I am currently spending the week at a retreat center in Northern Minnesota, privileged to be the evening speaker for the Minnesota Special Touch Getaway. Let me offer you a window into my week... and a powerful observation available if you you are willing to take the time for a deeper look.
Even the most casual glance at the group assembled at Lake Geneva Christian Center this week would reveal that it is anything but typical. If one is not careful all that will be seen is the disproportionately large number of wheelchairs and walkers. A little closer observation reveals that in addition to the physical difficulties, a significant number of participants at this getaway face the daily challenge of a wide variety of special needs. It would be easy to stop there, and in so doing come to an incomplete conclusion. Echoing the words of the Apostle Paul, "I pray that the eyes of your heart may be opened..." Come with me, let's take a closer look:
Jason and David are engaged in deep conversation, sharing with one another the wonders of God. The conversation is slow, due in large part to Jason's unstable hand as he points to letters on a board to spell each word of his thought. Yet, David is patient, focused on hearing what his friend has to say. He has positioned his wheelchair close to Jason, assuring that he clearly sees each word Jason painstakingly spells out. Sara is having a particularly difficult day. She is quickly offered a hug from Tammy, which leads to a large group hug and a wealth of smiles. A food tray is dropped in the dining hall, and amazingly there is no laughter which is typical of most mishaps at a camp cafeteria, instead individuals quickly rush to give aid.
Friends make their way from one activity to the next hand in hand, each one choosing not to focus on their own life challenges, encouraged by the common bond they share. Instead they find mutual acceptance, mutual support, and mutual strength from one another.
What we discover is a very real picture of God's intent when He declared, "bear one anothers burdens." We witness the power of "encourage one another and build each other up." We realize the impact of "accept one another." A true understanding of true friendship is revealed.
We live in our culture where it is generally unacceptable to reveal our weaknesses. We go to extraordinary lengths to masks our flaws and in so doing create a handicap in one of the key areas of life - relationships.
This amazing group gathered in northern Minnesota this week offers a great lesson to us in overcoming our friendship handicap, in conquering our relationship disabilities. The example they provide in unconditional acceptance and mutual support provides a clear picture of how life should be, could be, if we simply push past our struggles to true friendship.
The picture provided by this amazing group offers a compelling question: what would life be like if we all chose to follow their example and embrace the biblical directives regarding friendship. I think we should give it a try, don't you? :)