Are We Just Born This Way?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, February 11, 2017 2 comments

by Nathan Buck

We recently were at Disney World, and as I walked through the Land/Sea area of Epcot, I noticed a young boy out of the corner of my eye. His gait and cadence seemed just a slight bit off. When I turned my head to see why, I could see that he had two prosthetic legs. He was about 6-8 years old, and he was moving along quite well on his artificial legs and feet. In fact, I did a double take because the legs were the cool new ones that move almost as well as biological lower legs.

Then I noticed something else as he waved his arms. This young boy had no hands, and his arms stopped just below the elbows. I was gripped with concern for him as it dawned on me - this boy was born with no hands or feet, and no lower legs. But as soon as the thought of pity entered my mind, I saw his face. His face was beaming with the biggest smile! His eyes gleamed with delight as he marched after his parents, waving his arms, laughing, and his short curly dark hair bouncing with each step. He was full of energy and joy, as well as focused intent to get to the next part of the park.

As I continued on with my family, I realized that boy is a profound challenge to every message we are bombarded with in our culture today. I realized he is the counterpoint to our “just be you “ bumper sticker ideologies. He is the reverser to Lady Gaga's Super Bowl statement of “I was made this way.”

Why? Because this boy didn't take what was handed him as a limitation. He didn't take his physical predisposition of disability as an excuse to remain disabled. He didn't cling to the “Why did God make me this way” self-absorption and blame God for why he could never be a “normal” kid. And he didn't go out and force the world to call him “normal” to enable his lack of ability as a way of life. This kid faced his predisposition as disabled, and made a choice to walk, and run, and laugh, and be an able kid.

Each of us has a predisposition to something. Whether it comes through genetic flaws in our DNA, environmental influences on our cellular development, or the chemistry of our brains, we have predispositions toward and away from things. Some people are more inclined toward sports, others toward art, some toward optimism, some toward depression, some toward opposite sex attraction, some toward same sex attraction, some toward alcoholism, and some toward being health conscious. This is not immoral in and of itself, it is a “likelihood” or a “leaning” toward certain default behaviors, patterns, preferences, or vices. We ALL have them, and we do not have a choice about which ones we get. Whether given by God as a part of our design or created from the flawed nature of our genetic material, we have them.

While we do not have a choice about which ones we get, we DO have a choice in regard to how we respond to them. Our current culture says, “Be whatever you are, true to how you were born/made/created, and do what you feel is best for you.” And if we follow this logic, the young man from Epcot could have easily heard that message as a license to be disabled and live as a bed-bound child, dependant on everyone else. He may have even been able to justify that the world owed him anything he wants, because he can't do it himself.

His experience as a disabled child is not his identity. He is someone greater than the limitations of his body. His ability to walk, run, and enjoy Disney demonstrate that he is not captive to his predisposed limitations. He exceeded them, because they are just his experience, not his identity or purpose.

If I look at it from my experience, my predisposition to find women attractive is a powerful part of my experience. But as a married man, I made a vow to no longer act on those attractions and to be faithful to my wife. My attraction is my experience as a heterosexual; it is not my identity. My vow of marriage is part of my experience; it is not my identity. What enables me to resist my predisposition and keep my vow is my identity. When I fail morally, it is usually because my desire for experience has been allowed to overshadow my identity.

Who I am must override and guide my predispositions, so that I make wise moral decisions. My identity is greater than my experience as a heterosexual male. What comes first before all predisposition is my identity as a person made in God's image - a person meant to reflect His moral character, justice, and love. (For an alternate perspective, click here.)

Read Romans 1:20-32. Just by reading these verses, it's very clear that people's predispositions toward certain desires or experiences is not a new thing. Experience and desire have always competed against our God-given identity. And humanity has always struggled with justifying why it's ok to ignore God and live how we “feel” like living. (Its interesting that we are willing to put limitations on others living how they “feel” to protect ourselves, but we reject God's limitations on how we live so we can justify indulging ourselves.)

If you focus on verse 25 and verse 32 in this passage, there are two things we are uncomfortable admitting and even less comfortable challenging in our current time culture. “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie” is a powerful statement we fight very hard to ignore. Believers and non-belivers are included in this. We re-write or re-frame laws, moral norms, and the Bible in order to give ourselves or others permission to do what we want - what we “feel” based on our predispositions.

In verse 32, there is the phrase, “they not only continue to do these very things, but give approval to others to do the same.” That word “do” in the original Greek language of the Bible comes from the root word “poema,” which means ‘poetry.’ This word expresses the idea that what we do should come from our design, our identity, in the same way that a poem expresses the heart or meaning the poet meant to express when he/she wrote it. In this part of Romans 1, the word “poema” is used to make the point that people who are in rebellion against God are doing the opposite of their design. They are expressing the opposite of their identity and are just doing whatever feels good to them. This passage in the Bible makes it clear that this type of activity is sin, rebellion, and moral failure. It also portrays that people who live this way will encourage others to do the same. It's not a surprise, because we all feel better when we know we have others who agree with and support our actions. What's sad is that when we live this way, we reject a God-given identity for a good feeling experience and sell ourselves short at the altar of desire. It's even more sad that we encourage and celebrate others who do the same.

We may not have a choice in what experiences or desires we are predisposed to, but we DO have a choice in how we respond to them. If we embrace them and use them as excuses to reject the Bible or redefine God’s teachings, then we have chosen to sin. If we resist our predispositions or leverage them toward God’s way of living, then we have chosen life, obedience to God’s moral way of living, and our true identity over our default experience.

Like the young boy at Epcot, our predispositions may be pretty severe and disabling. But we DO have a choice in how we respond.

My intention with this post is encouragement for all of us to reach our fullest potential in God's design. May we resist settling for our predispositions and our default behaviors or desires. May we see through the messages of our culture and come alive in the life intended for us. May God bless us with clarity, wisdom, courage to surrender our faults to Him, and His strength to choose the narrow path. And as we do, may we run it with the joy, intensity, and abandon that the young boy in Epcot had.

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Charlie said...

Awesome post, Nathan. My own testimony reflects that of this boy. I've had many doctors and specialists tell me as a child I would never amount to much and both my parents and I would not allow their opinion to determine what I could or could not do. They recognized my current limitations and knew I had issues to deal with, however they never let me settle for those limitations and pushed to break me through them. Today, you would hardly know at all what I was like as a kid. I was "born that way" but I did not have to stay that way. Awesome stuff, Nathan.

nathan buck said...

Thanks Charlie. Glad it was encouraging to you. It seems there are many of us who identify with this in one way or another. It is hard to lay aside those predispositions and trust God, even painful. I am glad He is gracious and kind, and loves us through even the lonely and broken times. God bless you.