8 September 2018

Human being

Through a quirk of social media, my eight year-old has become a pen friend with Susannah Bryan. 'So what?' you might say. So a lot! Susannah has opened the door for us into the world of her remarkable brother. Jonathan Bryan shot to fame this year with the publication of his book 'EYE CAN WRITE' (with rave reviews from the likes of Michael Morpurgo and Bear Grylls).

Locked in?
Jonathan suffers from such extreme cerebral palsy that he is incapable of any voluntary movement or speech. Until he was 7 years old, he was unable to communicate, experiencing the lonely silence of locked-in syndrome. But his mother was sure Jonathan was trying to communicate. And she eventually found a way for him to express his thoughts, using his eyes to choose letters on a word board. What came out showed that far from being the 'vegetable' people had assumed him to be, because of his physical disabilities, Jonathan was truly a human being, as Michael Morpurgo says 'a writer of great emotional and intellectual depth...'.

Love for Jesus
What is all the more remarkable is Jonathan's love for Jesus. By any normal standard, Jonathan's quality of life is rock bottom, and his life expectancy extremely low. He is totally dependent on others for everything, constantly in pain, regularly suffering from life-threatening illnesses, unable to enjoy what most young boys take for granted. You'd expect him to hate God or say there cannot be a God to allow such suffering. Yet Jonathan testifies: 'With Jesus as my Saviour, companion and friend, I have lived my hours here with happiness in my spirit and contented in my soul. Knowing Jesus is with me, cradling me in my pain, sheltering me from darkness and beckoning me forward, has given me strength and serenity to look life in the eye and smile... I look forward with excited anticipation to the day I will see Jesus and live together with him in paradise forever.'

What it means to be human
We live in an age where people are confused about what it to means to be human. I think Jonathan shows us two things.

First, there's so much more to us than our physical bodies. His outlook surely cannot simply be put down to random chemical reactions in his damaged brain. There is life and soul and unique personhood in him that transcends his physical condition.

Second, true humanity comes from knowing Jesus. Jonathan attributes his sense of well-being and hope deep in his soul to his personal experience of Jesus.

Fearfully and wonderfully made
In his situation, this cannot simply be explained away psychologically. Instead, it testifies to the Bible's account of what a human is - that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God (Psalm 139); and we find our true identity and purpose and well-being in our personal relationship with Him (Psalm 16, 34). God makes this relationship possible only through his Son Jesus Christ. As Jesus says, 'Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father' (John 14:9) and 'No one comes to the Father except through me' (John 14:6).

Genesis 1:27 tells us that 'God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.' To know who we are, why we exist, how we are to live our lives we must get to know God and find out from him. That's what we're seeking to do at St George's week by week. Why not join us on our voyage of discovery!

See you next Sunday at 10.30a.m. Come as you are.

Simon Smallwood
Pastor at St George's