Friday, October 29, 2010

Contributing with disability - Part 5-ish

Whew. I made it. Part 5-ish. I don't know how some bloggers manage to do this every. single. day. Kudos to those who do! I've learned a lot from writing this little series and I'm so grateful for the discussion it's sparked. I hope we'll keep on discussing and talking and thinking and engaging. Community-ing, if you will.

Defining disability - Part 1
The kinship of disability - Part 2
A proper response to disability - Part 3
Learning from disability - Part 4

Anyway, so all week long I've been talking about what the church can and needs to do for those with disabilities. But as with most things in life, it's a two-way street, you know. Those of us who do live with disabilities cannot just stand around, waiting to be served. My friend Carin commented on one of my earlier posts and I thought she made a great point:

"Disabled" people also need to get involved and do things they are gifted and able to do. ... [W]e who are viewed as "disabled" have a responsibility to become involved and serve as well. And it need not be only in the area of our "disability" as you said. For example, as a deaf person, I am still able to serve my church family in many ways - not only the deaf - but my CHURCH FAMILY (all of them!). There are some things that I am not able to do well because of my hearing loss, but there are many other things I CAN do to serve. I need to do some of them and not just sit back with the attitude that "oh I am deaf..."

People with disabilities are often just as guilty of perpetuating division within the church by demanding this service or that accommodation, or by sequestering themselves with people who are like them. I know that sometimes I am tempted to think that because I have a disability that my suffering is more unbearable than someone else's, or that I am worthy of more attention because of it. But that is not true at all. Disabled or not, we are all sinners in need of a Savior and ought to serve one another in light of that truth. When I look at a brother or sister, I shouldn't see their able bodies and be jealous or angry; instead, I should see someone who needs Christ just as much as I do. The cross is an equalizer in that there is no room for superiority or inferiority in the Body - we are all disabled in soul before the Lord.

Something else that I'm tempted to do is to claim that I have nothing to contribute to the Body or that I'm worthless to serve because I can't hear everything. But when I do that, I buy into the lie that hearing loss defines me instead of embracing the truth that the gospel does. It's true that I can't hear everything and that there will just be some areas where I cannot serve. For example, you'll never see me help lead worship and I'd be reluctant to work at the information desk. I see so many people with disabilities just not contribute because they focus so much on what they can't do, or maybe they're missing all the things they used to be able to do and now suddenly can't. And at the heart of it is a pride issue; we want to do what we want to do and are angry that our efforts are hampered. Isn't God faithful, though? He doesn't let us slip through the cracks and He certainly doesn't put us out of commission just because our ears or legs or eyes stop working. To say that we have nothing to offer because of our disability is like saying that disability has more power than God, that the Almighty could somehow be crippled by our weakness. Puh-leez.

Having a disability does not excuse us from coming alongside of our brothers and sisters, to weep when they weep, to rejoice when they rejoice. My hearing loss does not let me off the hook to make meals when a family welcomes a new baby, help coordinate childcare, hand out worship guides, pitch in with cleanup, be kind to people, love them as Jesus does and offer a listening heart. It's true that I can't do everything, but I can trust that the Lord will equip me to do the things that He has called me to do - for my good and His glory. And so often, we expect that God has a special job just for us and that disability has somehow thwarted that plan, but that's presumptuous. God is, I think, less concerned with exactly what it is we are doing and far more concerned with how we are doing it. There are no loopholes in Micah 6:8 - abled or disabled, the decree is the same:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Finally, those of us with disability need to remember that these are just temporary bodies. C.S. Lewis said, "You don't have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body." Bodies with crooked spines and lifeless legs and silent eyes and damaged ears - they're just for now. Disability advocacy and raising awareness is a good thing, but it's not the most important thing. When we make disability the standard by which we live, we've missed the point. When we judge other people or churches based on whether or not they meet our needs, we're sinning. At the end of the day, the question is not, "Did the church serve my disability?" but, "Is Jesus my only hope?" Am I finding joy and fulfillment and completeness in the finished work of Christ and embracing the truth that His blood has already spoken for me, or am I basing who I am and what I think and how I act on how my body functions or doesn't function?

God is enough. And that's all I really wanted to say.

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