The film-star Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1991, at the height of his international fame, though his condition was only fully disclosed to the public in 1999. For those eight years, he attempted to work through his disability, until that pressure became too much to bear. Subsequently, he continued in smaller roles, voice-overs, guest appearances, but of far greater significance was the work of the “Michael J. Fox Foundation”, funding and fundraising for research into Parkinson’s Disease, for which he has justifiably received world-wide acclaim, honorary doctorates and the grateful thanks of a multitude of sufferers. Characteristically, Fox’s autobiography is called “Lucky Man.” He sees himself as someone blessed by circumstance. He admits: “There’s always failure. And there’s always disappointment. And there’s always loss. But the secret is learning from the loss, and realizing that none of those holes are vacuums. “
Isn’t that a powerful insight? You can be sucked into your disappointment or built up from it. The hard times can make you strong.
Zechariah in Luke 1 is described as a “faithful” man. He was faithful in the service of his God despite the disappointment of his wife’s childlessness. The disappointment had not withered his determination to serve. Luke 1:18-25 is the famous encounter between Zechariah and the angel. The angel promises, despite every appearance to the contrary that, in their old age, Zechariah and Elizabeth will indeed have a son, and he will be a special grace-gift from God for a particular God-appointed task. Zechariah doesn’t come off too well: his distrust of the angel’s gracious words is all too believable. It’s like someone waggling a fifty-note over you and you say “Yeah, right. As if you’d give it me for nothing.”
The trouble is that Zechariah is completely stuck in one way of thinking. Perhaps his “faithfulness” has become a little grim-set and unaware. Maybe he has invented his own history (as many people do, all the time) that “Nothing will ever change”, that the important thing is to just stick at it, whether or not. And when he encounters the truly supernatural, he finds his thinking processes stuck in the natural. So while he is saying, “We’re having a baby? You can’t be serious,” the angel is reassuring him that he is quite serious. And while he is saying, “I know biology and we’re too old for this,” the angel is reassuring him otherwise. Well, I doubt if I would have said anything different! Being human, even if you’re trying to listen to God in your life, you often make mistakes, right?
The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.” Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.
Zechariah is given the gift of silence.
If God speaks, maybe it’s somewhat appropriate to shut up! Perhaps this was something of a mild rebuke, but it’s also a gift: it was exactly what Zechariah needed. He needed processing time, time to chew it over and think it through.
He eventually emerges from his encounter, and the people quickly get the message that something has happened. There’s a sparkle in his eye, but the man himself is as quiet as a mouse. Being with God gets you that way, doesn’t it?
And soon, the evidence is there for all to see. Elizabeth shows and swells, as does the noise of the small-town gossips as the chit-chat gathers apace. Maybe they chuckle at Zechariah’s expense, raising their eyes at his new-found virility. But he can offer no answers…just a smile. Humbly, silently, he is learning about the way God works, and his speech is no longer going to get in the way!
When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favour and taken away my disgrace among the people.”
What lies heavy on your heart -some sense of loss, or old wound that has never healed, deep inside? If God exists –and he does- then he is living and active. And if he lives –and he does – then he cares. And he desires an encounter with those he loves, with me and you. God longs to speak, and he waits –sometimes- for a simple readiness to listen.
And God can breathe hope into the stale air of an impossible situation.
There is hope for you and me today.
The hope lies in the encounter with God- an enncounter that He desires.
Today, if you hear his voice, don’t harden your heart.
Get ready to listen.
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.
- The Lottery of Life (tithebarn.wordpress.com)
- The Secret of Barrenness (secretsofthesecretplace.wordpress.com)
- An Appointment with Disappointment (tithebarn.wordpress.com)
- May 13 @ Luke 1-2 (phyllisbenigas.wordpress.com)
- Luke 1:1-25 (sisterspray4me.com)
- Michael J. Fox Debuts NBC Show Aided by Parkinson’s Drugs (bloomberg.com)