When such assumptions concerning the connection between faith and chronic illness or disability do not pan out over the long term, they may lead some people with disabilities and their families to a fork in their spiritual journeys. Option one being the belief that “God is a real jerk.” Option two being the belief that “people with disabilities must be horrible people to deserve this much ‘extra punishment’.”
In my previous post I mentioned a man who recently died of COVID ... he was one of the first people I supported who did not use words to communicate, but clearly had much to say.
Because everyone experiences the loss. Everyone grieves. Whether you lived with the person, worked with the person, or knew them in passing, their departure leaves a hole in the community that is felt much farther than one might expect.
Every time someone dies we grieve. We mourn. We miss them. And then we move on. Because there’s someone else who needs that space, who needs that funding, who needs that support, who needs our focus.
One of the reasons I am especially grateful to writers and producers of The Chosen series is for their faithful portrayals of various Bible characters with different disabilities throughout the series, and for their insight into how some of Jesus’ disciples might have very well been people with disabilities. In so doing they show that people with disabilities do not need to be cured in order to follow Jesus or to serve him well.
Ultimately, though, the way forward [...] will be navigated in relationship with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities themselves. As Whole Community makes clear, it is people with lived experience who are experts on the best way forward. "The most powerful and effective act that people without disabilities can take is to yield to the voice of people with disabilities"
The Chosen pilot episode conveys the truth that the presence of wounds or a disability does not preclude gaining godly wisdom. Rejection from a religious establishment or faith community does not preclude you from becoming close with Jesus. In fact, such hardships might just put you in the right place at the right time for a much more intimate encounter with the Lord.
The first week of Advent and the International Day of Persons with Disabilities is a wonderful week to reflect on the hope of Christ, our saviour who was here, is here with us now through his Holy Spirit, and who will someday, hopefully soon, be with us in the flesh again.
Through this interaction I experienced the truth of wisdom offered by Canadian, Christian accessibility advocate, Judith Snow, who shared that everyone has two unique gifts: presence and difference. Through these, every person has the capacity to form half of a meaningful interaction with another person or people.
My favorite twenty minutes of each day is when I get to help John Michael eat. He can’t do it on his own, and even with help, he can’t do it quickly. It takes time and concentration on both of our parts. It’s a dance.