A person with disabilities. that I knew well is facing neglect that crosses the line into abuse. I’m honoring their wish to stay out of it…but it’s harder when it’s someone that you know.
There was a wonderfully detailed post here
About disability and theology.
It’s got a lot of scholarly, theological backup, which I applaud.
It also acknowledges the social model of disability, which I applaud.
But it makes me twitchy.
I don’t know why, but it just does.
I don’t want to fight against it, or cheer it on…It’s a little too deep in intellectual heft for me to do that right now…my brain cells are presently fairly mushy….
I could be misinterpreting some of it, but I’m getting the vibe of it’s our differences *directly* related to our impairments that make us theologically significant…and that idea makes me twitch, because, well, my radio for speaking with God has sent me no such transmission.
But I do want to respond to this as a layperson with a disability who has been involved in many denominations in her lifetime. I’ve been a mainline Protestant (Methodist, Presbyterian), been involved with, and lived by the strictures of the American Evangelical Protestant churches, been an agnostic and skeptic for great periods, and am now what I consider to be a fairly involved Catholic. This post is meant as my own present belief, my own present spiritual truth
First, I know this will sound disrespectful to those of charismatic/Pentecostal faiths, and many of my fellow Catholics who see direct healing as something to seek out in healing services, prayer or pilgrimages to various shrines. Can’t help that. As CS Lewis said, no one is ever told any story but their own.
Here’s my first creepy absolutist statement that will bother some believers:
Charismatic believers: If someone asks you not to pray over them for physical healing, refuses your request to do so, or is visibly uncomfortable with you doing so, LAY OFF. God told me to tell you that that’s not how He wants it done.
[I used to hate the implied arrogance of that “God told me to tell you,” thing, the masking of unasked for advice from a very human person with a little God-frosting attached to it when used against me, but I gave myself a pass this one time. ]
1. I am now, at present, a believer. I believe that God exists.
2. I also believe that direct miraculous, magical looking healing can take place from time to time…but that the only healing humans can do themselves is the rest-and-get-better for the mild stuff, and the medical, scientific sort for the heavy lifting. The sudden sort, seems to me, is the province and ability of God alone.
(disagreement with these is cheerfully welcome. I talk to everybody, and impose on none.)
I know of many persons with illnesses and disabilities who take great time, either praying and asking for direct healing, or sitting around being pissed off at God as a kind of permanent rage state, because theyr have not been healed by God, and they believe He ought to have done it.
Here’s the part that feels really non-theological: Both the rage and the pining after miracles, seem to me to be a waste of one’s life’s work, the path that God put you on in the first place.
If God chooses, he can and will handle healing someone. God’s timeline, however, is often quite out of whack with human time.
I feel incredibly strongly that everybody has a talent in this world that is uniquely their own, able or disabled…separate from the impairment…maybe caused by parts of it but separate from it. It may be harder to find, tougher to utilize or pursue if one has an impairment…but it’s out there….
It could be a very simple talent, like making others smile, or a complex talent that reaches the level of employable skillset. You don’t need to be able to move or work or speak like an able bodied person to have a talent.
If you’re a person of faith, you may perceive that such talents are given to you by God…
When I’ve listened for God’s advice, as well as sometimes actively prayed about this question, the message I’ve gotten is to actively use that talent as much as I can.
Here’s my second creepy theological statement.
If you spend more time pining or raging for and about your own healing, instead of using the tool that God put in your hands, you aren’t spending that time doing the things God meant for you to do, simple or complex, short or long
And here’s my y third creepy seems-to-run-counter-to-much-theology statement.
Can persons with disabilities please not buy into the idea that us and our difference, or pain or illness, are out there to make us saints, martyrs, or little icons to inspire others to live a better life? Ewwww.
I know that there are many many stories, both biblical and otherwise (saints martyrs etc), where this is the role that even Jesus says ought to be used…but I think that revelation is completed by our works or talents…not by the impairment itself. I always see those healing stories through the prism of “It’s God not just *saying* He can do anything, but *doing* it, more about some statement of omnipotence than the healing itself.)
If charity does sometimes get extended to us…at a point of need, we can be grateful….sometimes the able need that too, so a church serving a member with a disability is not a singled out task but a part of the broader spectrum of the church’s function, to minister to people who come with specific needs.
Well, then, the irritated reader says, what *do* we pray for, if not healing. When things get really bad, when our impairments threaten to overwhelm us, with either societal barriers, medical problems, massive chronic pain, any number of things that can hit us as a direct result of our impairments.
