Just a few weeks ago our Stephen Minister’s gathered for Continuing Education utilizing a little book by Rev. Richard Hinz called “My Odyssey with Parkinson’s Disease.” Parkinson’s Disease is a neurodegenerative disorder, that is it affects the nervous system—particularly those nerves related to movement. People with the disease gradually lose the ability to control their movement, even movements that have for all their life been automatic.
Take for example holding your drink in a cup. I’m guessing we all graduated from a tippy cup somewhere around the second year of life and aside from the occasional accidental spill in childhood, holding a cup of coffee or drinking a glass of water has become automatic for us. Richard Hinz was a Pastor and a district president in the LCMS when he began to be affected by the symptoms of Parkinson’s; it was a duty that required many public appearances. He wrote, “One of those public places is often a church potluck. Inevitably I end up holding a cup of coffee–crooked. And when my wife is not present to sound the alarm, often the awkward duty falls to the local pastor’s wife, who must say, ‘President Hinz I just thought I would let you know, you’re spilling your coffee.’ I respond, ‘Oh, ah, thank you!’ Internally, I simply cannot believe I am not doing what I used to do without thinking.” He goes on to encourage others who are dealing with Parkinson’s on how to handle such embarrassments, that he knows all to well.
We pray, if the Lord sees fit and grants the wisdom, medical technology will discover a way to stop the progress of Parkinson’s Disease. Currently all doctors can do is treat the symptoms and without medication life becomes increasingly frustrating and unbearable. In the mean time our Stephen Ministers are being equipped to understand and empathize with those dealing with this in their lives and in the lives of their loved ones. If you are interested too, the resource they used, My Odyssey with Parkinson’s Disease, can be found at www.wheatridge.com.
I’m struck by Jesus words in the gospel, where he said, “It’s not the healthy who need a physician but the sick” Matthew 9:12. Only when Jesus said that, he wasn’t talking about people with Parkinson’s Disease. He was talking about people with the disease called sin. It’s a spiritual degenerative disorder—that is it affects our spiritual system. Things that should be automatic for us are not. Take for example, this very basic automatic function of the Body of Christ called love. “The whole body, joined and heal together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:16
The dreaded reality of sin in our lives is that sometimes when we’re not paying attention anger causes things to spill from our mouths that are less than loving. Bitterness causes us to hold the truth crooked and not even realize it. Our perception of the situation or relationship often ends up distorted. Paul goes on to say in Ephesians, “Let each of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are all members of one another...let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up….be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:25, 29, 32
Medications for Parkinson’s and the right kind of therapy can allow sufferers to regain automation of some of those functions of which they have lost control. Jesus does the same and more for us, but only if we stay and maintain our relationship with him as our good physician. Away from him, we’ll slowly degenerate spiritually into the symptoms of sin. Only by regular doses of his word and daily visits with him can the kind of love described in Ephesians 4 become automatic for me and you again.
If a doctor found a cure for Parkinson’s, and you knew you had it, wouldn’t you be first in line to get an appointment with him? The Lord Jesus’ schedule always has time for you and me, and he holds the cure each one of us needs.