Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Simon Birch and Listening to Your Life

I’m teaching an “Introduction to the Bible” course at Anderson University again this semester.

Last night we talked about God’s call to Abraham and his call to Moses. We observed that throughout the biblical narrative God chooses to work through frail and flawed human beings. That only makes sense, at least if God is intent on following the nonsensical course of working through human beings, since there is no other kind than frail and flawed ones. Abraham, for example, had a nasty habit of trying to pass his wife off as his sister in order to save his own skin. And Moses—well, Moses didn’t even want to do what God called him to do. He found all kinds of excuses, including an inability to speak well. Was he bashful? Was he inarticulate? Did he have a speech impediment? Regardless, God assured Moses that God could handle any complication that Moses could imagine. And, while Moses continued to prove the presence of his frailty and flaws, was used mightily by God.

I showed the class a couple of clips from the movie Simon Birch to illustrate the point. The movie is based on the novel A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. In the film, Simon Birch is the odd and therefore interesting central character. Tiny at birth, Simon, who is twelve years old in the movie, remains very small. He also had other physical limitations, including a small heart. His peers treat him almost like a doll. Simon, limited and physically challenged though he may be, has a deep spiritual sense that causes him to conclude that he has a special calling from God and that he is going to be a hero one day. I won’t give the ending away in case you haven’t seen the movie, but suffice it to say that he does become a hero and fulfill his calling in ways that are directly related to what had always been viewed as his limitations.

The notion is inspiring: not only does God call us in spite of our limitations but God calls us because of our limitations. God transforms and redeems and uses what we and others might view as our negative traits to do God’s will for God’s glory. God still chooses the foolish and the weak. He really does. If we will listen to our lives for what is unique, even if that uniqueness strikes us as weak or strange, we may just find what is in us that God can and will use.

To God be the glory.

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