Under the Cross: What's Your Tic?
By Bethany Johnson
There isn't a single person in this world who has not experienced some degree of suffering that has hurt him or her emotionally and physically. There isn't a single person in this world who has not filed away in his past those things that he wishes had never happened--things that have changed his life, things that he has carried with him to the present. And there is not a single person in this world who lacks that certain "tic," the uncontrollable itch inside of her, a weakness attributed to her since birth. A weakness that is hidden within the skin of her flesh--your flesh and my flesh, too--a truth deep within our nature to which others cannot clearly see.
I once listened to a presentation by a man named Marc Elliot, who talked with us about this idea of suffering which he experienced in a certain way. He asked the question, "What’s your tic?" What is that little itch inside of you that causes you to act uncontrollably? What unique weakness do you have that you are self-conscious about every day you wake up in the morning? What sufferings do you encounter that not everyone around you fully understands?
For 20 years, Marc Elliot had a serious itch. This was no normal skin itch that we experience on a day-to-day basis. It was an itch of the mind that led him to speak and act in ways he could never control. In order to satisfy the desires of his itch, Marc would utter obscene and offensive words to others, chatter his teeth with small "barks," and make the riskiest moves possible, all the while apologizing to strangers for such rude behavior. He told them that he had Tourette syndrome and that yelling swear words to ease this itch was his body's way of coping with this disorder. However, Marc did not define himself as "one having Tourette syndrome." Rather, he acknowledged the fact that it was part of just who he is. He is Marc.
Marc continued to tell story after story about his various interactions with people who became uncomfortable being around him. In addition to having Tourette syndrome, Marc also had an intestinal disease that left him with only four feet of small intestine, numerous embarrassing trips to the restroom, and five to eight strong bowel movements per day. He was embarrassed by these two weaknesses while growing more aware of the intolerance not only from the people around him but from himself and how he thought of himself.
We know as much as everyone around us the sufferings we face, because we all share in this result of sin in many different ways. We try to put a box around the "tics" inside, yet they still push their way through. We also ignore those "tics" of other people, judging them for their weaknesses instead of showing human kindness that heals. Not only do we neglect to love others, but we also neglect to love our God who created and redeemed us and who shares in our suffering.
While thinking about this message of the inner struggles of our lives, I couldn't help but connect it to the idea of Law and Gospel. The Old Adam in us is bound by sin, stricken by the condemnation of eternal death, and beaten by the curse begun in the Garden of Eden. The original sin inherited by birth leads us into committing actions we can never dismiss. The Law is always broken. Sin is always present. It is a part of us; it is a weakness that we struggle with every single day.
Yet God in His love sent His Son to be our Savior, to take upon human flesh in order that this Law would be fulfilled in the person of Christ. His one and only Son died on the Cross and rose again for our justification. He made us His own by graciously receiving us into His kingdom, that we might live forever. This incarnate Lamb of God comes to us in His Word, proclaiming forgiveness for the sins we commit, for all those sins of neglect toward others in their sufferings and for all those times we neglect to realize who we are because of Christ.
We might not know everything about each other's lives, but we do know that we are sinners in need of Christ's forgiveness. The sin--those "tics" inside of us--can only be suppressed by the proclamation of justification by grace through faith in Christ alone. In Christ, we may stand out and look foolish to the world. With the Gospel we have the privilege to live as a beacon of light to that same world, a beacon that shines on others with the grace of God's love shown on the Cross by Christ's human suffering. This ultimate suffering saves us who are weak so that we may live eternally in heaven when all of our "tics" will be no more. What a joy for us Christians to possess now as we live in this promise of eternal life!
Bethany Johnson is the kantor at St. John's Ev. Lutheran Church in Topeka, Kansas. She is married to Kyle, and they have two sons.
This article was originally published on the Higher Things website on August 2015.
Reflections: January 1, 2021This Just In: The Ultimate ResolutionReflections: January 2, 2021Reflections: January 3, 2021Reflections: January 4, 2021Video Short: January 5, 2021Video Short: January 4, 2021Reflections: January 5, 2021Reflections: January 6, 2021Video Short: January 6, 2021Under the Cross: Don't Look at the ListReflections: January 7, 2021Video Short: January 7, 2021Video Short: January 8, 2021Reflections: January 8, 2021Dean's List: The Catechism Really Is for YouReflections: January 9, 2021Reflections: January 10, 2021Reflections: January 11, 2021Video Short: January 11, 2021Helpful Things: Fundraising Essentials FOR YOUReflections: January 13, 2021Video Short: January 12, 2021Reflections: January 12, 2021Video Short: January 13, 2021Reflections: January 14, 2021Video Short: January 14, 2021Under the Cross: You Don't Belong to This WorldReflections: January 15, 2021Video Short: January 15, 2021Reflections: January 16, 2021Reflections: January 17, 2021Reflections: January 18, 2021Video Short: January 18, 2021This Just In: Martin Luther King, Jr.--The Man Who Had a DreamReflections: January 19, 2021Video Short: January 19, 2021Dead Christians You Should Know About: Saint SebastianReflections: January 20, 2021Video Short: January 20, 2021Video Short: January 21, 2021Reflections: January 21, 2021Reflections: January 22, 2021Reflections: January 23, 2021Video Short: January 22, 2021Dean's List: Jesus Hits the Spot!Reflections: January 24, 2021Reflections: January 25, 2021Reflections: January 26, 2021Video Short: The Conversion of St. PaulHelpful Things: Effective Fundraising Through Midweek MealsVideo Short: Suffering Doesn't Mean God Doesn't Love YouReflections: January 27, 2021Video Short: Woke Wednesday: Karma, Karma, KarmaVideo Short: Abortion and the Church's WorkReflections: January 28, 2021Reflections: January 29, 2021Video Short: What Goes On In Your Pastor's Mind About Closed CommunionFoundations: You Need Your Pastor More Than EverReflections: January 30, 2021Reflections: January 31, 2021
Reflections: February 1, 2021Video Short: Stretching Out To RepentVideo Short: Parable of Those Gifted in the VineyardReflections: February 2, 2021Dead Christians You Should Know About: Saint Blaise of SebasteSpeaking of Faith: The Liturgy Is Tried and True EvangelismReflections: February 3, 2021Video Short: Woke Wednesday De-platformingReflections: February 4, 2021Video Short: Hearing Law and GospelVideo Short: The Anti-Catholic ParadoxDean's List: Called to ServeReflections: February 5, 2021Reflections: February 6, 2021Reflections: February 7, 2021Reflections: February 8, 2021Video Short: Ears on the Sower... And the SeedReflections: February 9, 2021Helpful Things: Sex, Sexuality, and BaptismVideo Short: The Simple Definition of Faith That Will Rescue You From Your DoubtsReflections: February 10, 2021Video Short: Woke Wednesday: Wokeism and ChristianityVideo Short: What Your Pastor Thinks When Preaching the LawReflections: February 11, 2021Reflections: February 12, 2021Video Short: Valentines and LoveUnder the Cross: Valentine's Day StinksReflections: February 13, 2021Reflections: February 14, 2021Reflections: February 15, 2021Video Short: Lent is Almost HereVideo Short: Lent For Evangelical ChristiansReflections: February 16, 2021Welcome to Lent - Supplement to the ReflectionsVideo Short: How to Fast in LentReflections: February 17, 2021Reflections: February 18, 2021Video Short: Lutherans Aren't the Cult of LutherReflections: February 19, 2021