The phone call came, as they usually do, at an inconvenient time. It was my mom, calling from Mississippi, telling me in Baton Rouge that my dad was in the hospital in California and had cancer. This was definitely not convenient. I called my dad and told him I was flying out in a couple of days to see him. He said he was looking forward to my visit.
My relationship with my dad had been rocky at best for the last twenty-five years, and I was not really looking forward to the trip. It was the right thing to do, but not necessarily the first thing I wanted to do. I was angry and hurt by what took place during and after my parent’s divorce, and though I wanted answers, I didn’t really want to go through him to get them.
The next day I told my boss about my departure. He asked me how things were, and I gave him a quick version of our relationship. He said, “Sit down. I want to talk to you about my dad, who has bi-polar disease.” We talked for a few minutes and I said, “Your dad is just like all of us. Not one of us is really in our right minds, are we? For if we were, we wouldn’t live a life that needed a Savior.”
The idea that none of us are in our right minds bothered me, so I began to explore Scripture to support my idea. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (italics mine). If our mind was right, then it would not need to be “renewed.” I only renew my driver’s license when it has is no longer valid. I do not have to renew something that is proper, valid, and sufficient for the task it was created for.
Now if my mind is still in the process of being transformed and renewed (and I think I have a fairly adequate mind), what about the minds of those we call “disabled”—those who are autistic or have Down’s syndrome? We all understand that their minds are not “right,” and we don’t condemn them because of the things they do with the minds they were born with. Instead, we grant them a great deal of latitude because of their disability.
Perhaps this is why Paul told us to “carry each other’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2). All of us are a burden, in some form or manner, to those around us. If I want you to bear my shortcomings, I need to put forth the effort to put up with some of yours. In this way we do for others what we want them to do for us.
So where am I headed with all of this? One day we will all stand face to face with God (1 Cor. 3:10-15), and only then will we be in our right mind. 1 Cor. 13:12 says, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” All those people we love—those with Down’s syndrome and bi-polar disease, those we’ve never had a decent, intelligent conversation with, whom we’ve never really known because of their infirmity—one day we will stand next to them before the throne of God. On that day God will open their minds as He will open our own, and for the first time we will “know fully” and be in our RIGHT MINDS!
With that picture in my mind, I flew to California to see my dad. I found I no longer needed answers as I sat in a chair beside his bed for ten days and listened. I saw a man who did the best he could with the mind and abilities he had, and I chose to love him as he was. At first, I didn’t want to go and see him, but in the end I didn’t want to leave, and I cried for hours after I left him. He died about two weeks later.
But this I know and in this I hope: One day my dad and I will stand together at God’s throne, and I will finally see my dad as he truly is, and he will see me. And with the approval of God, my dad and I will walk hand in hand into an eternity of knowing as we are fully known, and loving as we are fully loved. Isn’t that what it means to be in our right minds?