In the final chapter of the book, Swinton says, "Perhaps the strangest thing about this process of liberation is its ordinariness" (p. 207). The process of liberation is the change that needs to come over the church such that it will embrace persons with mental illness (in this case) but also persons with various differences in general. The ordinariness is in no way ordinary largely because it is not typically present. However, when you come to understand what the basic changes need to be, you find that they are quite ordinary.
When distilled down, the change that needs to occur is that we need to love our neighbor. It occurred to me that when we have "difficult" people in our midst, like those with severe mental illness, our lack of love is highlighted, it is felt like putting your finger in a wound. However, I wonder if the fact that we are missing love for the difficult group is evidence only that we lack love for those people, or is it an indication of a greater lack of love for all people, unless they are easy. Easy to love people are those who cross my path, tell me everything is fine, make no demands on me, ask me how I am doing, shake my hand or pat me on the back and then leave me alone. Those are the kinds of people I like to populate my world with. They are the easy to love. The other end of the spectrum are those who have poor social skills, or want my money, or want my time, or cause me to have to do things like help them in the bathroom, or wipe their snotty nose, or call me all the time, or disrupt my meetings and so on and so on. They are hard to love. I don't like to populate my life with those kinds of people because they don't leave me alone. Too often, I think, the church is populated with the former and not the latter.
But it is pretty obvious who of the two above will grow me as a person, will grow me as a Christian. I am not called as a Christian to social niceties, independence and being left alone. I am called to messy relationships with difficult people who are unsatisfied with my helping, no matter what I do. I do not learn love through unfettered independence. I learn love through messy relationships, and difficult people, and those who do not praise me for my minimalist love efforts.
However, as I look at the church, it appears to be designed around and largely populated by people who want to be independent, and grow in their independence. I don't want to be a part of the vine, in a relying on others sense, I want to be a branch alone. I don't want to be a part of the body, in a dependency sense, I want to be a foot alone. As I am successful in my independence, I will move further and further away from love. The ideal of love is replaced by the ideal of independence. Those who are dependent are also disdained because of the the demands they make.
However, what might 1 Corinthians 12:9 mean? Paul asks God to remove his thorn, his disability.
And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power isHow is this premise acted out in churches? The power of Christ dwells in Paul through his weakness. This is something to try flesh out in another blog entry, however, could the reverse be true? If I boast about my strength, could it be that the power of Christ does not dwell in me? If I am independent, if I am unconnected with others through my own and their need, does the power of Christ not dwell in me? Our independence, our disconnectedness from those who would potentially sap our strength for love and service is a symptom of a disease that has permeated the church. "But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13). Are we missing the greatest thing? Are we missing love?
perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my
weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.