Verbal communication is not one of my core strengths. I physically need time to think, analyze and process my feelings or thoughts. As it happens I am very often at a loss for words when trying to verbalize or convey my thoughts around a certain subject.
Occasionally someone will explain something in a way I couldn’t and suddenly I have the words I’ve needed. This happened when my husband and I watched Gleason over the weekend. This is a film about former NFL player Steve Gleason’s journey from a diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gherig’s Disease) to a life totally altered because of its debilitating affects. It is a tough watch. Very gritty and raw. It is also very poignant and reflective.
Throughout the film, Gleason makes video journals for his son, who is born just months after his ALS diagnosis. Gleason routinely shares his heart often talking about the dynamics of a Father and Son relationship. In one of those videos, Gleason discusses his relationship with his dad and the difficult subject of Faith because the two do not see eye to eye.
In one particular scene, Gleason pleads with his Dad through impeded speech as a result of the advancing ALS and says these words “Stop trying to understand with your mind, the relationship with my heart and God.” Watch this:
It is a heart wrenching scene. And yet it so adequately explains something I’ve grappled with for some time now. I have always felt my relationship with God is almost an oddity. I happen to see connections to God in subtlest of circumstances. But anytime I’ve tried to explain those experiences with others, my words fall flat. This happened most recently when I endeavored to share a story about a hummingbird that floated right beside my head for a few seconds before landing on a tree branch directly in front me. I had intentionally walked outside, taking a break from my workday, just to spend a few moments being still before God. Then this hummingbird showed up and sat still with me - for the longest time. I marveled at this sight because I’ve only ever seen hummingbirds in flight. I began to think of all the times Jesus used birds in his stories to teach people. It was a profound moment but trying to explain that in person was like watching a fish out of water gasping on its side.
Whenever I fall short in this same situation over again, I am left feeling like an odd man out. I chalk it up to my lackluster lingual skills. I will re-read “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” and in that same chapter of Romans a verse below “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” I'll ponder that maybe God has rewired my mind in such a way that he has just given me a different measure of faith. It’s not more or less, right or wrong, it’s just different.
When Steve Gleason said “Stop trying to understand with YOUR mind, the relationship with MY heart and GOD.” That explained it. How could I expect someone with their mind, slanted towards their own heart, thoughts and experiences possibly understand the relationship between my heart and God. How could I ever adequately describe with finite words a relationship between MY HEART and GOD? Impossible. It’s to great a task, to monumental. I should expect that no one could fully understand and that words would fall short time and time again. This totally makes sense.
I have often thought that Truth can be found anywhere, anytime, from any person because all Truth belongs to God especially because Jesus said "I AM the Truth". Added to that, I’ve seen God dispense Truth through the most unlikely faces and places. This time through a film about Steve Gleason. Though Gleason’s disease has robbed him of the physical life he once knew, his heart and mind are still, without question, very relevant. I have a deep gratitude to Steve Gleason for those simple words that cost him such an effort to utter. Thank you Steve, I’ll be thinking about and praying for you and your family in the days to come.
For more information about Gleason or ALS: