Meet Bojana Danilovic. A 33-year old Serb with a rare neurological condition called Spatial Orientation Phenomenon. Individuals with this condition process information in their brain as an upside down visual image …But this does not stop Bonjana! An inverted computer screen is perched up on her desk at a Serbian Local Council, ready for her working day. Staying informed, she reads her newspaper upside down. When it’s time to kick back, she relaxes in front of a flipped TV, fixed above the ordinary one that her family use to watch with her.
A different worldview, no? What about ours? Are our minds and hearts conditioned to process life a little upside down? To be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16)? To perfect strength in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)? To lose our life so that we may gain it (Matthew 16:25)? Truth is, it’s only by seeing things a little upside down that we can join Paul and Silas as “these who have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6). Paul and Silas (and the early Church generally) had no political standing, great status or much money. However, as St Peter says “silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you“ (Acts 3:6). What the Apostles had, through the work of the Holy Spirit in them, was the power to change many lives, including their own, forever.
So, inspired by the Apostles and the Apostles’ Fast, what does it take to effectively become a game changer of modern times?
1- FOCUS ON BREADCRUMBS
First thing is first. If we don’t wish to conform, but rather be transformed, we must first turn our own thoughts upside down by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). They say that the hardest prison to escape is our mind. Sometimes, behind those bars of negativity, anxiety, lack of confidence and self-doubt, we lose our faith a little. It’s made worse when we feel like we’ve run the distance and called out to God to have mercy on us and help us, and His response is the seemingly harsh (and misunderstood) one of “it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs” (Matthew 15:26).
But in those moments where our minds can easily turn to despair, we must find strength to turn our thoughts to hope – through even the most modest faith. Remember, just as the most powerful of all faith can be the size of a mustard seed, it can also be as shattered as breadcrumbs: if only we focus our mind on that. By doing just that, the faithful Canaanite woman didn’t overthink the fact that Jesus did not initially respond to her plea. She took no notice of the disciples’ attempt to send her away. While our attention is sometimes drawn to both those things, her mind was set on one small matter: the breadcrumbs. In fact, her humble response of “yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (Matthew 15:27) was enough to turn it all around and grant her daughter healing! She may or may not have understood that Christ first humbles those he intends to honour most, but we certainly do. Instead of dwelling on what broke us, if “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), let’s focus on how it will build us. Pulling the diamond from the rough… one breadcrumb at a time.
2- FREEDOM IN SURRENDER
Next, with our thoughts turned upside down, our hearts must follow. And there is nothing that can turn an impossible situation upside down any more effectively than a submissive heart. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew this all too well when faced with the seemingly no-win situation of denying God or denying their right to life by refusing the worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. In choosing the furnace by choosing God, they believed that they would be saved but, importantly, they said that even if God didn’t deliver them, they still wouldn’t worship the idol (Daniel 3:18)!
No doubt, it’s because they went in with total submission that they came out, not only liberated, but freed by the pre-incarnate Christ Himself – who walked with them in the furnace. Now what about us? Do we take comfort that “many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19)? C.S. Lewis will tell you:
“God, who foresaw your tribulation has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain, but without stain”
Strangely, we’re “specially armed” not by defence, but by surrender. In our moment of surrender, we are liberated and allow God’s plan to take precedence over our own. It’s only then that the impossible quickly turns into the incredible, as we become “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
3- NO FEAR OF WAVES
With a renewed mind and submissive heart, we’re finally ready to turn things upside down with effective action. But sometimes, our fear of rocking the boat or ruffling feathers holds us back from fulfilling our purpose or our calling for change. A game changer, though, has no such fear: at just 24, Habib Girgis met the initial resistance of the new and strange concept of Sunday School with a humble willingness to gather children and teach them on the steps of the Church or in small halls (at the time, Habib Girgis and the few servants that courageously joined him were not allowed to teach in Churches). Within 2 years, a Papal decree formally established Sunday School as accepted religious education in Coptic Churches for the first time. Within 50 years, the Sunday School Movement had inspired 2,500 teachers to serve over 43,000 children. Camps, outings, visitations and other important social services were eventually added to the ever-rich Sunday School program. And here we are today, with the great memories, amazing role models and spiritual upbringing that we’ve experienced through Sunday School – something that we owe (in part) to this extraordinary layman’s drive and fearlessness.
Against all odds, this persistence and lack of fear is no surprise because “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). If we’re filled with love for God and our fellow saints (Ephesians 4:12), we’ll have zero fear to make the waves that are necessary to instill change in our world: beginning with ourselves and then extending to serve those who need us most. Sure, like this amazing Archdeacon, you might upset the “system.” Like John the Baptist, you might even have some difficult conversations. But inspired by Paul and Silas, you will no doubt turn the world upside down. So, “who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).
One thing you do know, though: you are called to be a game changer and to turn your world upside down. To process priorities and events a little differently and have a profound and lasting impact in your world, no matter how small its compass. So, focus your mind on little breadcrumbs and pull the diamond out of the negative rough. Find freedom in surrender. And with that, fearlessly act on the waves of light that shine through your heart and before men, for the glory of your Father in Heaven (Matthew 5:16).
SAYG ~ Jackie Ibrahim.