at the University of Alberta Hospital (Canada), to try and stem where the disease seemed to be going. I spent much time in my room contemplating my situation and what really matters. It was a frightening time but Christ was with me. That entry is below.
I knew a woman who was afraid to leave her house. Her name was Valerie.
She was consumed by all sorts of anxieties about what might happen if she stepped outside her door. A truck or bus might run her down if she tried to cross a street. She might be accosted by a stranger. Yes, Valerie was so paralyzed with a fear of dying that she stopped living -- choosing to be a prisoner in her own home.
I know a man who is afraid to fall in love for fear of what it might require of him. His name is John. He grew up in a home bereft of affection and coldly predictable. In a heartless sort of way, John was safe. Now in adulthood, John keeps up a facade of superficial but aloof cordiality to scare away all possibilities of romance or commitments of love. John has sexual desires but lust is not love. Lust consumes while love embraces. John's fears what love might be required of him and so he keeps his heart in check. He is emotionally paralyzed.
Paralysis takes many forms. Mine is physical. It creeps slowly,
taking away physical function, bit by bit. Despite a life of slowly advancing physical disability, an electric wheelchair, and the deteriorating physical health, I consider my paralysis much less of a handicap than the emotional and spiritual paralysis Valerie and John suffer from. They are more handicapped than me. One is afraid to live while the other is afraid to love. I am afraid of neither: Life and love both involve an element of risk but also holds a promise of great rewards. Being engaged with the living experience and being committed to love (human and divine) are indispensable to human growth. They are at the center of human growth! Love makes our time on earth worth while. Neither life nor love require legs that work.
There is so little in my world I can control. I can, however, decide to live my life in whatever state I find myself following a road of love. I choose to love. The option is to live a compromised life or an existence without love. No! I choose to live and to live my life to the fullest; that is only possible immersed in love. I choose to go outside my house and enjoy the fresh air and the warm sun. I choose to love. Whether love is returned, in any human context, is beyond my control. I am loved by God and He is the author of life and love.
In his Messianic prophecy Isaiah wrote:
"The spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
He send me to bring glad tidings to the lowly,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
To announce a year of favour from the Lord
and a day of vindication by our God,
to comfort all who mourn." (Isaiah 61.1-2)
Christ read this passage and claimed it to himself (Luke 4.17-21). He came to set captives free. Christ is Truth (John 14.6) and the Truth sets humanity free (John 8.32). Valerie did not need to live in fear and nor does John. Abundant life is available to all in Christ.