Thursday, October 28, 2010

Learning from disability - part 4

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3

Okay, friends, we’re in the home stretch. Part 4. I was going for a part 5, but I’m not confident that I’ll make it. That’s why I kept adding the “-ish” at the end. Five-ish. Ishes are so helpful in creating loopholes, dontcha know?

What I’ve found in my own life, and from what I’ve learned from others’ stories, is that disability can be a blessing because when something is taken away – sight, hearing, legs, neurons, synapses – you are forced to come face to face with the truth that you are broken. Not just in body, but in soul. That there is something wrong and that you can’t fix it. The need for grace seems more evident when you live with brokenness. Disabilities and sickness and weakness and brokenness point us to God and remind us that He is sovereign and complete and that only He can fix us, body and soul.

A friend of mine, who lives with hearing loss brought on by Meneire’s Disease, put it well:

I like the idea of using the Paraclete Ministry [a disability ministry at her church] as a impetus to remind "normal" people that the Fall, our sin nature, the afflictions in our bodies are a part of all of us... not just the person in the wheelchair or carrying an oxygen tank or wearing hearing aids. Weakness is not a popular thing in our culture or our churches. We want to be strong. I think weakness is where God wants us to be so that we can rely on His strength. Healthy people working with sick people (could be temporary illness like chemo for cancer, or recovering from difficult childbirth, accident, or something chronic, long-term, or even terminal) are going to be reminded that this is what the Fall did, it made pain, sorrow and death come into the world. How thankful we all should be that the Redeemer saved us from our just punishment in hell!

Greg Lucas at Wrestling with an Angel shares his thoughts on how he sees his son experiencing God:

Locked away in the mystified mind of my mentally disabled son is a deep thinking joy that can only be explained as “the secret things of God.”

My son also gives the impression that he too shares a divine bond with his heavenly Father. One of the first words in sign language Jake learned as a young child was the sign for “Jesus” which is displayed by pointing to the center of each hand (where the nail prints will be found). Ask him where Jesus lives and Jake will point upward. Ask him where else Jesus lives and Jake will point to his heart. I don’t remember ever teaching my son these things. Could it be that for many years he has known of the One who sits at the Father’s right hand, and inhabits the hearts of men?

I have watched Jake sit through entire sermons and nod his head appropriately. I have watched him give emotional standing ovations at the end of a well preached message (even when he is the only one clapping in a room of 300 people). He also claps at the end of each prayer—it is a hearty, resounding AMEN!

There have been times after a sermon or moving hymn when Jake is in tears. I do not know what is going on in his mind during these times. I only know that there is so much more happening than the doctors and specialists have ever dreamed possible in the silent, diminished world of his “disabled mind”.

Is it possible that my son’s inability to see things as a “normal” person sees, or his incapability to understand what “ordinary” people understand, is actually an exceptional ability rather than a disability?

Or could it be that I am the disabled one here? That through my own personal pride and the superficial cares of this world I am calloused to the deeper things of God, deaf to His audible voice, and blind to His very real presence in my life.

And that’s why the church needs people with disabilities. It’s not just that we need to minister to the disabled and make them feel loved and welcomed, but we need to learn from them as well.


  1. Lucy - I am fascinated by your series. Some may ask, 'How could a compassionate God allow someone to live with struggles?' Since the fall of man and woman in the Garden of Eden, people have been asking God that question. It is reassuring to me that although I believe God does allow our struggles, He is using them to bring others to Him. So what if I can't hear well... As a result, I've seen people close to me turn their lives over to God after seeing that a person who struggles hasn't turned bitter with God, but quite the opposite: She clings to Him with all her strength. And she has joy...

  2. That's a beautiful story about Jake. I sure hope he has a greater understanding, that would be a tremendous gift.