I talk a lot about disability (or special needs) on this blog. That’s because I am the parent of a child with an autism spectrum disorder.
Since my son’s diagnosis, I’ve become a self-proclaimed advocate for people with special needs and their families. More than anything, I wish to share my journey so that others know they are not alone. There are people who understand. There are others who know how hard it is.
I know many families struggle with school districts, teachers and administrators in trying to get the right education for their special needs child. We’ve been fortunate. Our struggle hasn’t been with the schools.
For us, the struggle came where we least expected it: at church.
While the church we attended formerly has an active and healthy special needs program for adults, there was little to nothing for children. I was very passionate about wanting to do more for special needs families, and approached the leadership multiple times, but the priorities were clearly elsewhere.
It broke my heart.
No matter how passionate I am about the need to include those with disabilities in the life of the church, my pleas have often fallen on deaf ears.
I don’t know that this blog post will do anything differently.
But I watched a video on YouTube a couple of weeks back that took my breath away.
The pastor in the video refers to Jesus as a “dis-abled” person.
How had I never seen it before?
Jesus Was Disabled, Too
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Phillipians 2:6-8
- Jesus was and is the Word, who dwelt in Holy Trinity communion before time began.
- He hovered over the waters of the deep.
- Everything in creation was made by Him and for Him and through Him.
- He is the Ancient of Days, the Holy God.
There is no limit to who He is or what He can do.
And yet He limited Himself, by choice, in the most extreme way. He agreed to become “dis-abled” out of His love for mankind, His love for you and me and his heart’s desire to win us back at all costs.
C.S. Lewis says it this way:
“The Eternal being who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man, but (before that) a baby, and before that a fetus inside a woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.”
Jesus was disabled.
And He took that role on purpose.
- Born as a helpless infant, completely dependent upon a couple of small-town teenagers, in the filthiest of places.
- Raised in a dusty, dirty world, soiling his hands with manual labor and feeling the scorch of the hot desert sun.
- Knowing hunger and thirst and pain and sickness and sadness and betrayal.
And then on his final day, beaten cruelly, his body so disfigured that he was unrecognizable, his strength was stolen to the point that another had to finish the task of carrying His cross up the hill.
Simon of Cyrene helped to bear Jesus’ burden.
Just as Jesus was about to bear the burdens of all mankind.
No wonder He was so kind to those who were hurting. No wonder He noticed the ones who were so often unseen and unloved. No wonder He showed no fear in reaching out to touch the unclean, the diseased, the lame.
Isaiah says that He has borne our sorrows, that He is a man well-acquainted with suffering and grief.
To take on human skin with all its frailty, could there be anything more disabling for the Eternal God?
Maybe this is what He was thinking of when He told the parable of the Sheep and the Goats.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25: 32-40
Jesus goes on to tell those on His left that in rejecting the marginalized among them, the poor, the hungry, the naked — they have rejected Him.
The way we act toward the disabled, the poor, the different, the disadvantaged, the marginalized –does not go unnoticed.
We may claim that we didn’t see, didn’t know, didn’t understand. We may protest that we didn’t have the resources or the knowledge or the funds to reach out to the ones who needed our help.
But in the end, when we deny those in need, when we deny the suffering and the bruised and the downtrodden and the depressed–we deny Jesus Himself.
The beautiful, willfully dis-abled God man.
Lord, help us to see.
May we see the cross for what it truly represents: the Eternal, Almighty, infinite God who chose disability that we lowly humans might walk ably in abundance of life.
Here is the video to which I refer. It is long — 18 minutes — but so worth your time