Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Overaccepting A Threatening Offer: A Christian Response To Disability

In the final section of Improvisation, Wells tells the stories of two women -- both heaviliy involved in Christian ministry -- who have each reared a child with severe physical and mental disabilities. This is where the rubber of blocking, accepting and overaccepting meets the road.

Our vocation is to "incorporate" the life of the disabled into the life of the church. Our vocation is to "overaccept" disability. We can begin to do this by listening to Frances Young's words with soft hearts:

The challenge of learning to know, be with, and care for the retarded is nothing less than learning to know, be with, and love God. God's face is the face of the retarded; God's body is the body of the retarded; God's being is that of the retarded. For the God we Christians must learn to worship is not a God of self-sufficient power; a God who in self-possession needs no one; rather ours is a God who needs people, who needs a Son. Absoluteness of being or power is not a work of the God we have come to know through the cross of Christ.

The church has tended to identify God with the intelligent, the funny, the talented, the useful, the wealthy, the attractive. I am no different, and I've spent much of my (Christian) life trying to attain most of these things in order to be more god-like. But if Jesus has anything to do with God -- if the cross and resurrection have anything to do with God -- He is to be found in the unexpected people and places.

There is much good talk on our "identity in Christ". But lest that begin to sound like a mystical abstraction, our identity in Christ ought to be wrapped up in the people that Christ identifies with. To have an identity in Christ means to identify with those on the fringes. It means we overaccept them, because God in Christ overaccepts them. The question, Who am I friends with? might just be the most spiritually profound question we ask ourselves this year.

I am still learning. Dear God, I am still learning.

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