The 2012 campaign for the Mississippi State University football program began with much promise. The team started the season with a record of 7-0, and dreams of a Southeastern Conference championship began to dance in the heads of those whose hearts hold a special place for the goings on Starkvegas. The experts, the pundits, and the prognosticators, however, were underwhelmed. MSU had a "soft schedule", beating four non-confence opponents and three conference foes that were below average at best. The great challenge loomed on the horizon, however, as the Bulldogs had a date in Tuscaloosa versus the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide.
As the week of the big game drew near, Mississippi State alumni from all over the world began to post pictures on social media in front of famous landmarks holding signs that read, "We Believe". It was, after all, a David against Goliath type match-up, and a positive mental attitude was in order. ESPN even did a story on the "We Belieive" campaign during the beginning stages of the contest. The night of Saturday, October 27th, 2012 came, and those of us unable to attend sat in our living rooms with baited breath and nervous anticipation on the edge of our seats. And in our hearts we chanted with the conviction of junior high cheerleaders something like, "You can do it. You can do it! If you put your mind to it. If you put your mind to it, you can do it, do it, DO IT!"
...The only problem was, they COULDN'T! MSU was soundly defeated 38-7 in that game, and subsequently went on to lose four of their next five, including the Gator Bowl on New Year's Day when the whole world watches college football. I tell that story by way of analogy. You see, I have had the opportunity to travel some and speak to different groups. And I think oftentimes when I'm invited to speak to a civic club or service organization, they expect a very different "message" than what I deliver. In other words, they've heard of my origins in Dirty Skunk, Mississippi, and my disability known as cerebral palsy. And they believe what I've accomplished in life (almost twenty years of teaching in higher education, wife, children, writing two books, etc.) in comparison to those obstacles is somewhat remarkable. And I think what they want me to tell their group, or at least what they think in thier minds I will tell them, is something like, "If I can do it, you can do it! If you can believe it, you can acheive it. If you can proclaim it, you can possess it! If you can dream about it, you can bring about it! ... You can do it. You can do it. If you put your mind to it!"
The problem, dear friends, is that this is not a Biblical approach to life. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating that God would have us go around with a negative attitude and a sour countenance all the time. But the Apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 6:3, "For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself." He also writes in 2 Corinthians 3:5, "Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God." And he admonishes us in 1 Corinthians 10:12, "Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall."
When I reflect on these verses I am left with a few inescapable conclusions. We all are nothing! None of us are sufficient in and of ourelves. And anyone who thinks that they can obtain good standing before an infinitely holy and righteous God on their own merit, are indeed headed for a great fall. Part of our intial knee-jerk rejection of these thoughts comes from the modern American self-help movement. And one of the great accomplishments of this movement has been to remove a proper sense of inadequacy that is essential for spiritual health. We have developed a culture in which we are all "winners", and have the soccer trophies to prove it! We grew up being chauffered around in mini-vans that had bumper stickers that bore testimony to our genius, while we picked our proverbial noses!
To contextualize, I believe that often when I'm invited to speak, it is because I'm perceived to have succeeded in overcoming my disability, which is simply an abnormality in an otherwise normal world. When, in fact, the exact opposite is true. Disability is not an abnormal occurance in a normal world. It's a normal occurence in an abnormal world! With the one fruit fiasco in the Garden of Eden came the fall of man, and indeed the whole world. It is, by definition, abnormal in its fallen state. And disability is simply a more pronounced visible indication of our brokeness. We are, all of us, warped, marred, inept, and completely incapable of finding our way back to God on our own. Just like Mississippi State's football team on that Saturday night in late October...we CAN'T!