Spiritual Alzheimer’s Disease and the Bethany ChallengeBy ERNIE HEAVIN
A day or so after President Reagan died, his son, Michael, was being interviewed on a radio program and they were discussing the President’s ongoing struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. In the early stages, the former President would go out for a walk with the secret service and return, asking his wife, Nancy, “Why do so many people want to shake my hand and ask for my autograph?”
The former President was presented with a large model of the White House and he looked at it and said, “I know this place had great significance in my life but I just can’t place it.” He was once the most powerful man in the world, and it had been totally erased from his memory. I believe this happens to Christians, too. They suffer from Spiritual Alzheimer’s Disease. They are in a religion immersed in love and forgiveness, and yet when trouble or persecution comes along, they can be the most unloving and unforgiving. And it’s like having Jesus publicly exhibited on the cross before them and they look at it, examine it and think to themselves, “This Jesus, this cross. I know it has some significance in my life, but I just can’t place it.”
Every morning either before I leave for work or soon after I get settled in my desk, I pray two Scriptures. The first is to pray that the words I speak and the condition of my heart that day is pleasing to God: But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
The second Scripture is actually just one sentence and yet it is so powerful that it sums up all of the law and the prophets. And to be honest, it was a twelve year-old girl with leukemia named Bethany that taught me what Jesus is saying to us (to me). At Bethany’s funeral, her Sunday school teacher, Lesa, was able to speak a few minutes about her. Here is what we learned about a conversation between teacher and student, and I think after hearing this story you will see who the real teacher and student are in this case.
Bethany had lost all of her long beautiful hair due to her treatments to combat the cancer. Being an elementary student with no hair was not to be overlooked by some of the boys in her school who would make fun of her. Lesa was sharing how Bethany endured the embarrassing ridicule. “Miss Lesa,” she said, “Do you know what I do when those mean boys make fun of me because of my bald head? I decide to treat them nice on purpose!” From the mouth of babes came one of the most profound theological truths that Jesus taught: “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”
I call Matthew 7:12 Bethany’s Challenge. This is why I read and pray Matthew 7:12 every day along with Psalm 19. I have to learn and practice to love and forgive. And who among us could dare face God one day, with Bethany sitting by His side or most likely in His lap and make any excuse for not being willing to learn and practice the Bethany Challenge?
Ernie Heavin is a bi-vocational minister who works in the Anna Ashcraft Ensor Learning Resource Center and pastors a congregration. He also serves as a volunteer Staff Chaplain for GC. Visit Heavin’s website, library.georgetowncollege.edu/Staff/heavin/about.html.
Thanksgiving Coloring Contest
We at The Georgetonian know all about your favorite Thanksgiving traditions—watching football, eating ‘til you have to loosen your belt, and drawing those hand-turkeys that date back to kindergarten. Not much has changed since then—you still can’t draw a real turkey. That’s where we come in! Whip out your crayons, colored pencils, markers and other assorted writing implements and decorate this coloring page. Tape or paste a groovy hat onto the turkey’s head. Then slide your holiday creation into campus mail (Box 280) by the morning of Nov. 17. The Georgetonian staff will judge the turkeys, and the winning turkey will be printed in the Nov. 19 issue. The winner will also receieve extra credit in the class of their choice (as approved by the professor).