These men, despite their depths of hard-won wisdom and delightful companionship, are well-accustomed to strangers keeping their distance in public places. The conditions we ironically bemoan on social media are barely distinguishable from how they have spent most of the days of their lives. They are old pros at quarantine, and they are teaching me.
In Romans 8, Saint Paul tells us that the whole creation groans in labour pains, waiting for the redemption of the body. We too groan in yearning. We long for an end to the suffering, the tedium, the frustration at incomplete solutions…
The Covid 19 pandemic and related precautions have made me realize that the reason my faith excites me is because of opportunities to witness the redemptive power of Christ, or the ways in which God transforms negative events into blessings.
Thanks to the example of Joni Eareckson Tada I knew that God could do great things through people with disabilities, but for the first 20 years of my life I wanted little to do with disability. Despite my need for a power wheelchair, limited fine motor skills and significant visual impairment, I wanted to lead a "normal" life as far away from disability as possible.
In Bekoji, Ethiopia, a place that housed tools of war is becoming a place that will offer supports which will nourish and grow the community. This is all because its members now rightly believe that their children with disabilities are image-bearers of God. That's a light I can live in.
We can look forward to Jesus returning and the glory of the Lord being revealed when the playing field is leveled for the oppressed. Then all people will have equal opportunity to serve God and enjoy the abundant life that He offers. Removing a barrier is not just about helping someone else to enjoy full participation: it is about demonstrating how God loves all people and wants everyone to live life to the fullest.
On the Road to Emmaus, Jesus’ strategy is to walk alongside the followers for a long while, allowing them to tell their whole story. Similarly, matching the pace of someone else and demonstrating that we are truly listening, even though it may be hard to relate is a way to show that they are valued.
As someone who works in a Christian ministry serving people with disabilities, I’m thankful that this “Emmaus road” is open to us. While sometimes God works in impressive, earth-changing ways, it is a relief to know that he can also work through our small acts of coming alongside people on their journey.
Jesus names his present and future vulnerability to pain in this verse and empowers his friends to claim their own limitations, and to use them as the basis for trust. I know how Jesus feels, in terms of having a broken body. I have spastic cerebral palsy: this neurological condition means that my muscles are always tense, or spastic, and that I experience palsy, or continuous tremors in all my limbs.
Does your church work to show your community that people with disabilities are truly welcomed and embraced? If not, what good is your faith? Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead, but faith that is accompanied by action is a beautiful offering of love toward God and other people."