It is tempting to look away from those disabled, broken humans holding their mother’s hands, sitting in front of the 7-11, or fumbling with their lips to say, “Hello.” We write them off as freaks of nature and abnormalities who should not concern us. We would like to think one day no one will suffer like that.
Today, like in the 40’s, many suggest it would be better to not live at all than to live with such a low quality of life. When my wife was pregnant with our third son, Simon, I remember praying the child would be healthy and happy. There is nothing wrong with that prayer. I remember nervously waiting for labor to begin, then holding my wife’s hand as she endured a long ordeal until finally, by the grace of God, a child was born.
He had Down syndrome. The nurses would not tell me, but I could see by the shape of his head and puffiness of his eyes. I was filled with fear. Quite frankly, it was embarrassing. Where was the strong young boy? My dreams of the great careers which lay before him were dashed. He would likely stay with us into our old age. No doctor, no pastor, no singer/songwriter.
I was filled with rage and fear. I cursed God. Simon just calmly stared at all the commotion and me with my tears. For the next three weeks he did that. We would be scurrying around taking him to doctor appointments. Frequently, children with Down syndrome have a heart condition that needs attending. We were often frantic and worried. Simon was calm and cool, with a little smirk, and a soft breath.
I slowly stopped looking at him in fear but began to embrace him with peace.
A couple weeks later, I did a funeral for a severely disabled boy, Brandon, who died at 14. He could barely communicate or function, yet his mom talked as if he was the hit of the party. Many of the members of his special-ed class attended. They sat in the front row making various noises and uncontrollably moving every appendage. As they disturbed our serious gathering, I looked over at them and realized how we are, really, all disabled! We think these poor fools are freaks of nature or one in one thousand exceptions to the rule of human nature, but they are not! They are you and me. This is how God sees me. Sometimes I wonder if God even knows who is severely disabled and who is not. Can He tell the difference between someone with two PhD’s and a kid who just learned to use the bathroom at age 14? Look at the choices people make, the relationships we crush, the crazy ideas we have. Sitting in church we really do not look much different than the man with the IQ of a toddler. To God we all look like helpless people needing His providence and grace.
Let alone we are all disabled by sin. No one is born self-sufficient in every way. We need a caregiver. We need a savior. That is why infant baptism is not the exception, it is the rule! Jesus says so Himself! “Unless you become like a little child…” (Matthew 18:3). This does not mean innocent or naive. It means helpless, disabled, unable, completely in need. Jesus frequently made His disciples look at toddlers! Who do you think you are?
All of us, no matter our IQ or achievements, have one and the same savior; Jesus. He died only for the disabled, the weak, the messed up, sinners.
Do not turn away from those who are disabled. Again, who do you think you are? When you look upon someone with various disfigurements and difficulties you are looking at yourself. When you look upon the sufferer you are looking at yourself. So, embrace it. Praise God for our deliverance and the hope we have in a resurrection, when there will be no physical deformities, let alone spiritual ones! Thank God for those with disabilities giving us opportunity to help and love as God has loved us.
My son died due to his heart condition just three weeks after his birth, baptized and single handedly embraced by Christ, just like me. And with that same calm demeanor, Simon went to be with the Lord. I learned to not look away, but embrace my own severe disability, and desperate need of Jesus’ promises, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Lord, let us not be afraid of our weaknesses and disabilities, for Christ only fills up empty cups.
Do not be afraid to look at the disabled, the sick, the weak. Do not be afraid of your own disabilities. Do not be afraid to be picked up like a weak little child by Jesus!