Saturday, March 10, 2012

Humbling, and Beneficial for the Journey - P. A. Black

At points along life’s journey most, if not all, of us encounter people or situations that cause us to take a close and critical look at ourselves; a personal scrutiny that carries the potential to initiate good things in our lives. It can be humbling and beneficial.

Dr. Heidi Janz is a researcher and professor at the University of Alberta. She earned a Ph.D. in English at that institution and has taught English there. Now, that is truly amazing, since Dr. Janz cannot walk, can hardly move, uses an electric wheelchair, and is dependent on others for assistance in the most basic functions of life. Even eating is difficult.

[Clickart image. This is not Dr. Janz.]
Her speech is severely impaired, and therefore expressing herself requires gruelling effort. In order to understand her, one must concentrate. Someone has to read her teaching material in her behalf, until new students become accustomed to her speech and can tune in.

Painstaking labour goes into her computer operation and typing work when preparing her studies, as she laboriously taps out each character on a specialized keyboard. This highly intelligent woman has cerebral palsy, yet with her indomitable spirit has applied herself to overcoming enormous physical challenges.

A university website profile outlines her specialized research areas: “Disability Studies, the portrayal of illness and disability in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature, media representations of persons with disabilities, and creative writing, with a particular emphasis on fiction and drama for young adults.”

There’s more: she is also an author and an acclaimed playwright. Janz is not only all of the above; she is also a Christian believer, who believes that God equipped her with cerebral palsy! Now that may not be the kind of equipping gift we would want to line up for, but there we are – that’s her life and story.

Heidi’s faith is a monumental reality in her life. One time she was near death from an attack in which she was stabbed multiple times. Mercifully, she eventually recovered. She disposed herself mentally in Christian grace to forgive the individual, and the time came when she declared her forgiveness in the presence of the perpetrator. This had a profound effect on him – and also on her. She knew she had been freed, for it didn’t remain a mere mental state of mind for her but a flow of forgiveness from the heart.

It was only recently that I heard about this amazing person, when a brief but interesting documentary segment featured her on the weekday Christian telecast “100 Huntley Street.” I was inspired. And humbled. I was also moved to introspection about the comparative minimal discomforts and challenges I’ve experienced in life, and the excuses I’ve made for lack of effort and too easily giving up.

Today, Dr. Heidi Janz’s story played a part in my Lenten journey towards Good Friday and Easter. It reminded me of Isaac Watts’ hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” The first two verses:

When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
[Except] in the death of Christ, my God;
All the vain things that charm me most
I sacrifice them to His blood.

• Renewed perspective.
• Adjusted attitude.
• Beneficial for me on my journey.

Helpful information was obtained from:
A University of Alberta website profiling Dr. Janz;
Also, Karen and Sig’s “The Blessing Blog.”

Peter A. Black writes a weekly inspirational column for The Watford Guide-Advocate. Today's post is adapted from his article published there on March 8, 2012.
He is the author of "Parables from the Pond" (Word Alive Press finalist, 2007)-- a book finding a readership from schoolkids to senior citizens.


Eleanor Shepherd said...

Thanks, Peter. I am leading a spiritual discussion group on the subject of forgiveness with the residents of the home where I am the chaplain, tomorrow and I was trying to remember where I heard a great story of forgiveness recently. You reminded me of it. Of course, given our son's situation I find Dr. Janz particularly inspiring. Thanks for reminding us of the great woman of God.

Peter Black said...

Thank you, Eleanor.
Forgiveness -- an important subject and both a vital quality and action!
I trust you will have an enjoyable and effective discussion with your residential home group tomorrow.
Every blessing and encouragement to your son -- and Glen and you too, of course.

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