Aunt Shirley


And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”
(John 9:2 NASB)
Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
(John 9:3 NASB)
Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them.
(John 9:16 NASB)
And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.
(John 9:38 NASB)



Jesus confronted a man who had been born blind. The people of his day were certain that the blindness was a form of punishment from God. Surely the man himself, or his parents had done something deserving of this man's blindness. Jesus came to bring good news to those who had been born with afflictions. The afflictions were not a result of their sin, or anyone else's sin -- they were not a punishment. Instead they were opportunities in which God could be glorified. Sadly, the religious leaders of the day could not see it that way. They continued to see the man born blind as a sinner and they saw his healing as a sin as well, for he was healed on the Sabbath. In their anger they could not see that the Messiah was standing before them and they sent him away. While the religious men could not believe, this man went away with sight, and a transformed life. He believed -- and he worshiped the Messiah.



My dad had a sister by the name of Shirley. She was born in a parsonage on the prairies of Nebraska during the great depression. From the time she was born the family knew there was something different about Shirley. Shirley had Down's Syndrome and apparently, as is not uncommon, this was accompanied by a heart defect. There was no health care available when Shirley was born and it was simply remembered that she was a "blue baby" -- not breathing for an extensive period of time at her birth, but she survived! The result was that not only did Shirley have Down's, but she had extensive additional brain damage from the extended period of time without oxygen. Shirley would never be able to speak, feed or clothe herself. She was in constant need of care 24/7, and the doctors said she would not live very long.

My grandparents loved all of their children and cared for them each, giving them all the attention that they could. For all of their lives they served in the ministry in Nebraska, building one church after another across the State. Grandma was a very talented and attractive woman actively involved in all she could do in the ministry and community, but when Shirley came into her life many things changed. Well-meaning family members accused her of some kind of hidden sin or else should would not have had this child. She and her husband's days became consumed with caring for this "broken" baby.

Eventually life took on a rhythm which included caring for Shirley. The religious relatives never did understand what my Grandparents had done to deserve the punishment of Shirley and Grandma always felt a bit ostracized. But they did not allow the opinions of others to affect the way they saw Shirley. Shirley was a child of God. Shirley was a gift from God. Shirley was theirs to love and to care for as long as she was with them. Shirley had not sinned and nor had her parents sinned -- she was simply a girl with Down's Syndrome, born into a home that would show her love and affection.
Against all odds Shirley remained physically healthy and outlived her parents, living well into her 50's. Why? Because her parents didn't give up on her and God didn't give up on her. My dad was there at her bedside when she went home to be with Jesus. He said that a glow came over her body that night and all of a sudden she looked "normal" -- as if she had been completely healed in that moment of death. He knew that she was now set free from the pains of this life and was whole and complete in heaven, and enjoying fellowship with a father and mother who did all that they could to love and care for her.

Life was made difficult for my grandparents, not because they had Aunt Shirley, but because of the reaction of those around them. Instead of coming in and helping them out with Shirley, the relatives stayed away. Instead of being a support -- people found a way to be critical. Often we look at the religious leaders of Jesus' time and we are critical of them, wondering how they could have behaved the way they did. Did they not see what was before them? But maybe we're not seeing what's before us. Maybe we are reacting in ways that we shouldn't to situations which surround us. Maybe some of us have a Shirley in our families -- someone who is broken by no fault of their own -- and we react -- and we punish by our actions. The one who was broken was the one who said, "I believe." At the end of the day he is the one who is saved, not the religious leaders. May God have mercy on us! I know he did on Aunt Shirley.



Lord, thank you for your love and patience with us. Please, help me to love the world around me the way that you love. Amen.


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