I’ve been thinking about Greta, the girl who gave, what I told my children may be the most important speech of our time to the UN on climate change this week. I don’t care if you believe in her cause or not, I want to look at her courage. She has Aspergers, or a form of autism which allowed her to do what most sixteen-year-olds cannot do. She cared more about her truth than what people thought of her. How many adults can say this?
Without her condition, she may have been at home, secretly worried about the future of her world, but more worried about her Instagram following. Our drive to belong, to obey, to blend in with the crowd is ancient. It is this young woman’s “disability” that allowed her the courage/indifference/uncensored passion to do what she believed was right, to ignore the insults, to follow her True North.
I’ve been thinking about that. How our “disabilities” can be our gifts. My own oppositional defiant brain made my teen years miserable - for myself and everyone around me. My high school political science teacher kept me after class once and said, “I’ve never met anyone like you. No matter what I say, you’re going to believe the opposite. I say the sky is blue, you’re going to ask me how I know.”
He died later of suicide. I suspect he recognized a bit of himself in me. My brain that questions the color of the sky is the same brain that allows me to be well. It’s the same brain that didn’t accept the “authority” of medicine who had no cures for my conditions. That brain drove me wildly into my own research where I found answers. The brain that almost killed me as a young person in self-destruction is the same one that saved me.
That brain is the one that refuses to let me live comfortably in my big house while I profess to believe in a loving God. Sister Joan Chittister in her book The Time is Now: A Call to Uncommon Courage says:
The temptation, of course, is to refuse the invitation to really “follow” Jesus—that is, to be in our time as he was in his, to really feed the hungry or contest with the practices of oppression or deny the piety of sexism, racism, and economic slavery. In fact, we often ignore, resist, reject the idea that, like Jesus, we have a role to play in righting a world whose axle is tilting in the wrong direction. We refuse to accept the notion that to turn the compass points of our worlds back to the True North of the soul is what it means to be truly spiritual. Our task is to be “obedient,” to keep the laws, the fasts, the dogmas, and the feast days, we argue. But the question we fail so often to ask is, Obedient to what and obedient to whom? Our task is to be obedient all our lives to the Will of God for the world. And therein lies the difference between being good for nothing and good for something. Between religion for show and religion for real. Between personal spirituality that dedicates itself to achieving private sanctification and prophetic spirituality, the other half of the Christian dispensation.
How is your “disability,” your weakness, your flaw a gift that could propel you toward your own True North?