By Susan K. Smith,
Sometimes, we struggle with believing in the capacity of humans to transcend obstacles which pop up in the journey of life.
People born without arms and hands learn to eat and drive with their feet. I recently watched a video of a teen born without hands or legs dance.
Beethoven was reportedly deaf; Handel went blind as he was writing The Messiah and had to stop writing his final oratorio, Jephtha, (sic) in 1753. Stevie Wonder’s blindness did not stop him from writing music and traveling the world; Bessie Coleman became the first African American woman to earn a pilot’s license in a world which made and makes being black “a problem,” as W.E.B. DuBois wrote. How the pyramids were built – most notably Menkaure, Khafre and Khufu, all located in Giza, is still a fascinating story, as well as the great cathedrals in Europe, magnificent structures built long before the modern technology we have today
It was the belief that they could do what they set out to do which set them free to do it.
Inside of us lies a space which, if inhabited by a spirit greater than our own human spirit, gives us an uncanny belief that we can do anything. Unfortunately, too few of us access it or even look for it, but it is there.
I recently heard the story of how the North Vietnamese people lived in tunnels in complete darkness for 4-5 years during the Vietnam War to escape the consistently dropped bombs in their country. These tunnels were begun in the 1940s by anti-colonial rebels (they were fighting against the French) and were enlarged during the 60s to help them survive American attacks. Built by hand, with small tools, the Vietnamese built a city under their cities, complete with kitchens, a stove system which allowed smoke to be vented out of their living spaces without being detected by their enemies, sleeping quarters and a hospital, meeting room and even a room in which to see movies. . In the story I heard, a young woman who was 13 at the time, recalled spending five days in a hot tunnel during heavy bombing. They could feel the earth swaying, but no bomb penetrated their underground city. About 600 people lived in the Cu Chi Tunnels for a period of four years. They lived much of their lives during that time in total darkness; babies were born in spite of the situation and they figured out a way to bury their dead. The tunnels were deep enough to withstand the weight of a 50-ton tank.
I was stunned as I heard the story. How do you live in complete darkness underground for four years and come out alive?
It’s because of the spirit-force called faith which is the feeder for self-confidence. The divine exists in and shapes our faith; that is nothing that a human being can do – but when we allow our faith to feed our spirits, the result is a confidence that “the world didn’t give and which the world cannot take away.” With that kind of an operating system within us, we find that we are capable of doing anything we put our minds to. We can survive what we need to survive; we can endure what is seemingly unbearable; we can see what others cannot see; we can elevate ourselves over the mountains put in our way.
We can do all things through Christ …
But the feeding of faith is not reserved for those who call themselves Christian. This feeding is non-denominational; it is an important component of how we were created at birth. Our experiences in life challenge this natural feeding of our spirits, causing way too many of us to doubt the power that we innately have. No one is exempt; God did not give some the capacity to overcome and to rise and ignore others. The capacity to be more than we believe we are has been seeded in us all. We just have to find a way to nourish that seed and to pull from our seedbeds the weeds and vines which desire to kill us.
I have always believed in the power of faith but must confess that in recent difficult times I have backed away, frightened by forces around me which seemed greater than me. But there is something about that seed having been planted at birth and nurtured by the Divine throughout our lives. Once that relationship is established, once we open ourselves up to the message that the Divine gives us – that we can, in fact, get over, get up, get out and get beyond where we are, the memory of that lesson kicks in. What God has planted and nurtured cannot be destroyed. It can bend during the storms in our lives, but it cannot be destroyed.
As I think about the Vietnamese people living in total darkness for four years, having built those tunnels by hand, with small tools, I am reminded of how we have been gifted. Sometimes we have to be shaken into remembering who we are and what God has given us because the trials of life desire to see us defeated.
We are stronger than the situations that befall us, and we are capable of getting through anything.
Amen and amen.
Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith –Writer, author, musician, pastor, preacher and social justice advocate. She is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and author of “Crazy Faith: Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives,” which won the 2009 National Best Books Award. Follow Rev. Dr. Susan K. Smith on Twitter:www.twitter.com/cassad