Disabled by Design
From Gospel Translations
My Abundant Life Without Arms
Take a step back for a moment and imagine that you were born without arms.
You have to do everyday tasks with your feet. You write with your feet. You eat with your feet. You put gas in your car by lying down on the ground to lift the nozzle with your feet. You pay for a gallon of milk at the grocery store by carrying it to the checkout line with your teeth and then taking your debit card out of your shoe and swiping it through the credit card machine with your toes.
That’s my life. Every day is an exercise in the unusual, and the world recognizes that. I get stared at and hear rude comments on an almost daily basis. As a child and teen, being different than everyone else I knew was a terrible burden. I did not think my own life was precious, remarkable, or holy. I felt worthless and broken.
God rescued and redeemed me at the age of 15, and he slowly began to show me how precious my life is in spite of my disability. In particular, God used the story of the blind man in John 9 to show me the sanctity of all lives, even those with disabilities:
As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:1–3)
Jesus then heals the blind man, who in turn goes on to passionately proclaim the power of Jesus. The church needs to firmly grasp the lessons from this short passage in John, especially on the 45th anniversary of the horrific Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision about abortion.
More Than Many Sparrows
What or who determines the value of human life? Is life only valuable because a human can breathe, walk, or make conscious choices? Is life only valuable if an individual’s quality of life reaches a certain predetermined level?
The beautiful reality is that God has given humans value by creating them in his own image (Genesis 1:27). In this one action, we see the Trinity establishing intrinsic value in each person. No external factors alter the value of a human being. Every person, from every race, across every nationality, is the precious workmanship of God.
You and I have nothing to fear when it comes to our meaning and worth. In Matthew 10:29–31, Jesus states,
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
May we remind ourselves and others daily that God has made us in his image. May we promote and defend the value of every human life, regardless of race, religion, or political background. May we unashamedly declare the truth of our great God, who gives purpose to every human life.
No Stitch Missed
As I tried to see the value of my own life, I stumbled over how different I was from everyone else I knew. I thought, “How can God love me if he made me so different? A loving and value-giving God would never subject a person to being born so different, right?”
My train of thought mirrored the thought of the disciples in John 9. They saw the blind man and assumed that some specific sin had caused his blindness. But as Jesus quickly corrects them, the blind man was not disabled because of his sin or his parents’ sin; he was disabled by divine design. God had carefully crafted the man to display God’s glory in his blindness. The vehicles of God’s glory can be some of the most unexpected people.
God takes great care to fashion every person who has ever lived. He makes no mistakes. He does not let a single detail escape his watchful eye. He has knit together every person into the tapestry we see today (Psalm 139:13). Just because someone is born with a mental or physical disability does not mean God missed a stitch.
Blindness, deafness, amputation, and mental disability do not detract from any person’s worth. The church must be faithful to proclaim and defend that every unborn child, regardless of disability, has a right to life. Every unborn child can display the works of God.
Yet, even more importantly, every disabled person also desperately needs Jesus’s love. That’s where we begin to ask difficult questions about ourselves and the church. Do I love my autistic nephew like Christ would? Am I serving families that have kids with special needs by praying for them or actively loving them?
The church must defend the sanctity of life for every disabled person in the womb and also in their communities. May we affirm their personal value while also proclaiming their eternal value in the gospel.
Called and Commissioned
One of the ways we love our disabled brothers and sisters is by giving them the chance to glorify God within the context of the church. The man in John 9 was blind in order to make the works of God known. I was born without arms so that the glory of God could be made known in my physical body.
How many people in our churches do we put off to the side (overtly or subtly) because they are paralyzed, blind, or autistic? If they have God-given worth, let’s do whatever it takes to find ways to serve them in the church and give them opportunities to serve as the church. They are just as much called to go and make disciples as any able-bodied person.
In fact, they may be even more qualified to proclaim the grace and mercy of God. Affliction has allowed many of them to taste the grace of God in ways few of us can understand. God gives us comfort in our hurt so that we can give that same comfort to others (2 Corinthians 1:4). There’s a sweet understanding of comfort and grace when someone has been enveloped in hurt, and yet can still sing of the mercy of God.
So may we labor to tell all people of their preciousness, and may we give them every chance to display the works of God.