Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Asking the "Why?" of disability

Dear Readers,

I get the privilege of loving on some tiny little ones each week. One girl has particularly stolen my heart. She’s learning the fine art of communicating with your hands, and so when we met and discovered we each knew what the other was saying, we sort of became best friends. Sometimes I forget she’s only three.

She holds such lovely thoughts in her head—a love for singing and jumping and hugs—and sometimes she just can’t figure out how to communicate those thoughts to the rest of the world. Sometimes it makes her cry in frustration. Sometimes I want to cry with her because it just seems really unfair.

A couple weeks ago my cute little friend made me think back to a week at camp that I still hadn’t really processed. This week was one of my perfect cabins—sweet sweet campers who made me want to cry every morning there was just so much beauty in our cabin. The beauty was so obvious to me. It wasn’t that obvious to some of our volunteers, though. One of our volunteers really struggled, and one night in our devotional raised the question, “Why would God make someone like this?”

I was pretty mad at her, to be honest, because I adore her camper and just wanted to say “Umm, excuse me, she’s freaking PERFECT and makes the world a brighter, more joy-filled place, that’s why!” But I let my brothers’ words fill in for me instead, since I knew she truly was struggling through the “why” of disability and couldn’t help her inability to see beyond that.

So I read them John 9: 1-3, which is highlighted and underlined in my Bible: As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

The works of God were definitely displayed through every single one of my campers. His creativity and joy and gentleness were oh so obvious to see in their sweet spirits. But it was my co-cabin leader’s words that made the most impact. She did what I couldn’t, and acknowledged that this “why?” question is a valid one. But she went on to say that that’s a question that we’ll never get an answer to this side of Heaven, so we shouldn’t waste time on it—instead, she said, we need to just accept that this is the way it is. Disability is in this world. And guess what? “Now, we just have to love them.” Those were her words. It doesn’t really even matter why this happens—what matters is how we respond, how we love.  

If you can’t tell by the verses I highlighted AND underlined, sometimes I wrestle with the hard “why?” too. It’s hard to find purpose within disability sometimes—especially in the middle of the really hard stuff, like surgeries and painful recoveries and too-early deaths. And there’s just something within all of us that wants to demand that God give us an answer—we want to ask, if He’s so good, why would He let something so hard happen to these people who we love? We want to sit there and cry with a three-year-old who deserves to have her words heard.

But that wasn’t what she needed. In that moment, I was paralyzed by my own sadness, much like my volunteer this summer was—and that didn’t help anyone. What did help my little friend was her teacher, who saw her crying and marched over to her. She said, “Why are you crying? You don’t need to cry. Come on, use your words--we all understand you here.”

We all understand you here. We’ll all take the time to understand you. This isn’t worth crying over, little one, not today—right here, right now, we’ve got you. And you’re so capable. That’s what she said to her. That was all she needed. Just the reminder that we’ll understand her. It was as simple as overlooking the “why?” that no one can actually answer and simply loving her in the way she needed to be loved in that moment.

How cool that we get to do that? It’s kind of amazing to me. So no, I don’t have an answer to the “why?” of disability. And even though I’d like to think I could just ignore it and find peace with the fact that I don’t even need to know like my co, I don’t know that I ever will. I think I’ll always have moments where I wonder and cry about the injustice of it all, because it’s definitely unjust.

But there’s also so much beauty. So many works of God are displayed in people with disabilities, and they are the boldest and most beautiful testament to Him. How thankful I am that we get the opportunity to love them.

Your Blogger,

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