Henry is a tough lawyer and a high achiever, that is, until the day the day he is seriously injured in a hold up in a store. Henry winds up in hospital, having to learn to walk and talk all over again. His nurse Bradley, finds some unexpected ways to nurture him back to health at times…
Little by little, as he recovers, it becomes apparent that Henry is no longer the tough lawyer he once was; as a result he gets depressed and doesn’t want to get out of the bed in the morning. His wife decides to invite Bradley over so Henry can offload. As they talk Bradley tells him he has bad knees due to playing football. He used to love playing football, it was his life, yet now he says he doesn’t mind about his knees. ‘If it wasn’t for my bad knees I’d never have met you,’ Bradley says to Henry. Bradley had loved football, and now can’t play; and yet, seeing how he is now able to help others because of his weakness, he is able to say he doesn’t mind. He was so inspired by the nurse who helped him walk again he decided he wanted to do the same for others.
Our world is full of aspiration. We want to be strong, to be famous, to smell and look good, to be funny, to be rich, to be powerful. And yet Jesus turned all that on its head. At one point he made a joke about King Herod and the powerful Romans. ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.’ Jesus said this in Matthew 8 v 20, and people would have laughed. ‘The Fox’ was the people’s nickname for Herod who was despised as he was in league with the oppressive Romans, and ‘birds of the air’ was a cheeky name for the Romans (a.k.a. eagles or vultures). Jesus is saying, Herod has his pomp and palace, the Romans their ferocity and fortresses, but the son of man, he’s not like that. He’s not about wealth or power or spin or celebrity. His way flips all that on its head, spins it round, turns it upside-down and inside-out.
Paul (the Saint) wrote about the way God often works best through our weaknesses, (thanks Paul!!) Bradley certainly embodies that. As a top college footballer he would not have been able to help Henry, as a weak-kneed nurse he was able to change his life for the better. Jean Vanier, who founded the L’arche community where folks with and without learning disabilities share their lives together, says that the powerful live in their heads, while the weak live in the dust. He says that the powerful lead us to ideology, whilst the weak and foolish lead us to reality. No one want to be weak or foolish, its embarrassing, yet we all of us experience weakness, in ourselves or those we love, it’s a shared language. When Jesus was at his most powerful, e.g. feeding thousands of people (in John 6) with a few crusts and a fistful of fish, it resulted in most folks giving up on him. When he was at his weakest, looking a complete failure in dirt and death, he was changing the world forever. God chose the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, the weak things to upend the strong. So wrote Paul in 1 Corinthians 1 vv 25-28.