Yahoo published a fascinating article in 2012 about two brothers living in England. In 2006, Michael and Matthew Clark were living normal lives. After serving in the Royal Air Force, Michael became a cabinet maker. Matthew worked in a factory and was busy raising his teenage daughter.
Tragedy struck when both brothers were diagnosed with one of the most unusual diseases imaginable, a terminal form of leukodystrophy. Do not be surprised if you are unfamiliar with the illness, this rare genetic disorder attacks the myelin of the nervous system and reverses one’s mental and physical abilities. In layman’s terms, Michael and Matthew became increasingly less mature.
As the disease progressed their ability to live as adults deteriorated. In 2012 their parents, Tony and Christine, realized the two could no longer live alone and encouraged them to move home. Michael, at 42, and Matthew, at age 39, played with model trains, fought over Monopoly and other children’s games, and loved watching cartoons. They had the interests and mood fluctuations of little boys and were fascinated by balloons and toys which would typically catch the interests of toddlers. Months earlier they had been able to easily feed themselves, but now after putting food on their forks it would often fall off before they got it in their mouths.
It is impossible to read about the Clark brothers’ horrible illness without feeling compassion for them and their parents. Especially when we learn the disease took its expected course with Matthew dying in 2013 and Michael passing in 2016.
I hope no one reading this column ever personally experiences the disease which took Michael and Matthew’s lives. Far too often, however, those of us who do not have an excuse like leukodystrophy can become complacent and accept our own immature actions. This was understandable and expected for the Clark brothers but not for those who do not have this disease, we should each accept the challenge of living up to our potential.
When it comes to maturity, perhaps no verse in scripture better captures the attitude the Apostle Paul encourages us to embrace, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)
God wants us to live mature lives and never be satisfied with doing as little as we can. Unlike Michael and Matthew Clark, most of us can achieve more than we imagine if we rely on God to help us. As we prepare to begin 2024, each of us should accept the challenge of reaching our potential. It is not, however, about us making ourselves great but about us allowing God to help us reach our full potential.