Having An Excuse vs. Making An Excuse

Years ago my family went to church with a guy named Ted.  He was a lifelong smoker, and had developed a pretty bad case of emphysema by the time we met him.  They finally starting bringing him to church in a wheelchair, and he stayed on oxygen all the time.  There was a large machine in his house with little hoses run to each room, and he carried a small tank around with him on wheels.  He frequently spent time in the hospital.  No one would have held it against Ted if he had stayed at home.  It would not have made him a lazy Christian or a bad witness.  But instead he was one of the most faithful members.  He wanted to come to church for as long as he was able, and did. 

I now work with a guy that had a hunting accident some years ago.  The right side of his brain is damaged so that he cannot control the limbs on the left side of his body.  His left hand does not work, and his arm just hangs there.  He wears a brace on his left leg, so that he can prop his weight on it and manage to walk.  (In fact sometimes he walks to work, while people that live even closer drive.)  I’m sure he’s on disability, so he could just sit at home on his butt and cash his check each month.  But that’s not what he does.  He comes in each day and tutors kids that have difficulties.  When some student says “I can’t do these math problems,” he doesn’t hesitate to say “I only have half a brain, what’s your excuse?”  It’s hard to argue with that.

These are people that have an excuse, but are not making excuses.  A family of four that stays home to blow the baby’s nose; the person that calls out of work because they might “get sick.”  Do you know those types?  It’s a shame that in some situations people like Ted has to pull someone else’s weight, even though he’s in worse shape.  Moses had a stuttering problem, the Apostle Paul was going blind, Mary Magdalene was filled with demons (see footnote), and the Bible is filled with characters like these.  Nearly all of the important Biblical figures had something horribly wrong with them, and not just physically.  But those people of faith brought to God what they had, and he used them to do his work.  God is not interested in our ability, but in our availability.  He performs acts through us that we could not have accomplished on our own.  Read Moses’s conversation with God at the burning bush, or what happens in Nineveh after Jonah gets there.  Little is much when God is in it.  What’s your excuse?

footnote: I first wrote that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute filled with demons, but this cannot be scripturally verified.  Western Christian tradition has held she was a prostitute, thanks to a speech made by Pope Gregory the Great in 591.  The Vatican issued a retraction in 1969.

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