Crossing the Boundary

“You’ll never go,” she declared within a spontaneous laugh. That laugh wasn’t because I had struck a chord of humor. Nor did it mean my mother would do all in her power to keep me from going to college. No, it reflected the absurdity of my dream. In my mother’s mind college was an absolute impossibility, for it cost every bit of money she could salvage amidst my father’s sea of alcoholism to keep the family afloat.

As her oldest child of six, my mother was counting on me for additional family income after I graduated from high school. She set the boundary when she fenced me into the commercial curriculum.

“Mama, I want to take the academic course.” I knew I needed the math, foreign language, and science classes if I had any hope of being admitted to a college. Without them how could I do well on the required ACT or SAT? My high school, allowing no overlapping, drew indelible lines for each curriculum (academic, commercial, general). I would be stuck for three years on the track I started in the tenth grade.

“Judy, you can’t get a job with that academic stuff. It’s foolishness. A waste of time. You’ve got to get a job, and you’re going to take the commercial course.”

When my hushed voice revealed I wanted to go to college, Mama’s laugh trashed my dream to the ridiculous and defined my boundary. Thus business arithmetic, typing, shorthand, and bookkeeping boxed my borders.

A few days short of my eighteenth birthday, I was assigned an office desk with a manual typewriter at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland. As I handed my mother money for room and board each payday, her burden was a little lighter.

Every day I worked the clerk-stenographer job I starved intellectually and emotionally, all the while building up my strength to cross my mother’s boundary. Fifteen months later I matriculated at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee.

While sitting in general psychology class that fall, I learned my professor had crossed an imposed boundary too. His feat, however, was one that I, having belonged to the National Honor Society, could not imagine.

“I was tested as borderline mental retardation,” Dr. Cook told the class. “But that did not keep me from getting a doctorate. And that is why I’m always advising this college not to require ACT or SAT scores for admission. A student’s potential should not be bound to those tests.”

If anyone could say since David of old “With You I can attack a barrier, and with my God I can leap over a wall” (Psalm 18:29 HCSB), it was Dr. Cook. Refusing to let a statistical standard hedge him in, he established his own boundary. Then, using his life experience, he fought for those who might be barricaded from achieving their potential. I was one of them, getting in just under the wire, though. The ACT was a freshman admission requirement when I received my B.A. four years later.

I also got into Carson-Newman because, adhering to my mother’s career confines, I saved enough to pay the first-year expenses and earned the credibility to be rehired during college summers. With God I moved a boundary.
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Left Without Limit

There was a time when they were thought of as distorted–if not cursed–because they were born into 10 percent of the world population. Forcing their dictated standard on the deviants, some teachers hit them with a yardstick, ruler, or on the head with a dictionary if they didn’t comply with the norm. At times the abnormal hand was tied behind the student’s back. Conformity to the mold of the 90 percent was the objective. Left-handers must be taught normality. Even if perchance they didn’t actually hear the words voiced, this minority was left feeling weak, backward, weird, “less than.”

Quite the opposite attitude toward lefties in thirteenth century BC! The Bible mentions an elite corps of warriors: “There were 700 choice men who were left-handed among all these people; all could sling a stone at a hair and not miss” (Judges 20:16 HCSB). A slingstone weighing a pound could be propelled up to a hundred miles an hour and hit the target a quarter of a mile or more away. sling_stones_lachish_british_museum-195x175x72

Do you think anyone gave a moment’s thought to changing their left-handed defenders? The ancient sharpshooters were accepted (and useful) just as they were.

There is a birthed minority that is so rare it can’t even claim 1 percent of the world population. In fact, you could count them on both hands and feet with some toes left over. Does that make this minuscule segment of society inconsequential? Three-foot-three Nick Vujicic proves not.

One of the few persons living with tetra-amelia syndrome, Mr. Vujicic’s ongoing spiritual growth has him touting: “No arms, no legs, no worries.” What makes him stand tall?Nick Vujicic“I found happiness when I realized that as imperfect as I may be, I am the perfect Nick Vujicic. I am God’s creation, designed according to His plan for me” (Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life, p. 1). Vibrant Vujicic stuffed in a nutshell what, more than three thousand years before, King David had spread into a song:

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;
    you formed me in my mother’s womb.
I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking!
    Body and soul, I am marvelously made!
    I worship in adoration—what a creation!
You know me inside and out,
    you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
    how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
    all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
    before I’d even lived one day.
(Psalm 139:13-16 MSG)

In the following ten-minute video clip, you can catch a glimpse of how Vujicic does not sell himself short:

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Attitude

Both had wronged their boss. Separately and apart. Both were sorry for what they had done, but their anguish led them down divergent paths. One went on to lead a full life; the other chose suicide. What made the difference? Attitude.

Faced with the stark reality that what he held in his hand was blood money, a distraught Judas Iscariot wanted none of it. This was more than he had bargained for. Maybe he was a conniving thief or worse, but his sense of honor drew the line at a trumped-up death sentence.

“Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself'” (Matthew 27:3-4 ESV).

Regretting his betrayal and helpless to undo it, Judas’ dark cloud of sorrow blackened into hopeless despair. “And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5 ESV).

That life-changing night Peter, too, felt sorry for what he had done to Jesus. “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62 ESV).

Both Peter and Judas messed up. However, drenched in shame, the two disciples reacted differently to their devastating situation.

  • Judas changed his mind; Peter changed his focus.
  • Judas was remorseful; Peter was repentant.
  • Judas ran from God; Peter ran to God.

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV). We live and die with attitude.

(For more on Judas refer to my post of May 19, 2014, “The Mole.” For more on Peter refer to my post of May 26, 2014, “Three Strikes.”)

NOTE:  If you are wondering about last week’s giveaway, the results are on my Comings and Goings page. Scroll down to June 5.

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