“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, August 13, 2018

Celebration of disability

Every few years my  church will hold a disability celebration Sunday. The last time the Sunday was recognized, a couple of parents came to me between services with the question, "What is there to celebrate?" It was easy to see the pain and struggle behind that question. The experience of disability can be incredibly difficult. In preparation for this year's celebration Sunday, I mentioned my interaction to our pastor. In his short tenure so far as our pastor, Rev. Todd Arnett has been incredibly supportive of our ministry. He was hardly at the church a month when it seemed he knew the names of everyone who attends our Light and Power Class ministry (I am not sure I can always be counted on to remember the 70+ people's names).

In his call to worship for this year's service, he drew something out of 2 Corinthians 12 that I hadn't quite put together before. In speaking of his "thorn in the flesh," Paul says,
"Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness" So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me...For when I am weak, then I am strong." (New Living Translation)
Todd made the point, that to say that "I am glad to boast about my weaknesses" is not unlike saying I will celebrate my weaknesses. This is hard. This is not intuitive for us. But Paul blows up our focus on strength by celebrating his weakness and how it drives him to rely on God. As I have stated in this blog before, our self reliance is a figment of our imagination. To think that I do anything by my own strength is little more than an expression of my uninformed pride. When I recognize this, and I finally see how dependent I  truly am on God, it may be a hard thing, but Paul encourages us that to see it and embrace it as a good thing. Why? Because I understand that I do anything, only through the power of Christ working through me.

The day that I recognize this truth, whatever causes me to come to that recognition, is a day worthy of celebrating.



Anonymous said...

This post really resonated with me. There is a big difference in celebrating and finding the positive in a situation. Something that I have always been told was that we need to give thanks to God for all things, my way of finding peace and thankfulness in any situation has been through Jeremiah 29:11. "'For I know that plans I have for you', declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans for a hope and a future.'" Many people use this verse as a form of "don't worry about the future because God's got this", but to me, this verse was brought into my life and a crucial time, so it serves the same purpose as was the verse brought up in this post. I don't think that we need to celebrate and be happy and death, illness, disabilities, or any other life changing event; rather, we should celebrate the life, wellness, and humanity. These "negative aspects" of a person's life should bring glory to God and should aid in our relationship with Him. To 'celebrate' a disability is not to ignore the fact that it is hard and sometimes be seemingly impossible. To celebrate means that we need to understand that God knows what He is doing and, as we know from the story of Job, He will not allow anything to happen that we cannot handle. This blog post was inspiring and insightful to an aspect of Christianity that is often misunderstood. Thanks for sharing.

Valerie said...

I would like to start off by stating how incredible it is that your church is so beyond supportive of those with disabilities. It seems that it is so common to look down on people with disabilities due to the lack of knowledge much of the population has. As a society, I have noticed many people tend to think people with a disability are incapable of many things that we consider to be the norm. One thing in particular many people with disabilities seem to struggle with is finding a place they are fully accepted. Although church is often thought of a place that has open doors, it seems that many places do not have accommodations for those with disabilities. I think celebrating those with disabilities does not only affect those with disabilities by making them feel accepted, but also shines a light for those who do not and allows them the ability to become more educated on the topic.
I think the bible verse that was used is perfect to describe why we need to celebrate disabilities. I strongly believe God gives each person the life they live for a specific purpose. I am always amazed by the people that are able to take the disability they have been given and found a way to make it their strength. It takes so much strength and motivation for someone to embrace their disability, rather than allow it to hold them back! That strength and determination is something that should be celebrated.

Jackie said...

I think that 2 Corinthians 12 is a difficult passage to process. I may never know what it is like to harbor the pains and wounds of a disability but I pray that in all my weaknesses God may give me the same the spirit Paul had. I feel that it would be incredibly difficult to answer parents with this mentality. I can only pray that they too find the strength in boasting about the power of God being reflected in weaknesses. I have never considered "celebrating" our weaknesses, but if they point to Christ, then why would we not? I feel that I still have a long way to go in truly immersing myself into this community of believers but if they are the true strength of the body of Christ then I know that I have no choice! I also love that the Pastor of this church is so supportive and feels the responsibility to share this truth with his congregation. I also think it was so critical to make the distinction between being happy about the weakness and celebrating it. Those two concepts are different and I'm glad that I am able to understand that there is one.

Jeff McNair said...

Jackie, I really resonate with your comment. Probably Paul asked to have his thorn removed because having it was difficult for him. When it wasn't removed, neither was the difficulty that accompanied it removed. This is hard. But Paul's response to God's sovereignty is the only answer. We have to trust that God will give his grace, and that it will be sufficient. Once again, this is really hard. I do not say this in any kind of a glib manner. Suffering is truly difficult but hopefully it draws us to greater faith and trust in God.

Anonymous said...

I truly appreciate this post and the amount of support and love that your church has for people with disabilities. I feel that often times people do not know how to react or even act around people with disability. This leads to confusion, awkward encounters, or overall ignorance of these people and their abilities. I feel that it is beautiful to have conversations and celebrations about weaknesses so that we can normalize it in our society today where weaknesses or any form of disability is seen as bad. I hope that I can help be a part of my church’s knowledge and overall growth in their inclusion and celebration of all people especially those with disabilities. Although my interview was insightful and held hope I would love to see it through to include a specific ministry for people of disability in order to better accommodate and include them in the church community. This would help not only educate those in the church about other with disabilities, but it will also normalize their disabilities as well as celebrate it. I feel that this would be a great help for families with children with disabilities because it will also help aid them to not feel alone and find acceptance and beauty within all disabilities.