Fear and Wonder

  March 2, 2014                               Psalm 139:13-18

There is an animated Disney movie called “The Incredibles”- has anyone seen it?-

We saw it a few years ago, and I really liked it.

Part of the plot of this movie, if I remember it right, was that a family of superheroes is forced to hide their super-powers, and live quiet, unassuming lives in the suburbs of whatever city they called home.

So, you can tell throughout the movie, that it’s going to be hard for them. They’re trying to lead somewhat ‘normal’ lives, but because these superpowers are such an integral part of who they are, they just can’t ‘fit in’ like ‘normal’ people.

Their powers bubble out in surprising and comical ways, because they just can’t help it.

Well, I’ll try not to give too much away, but eventually a plot unfolds, where a villain named “Syndrome” intends to sell a device he’s created that will give everyone who owns it ‘superpowers’. Needless to say, our hero family needs to come out from the shadows, dust off their superhero suits, and put their super-powers back into action.

There’s one scene in the movie that has stuck with me. Actually, it’s one line from one scene…I’ve pretty much forgotten the rest of the movie; I had to look it up on Wikipedia to remember the plot to tell you this morning! 🙂

The line is an exchange, I forget if it’s between the father and the son, or the father and the villain…but the statement is made to the effect of “Everyone is special” or “Everyone is Super”.

And the father gets this crestfallen look, since at that point he’s still being forced to try to cover up his superpowers and conform to suburbia.

“Everyone is Super”, either the villain or the child says to the father, and then the father gets this crestfallen look, and he says “which is another way of saying nobody is.”

I know it’s kind of geeky, or not real “cool” to admit this, but I think a lot of these kids movies can teach some simple truths on a level that even the most mature adults need to hear.

See, we’re entirely preoccupied with fitting in, aren’t we? I can still remember a science class in sixth grade where I happened to know the answer to a question my teacher asked…I didn’t know we hadn’t covered the material yet, I didn’t know that I was the only one who knew the answer…I just knew that the three parts of an atom were a proton, a neutron, and an electron.

That was the question, so I raised my hand and answered.

And you know what I learned?

I learned to hold back next time. I learned it wasn’t ‘cool’ to know things that nobody else knew.

I learned that in order to fit in, I should hang back and bite my tongue even if I knew the answer.

Everyone is special, which means nobody is.

I learned that lesson pretty well…

“Fitting In”; that’s what most of us spend our lives trying to do, right?

We want to fit in. It’s in our nature, to care about what other people think, how they act towards us.

Most of us want to be accepted. We need to know we’re ‘normal’.

So we learn pretty early on to cover up our differences, to hang back where we want to charge ahead.

Being part of the group is that important. We need acceptance from our peers almost like we need air.

But there are those who, for whatever reason, can’t fit into the mold our society has created.

They can’t be “normal”. They won’t be “normal”.

Maybe they have a disability, and they can’t physically or mentally or socially do some of the things that most of us take for granted.

It used to be, these people were treated very poorly…I shudder every time I walk past the building at the county home where certain individuals were once locked up, alone for disciplinary measures.

It’s interesting, we were just at a seminar last week where a presenter talked about our tendency, in groups of people, to heap up all our anxiety on one person. They become the one who carries all the anxiety so that the rest of the group can feel better.

He made the comment that, just like a lion hunting a herd of Zebra in the wild, we usually pick the weakest, most vulnerable person in the group and give them all the tension.

People with disabilities have historically made pretty easy targets, right?

So what’s it mean for the church to be the defender of the weak?

Psalm 139 paints the image of a loving God, tenderly knitting each of us together before we ever see the light of day. “It was you who formed my inward parts;” it says.

And the Hebrew word there, for “inward parts”, actually means kidney (at least that’s what one commentator told me).

It was you who formed my kidneys.

This is one place where a literal reading doesn’t help us much, for one it’s poetry, and for two, there’s a lot more inside each of us than just kidneys. 🙂

In ancient times, they talked about ‘kidneys’ kind of like we talk about our hearts today.

When I say I love you with all my heart, I’m not talking about the glob of muscle that’s pumping blood through my body. It’s a metaphor…what I mean is everything within me is committed to you…my heart is symbolic of who I am, or at least who I am trying to be…when all else fails.

That’s the same as the kidneys here in Psalm 139…the Psalmist is saying “God, you are the one who formed me”…not just physically, but all the stuff that’s going on that makes me “me”

…my truest self, the core of my being…that little piece of soul that’s as eternally burning as God Himself…that’s what God put there while I was still in the womb.

And that’s the piece in all of us that we need to pay attention to.

For we are reflections of God, no matter the state of our bodies, or our minds, or our emotions.

We are each of us, reflections of God, each of us uniquely, intimately woven together.

None of us perfect, for our world was broken and has not yet recovered…but when God sees us he sees through us into that spark of the divine spirit that dwells within us; Christ himself standing before the throne, interceding on our behalf.

I hesitate to say ‘everyone is special’, because the term loses meaning, as illustrated in the movie I talked about earlier.

What I’d rather say is “there is no normal”.

There are norms. There are expectations of all members of society. There are even laws, rules, and consequences for falling outside of the agreed-upon norms.

But there is no “normal”, unless you’re willing to say the spark of the divine image is somehow ‘normal’.

There is no ‘normal’, but we are fearfully, wonderfully made, and our creator’s Love is inescapable!

In fear and in wonder, walk in the knowledge that God is calling forth, fanning the flame of that divine spark, down in your kidneys, fanning the flame of your truest being.


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