When I’ve actually taken the time to sit down and ask for the strength to endure, I get it. I’m human, I whine, but that idea of asking for the strength to endure something seems to be always in stock, stacked up and ready to go.
It’s not one of those things where we are forced to say, “Well, there are some things we were not meant to know…” or, the anguished “Why,” that I’ve had to replace with a stiff, “I know there’s a point to all this….but I can’t discern it. It’s all darkness to me, but I know there’s a blueprint somewhere…”
Endurance seems to have all the constancy in availability that physical healing does not.
I’ve also had some success running a bit of a self diagnostic…”What’s really crying out here? is it your body, your mind or your soul that’s looking for healing?
All of that said:
There is some actual evidence (studies have been done.) that when you pray for someone else to be healed, in whole or in part, benefit *does* redound to them, sometimes in nearly complete ways.
There are always stories of doctor’s shaking their heads as some massive cancer that had no business leaving the building at all, is no longer present in diagnostic scans etc.
Hmmm. The *direction* and intent of the prayer seems to matter a bit.
I think this type of prayer can bring great comfort in the worst of the worst situations, ICU hospitalizations etc… to the person praying, and release for the person prayed for, when the physical pain is at hideous extremes near the end of life, or after some huge illness or injury:
Well, okay…read the first article because it really is deep and interesting, even if it makes me twitchy.
Here endeth the sermon.
So, it’s been twenty years today since my spouse passed away…and I’ve been trying to think about what to talk about…no worries folks this isn’t going to be some grief stricken rant. Done those.
A good friend of ours said that a large part of our marriage was about sacrifice, and he’s right in a way given how we struggled through Cerebral Palsy and Hemophilia and AIDS and cancer….and tried to back each other up…emphasis on ‘tried’ because we were dragged into that role and therefore imperfect at it.
But there were a couple of other important things our marriage was about…one that I pushed for and one that he exemplified.
His was joy. Joy in the sense of ‘joie de vivre,’ just running around finding things to be enthusiastic about and jumping in with both feet. It was the clear unsullied interest of someone young.
I’m a brooder and a worrier and my corner of the world always has darker colors to it, so he was a good balance to me in that sense. I needed somebody to drag me out of the house, put me in the car and just go somewhere, to clear the cobwebs of problems out of my head.
It’s also almost always a good project to learn someone else’s hobbies. He had plenty, so I learned some of them. Maybe a hobby you didn’t think much of when you first heard about it.
[for example: “Indoor Soccer?” “What in the hell is THAT?”]
But when you decide that it will be more bearable if you actually know what’s going on, and take the trouble to learn…there are parts of it that can be fun…and doing something together should be something both bring a good mood to…pouting about it pulls you apart instead. So I saw something he was joyful over and tried joining in.
As for my contribution:
Even before I re-met him, high school and college were one long list of people I would fall for…and who would push me away.
“I like you…but not in that way.” Variations on that theme. One guy even said, “When I first saw you I was repulsed, but you’re actually kind of cool.” Charming. People with disabilities aren’t generally viewed as datable. (Although I think ‘Push Girls’ might be on the way to changing that.’) I made a lot of great friends, but I knew I deserved a relationship. That was far far back in my head…but definitely in there.
When I got involved with him, we had a great connection, and if anything came out of that at all it’s that: Pursuing intimacy is for the different, too.
My friends might dispute this, but honestly there was something else important going on about that quest for intimacy, not just our hormones on overload…
I had been given messages by society that I would never have such a thing, but his situation would prove to be worse.
Except for his mom and sisters, people became afraid to touch him, to be near him. Mentally they would stand with him while physically their body language was screaming that they wanted to be anywhere but next to him. Do anything but shake his hand. Give him a kind word, but not a hug.
I made a conscious decision that he was not going to be someone that was never touched. Never held. I remember kissing him goodbye in the hospital once, on his forehead, that happened to be sweating, and watching his best friend visibly draw back in fear at what I had done.
It’s ok if intimacy is a goal to strive for. Everyone’s life has several dimensions. Why should one automatically be excluded because a body or method of movement is different?
I live for the day when those with disabilities, get dates have relationships, get married — with relatively little social exclusion or drama and NO ONE says anything disparaging about it. We’ve made progress in twenty years, and so I have hope.
Joy, intimacy,hope, and unfortunately, sacrifice.
If that’s what our life together was here for, then well, that ain’t all bad.