In the scriptures, we are told that the Christian life is a mystery.  In fact, Proverbs teaches that it is God’s glory to hid many things but it is man’s glory to uncover these secrets of nature and eternal life.  In Paul’s letters he often talks about the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.  We are told that we won’t understand everything.  However, we are reminded that many things are clear enough. 

These uncovered mysteries are the simple principles of life and I’ve found in my 21 years of working with people who are mentally challenged that simple principles are often best learned from simple lives. 

In the past months, I’ve been watching Toni learn, and I’m  learning from her.  Toni is short of statue with mousy brown hair.  Because of the adverse circumstances of her life, Toni is an extreme extrovert.  Everything about her countenance and her fashion shouts, “Don’t look at me!”  She is pretty certain that no one is concerned about her or her situation. 

However, when Toni faced a serious operation for cancer, she became a forceful advocate for herself.  Each time we met, she requested prayer.  It wasn’t out of fear.  I had seen fear on her face.  No.  These prayer requests were from a sincere belief that God cared for her and wanted to heal her.  She would quietly make her way into the prayer line that is an intricate part of our Special Gathering chapel services and say, “I need prayer.”  Once she told me, “God wants to heal me.”

The operation was intricate, rare and delicate.   The outcome is still uncertain.  But Toni is secure in one thing.  In the end, it is the most important thing she will ever learn. God loves her.  Toni and I became a close friends after she joined the choir.  Because of her health, she has not been able to attend.   One day after I had inquired about her health, she whispered to me .  “God wants to heal me but I need to do my part.  The doctor says for me to be careful.  And that is what I’m doing.”

Teresa is another person who is learning these simple principles of life.  Teresa was a young woman when I met her 15 years ago.  It’s been a adventure to observe how she has matured over the years.  Her mind is simpler than many of our members.  However, raised by her father, he playfully pushed her beyond her abilities.  Because of his joy-filled,  playful, positive manipulation, she is able to do far more than the prognosis of any medical professional. 

But verbal prayer remained a mystery to her.  I’m sure that she prays; yet she never wanted to attempt to pray out loud.  Because her speech patterns are confused, she is careful who she talks in front of and she is leery of  her conduct in regard to talking.  Nevertheless, a few weeks ago when I asked the choir who would like to lead us in prayer, she raised her hand. 

Trying to keep my extreme joy from being exposed in my voice, I attempted to calmly say, “Teresa, you need to say, ‘Thank you, Lord for our choir practice.’  Keep your prayer simple.”

Teresa prayed and I rejoiced.  She is learning and she is growing.  Of course, the Christian life is a mystery.  Like you and me, Toni and Teresa won’t learn everything.  But many things are clear enough and as we grow we are able to go beyond our abilities–beyond the expectations of others–discovering the mysteries of our faith.