Her superpower

Pastoral Messages | September 19, 2019

At 16 years old, Greta Thunberg has sat down with world leaders, spoken to crowds of thousands, and addressed countless journalists. While others her age might be studying trigonometry and going to homecoming, she’s inspiring youth around the world to take action to protect our planet.

Greta’s working to slow down a crisis that she will inherit but didn’t create. She’s inspired youth from more than 150 countries and around the U.S. (including here in the Quad Cities) to participate in a global youth climate strike that will happen tomorrow. She’s got the courage and determination and heart of a superhero.

Recently, Greta became open about being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, one of the many diagnoses on the Autism spectrum. While every person is unique, being direct and singularly focused are some of the characteristics shown in people living with Asperger’s.

Greta talks about how living with Asperger’s has sometimes limited her. But mostly, she sees it as giving her unique abilities. “My diagnosis helps me see things a bit more clearly sometimes,” she says. “. . . Because if I am focused on something and if I know something and if I decide to do something, then I go all in.”

On Twitter she said, “I have Asperger’s and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And – given the right circumstances – being different is a superpower.”

What many might label as a disability, to Greta, it is her superpower. She is wired in a particular way that has helped her to be just the person this world needs her to be. In the church, we often talk about being true to our vocation, that is, the ways God calls us to live out our faith in the world. When we do so, we usually talk about how this vocation grows out of our gifts and talents.

But what if we looked at the less shiny parts of ourselves as places from which to live out our faith? How might we live differently if we claimed our various (dis)abilities and vulnerabilities as superpowers?

Whether or not it is diagnosable, we each have unique ways of being. These things, which may seem to some as weaknesses or disabilities, have shaped us to be more empathetic, more focused, more courageous, more honest, or more open to others.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians: “God’s grace is enough; it’s all you need. God’s strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9, The Message).

Greta Thunberg has a lot to teach us about a faithful life. Most importantly, she challenges us to live out God’s mandate to be stewards of creation (Genesis 2). But she also shows us how we can perceive the abnormal or different parts of other people (and ourselves) not as things to hide or fear, but as the very things that equip us to do God’s work through our lives. This shift in how we see ourselves and others creates renewed acceptance and celebration of each other, and more importantly, an unfurling of superpowers that has the potential to bring about such goodness to the world.

-Sara Olson-Smith

2 Comments on “Her superpower”

  • Stella Herzig

    September 19, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    “God’s grace is enough; it’s all you need. God’s strength comes into its own in your weakness.” WOW – love that…and the whole essay! Thanks, Pastor Sara!

  • suzanne benson

    September 19, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    What an amazing young lady. I also applaud her family for their encouragement and support. Not everyone fits into the same peg….

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Malachi 3:1-4

The Coming Messenger 3 See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 2 But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; 3 he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.[a] 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.

Hebrews 2:14-18

14 Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. 16 For it is clear that he did not come to help angels, but the descendants of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to become like his brothers and sisters[a] in every respect, so that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Luke 2:22-40

Jesus Is Presented in the Temple 22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon;[a] this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.[b] 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon[c] came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon[d] took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 29 “Master, now you are dismissing your servant[e] in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” 33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon[f] blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” 36 There was also a prophet, Anna[g] the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child[h] to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. The Return to Nazareth 39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.