A Worthy Life

The subject of ‘disability theology’ came up a couple days ago in a FB group I’m in.

I had not heard of that specific category of theology.

I’ve done lots of thinking and reading on suffering, all within the category of theodicy—that space where we defend or reject God’s role in the evil that plagues the human condition or contributes to suffering.

I’ve often thought of writing my sister’s story, a life of nearly 70 years spent in a wheelchair, which of course, is woven into my own story and the many who know and care for her.

I’ve hesitated because it is a journey back into darkness, into a pit of isolation and despair. Yet it is also a remarkable journey of hope, perseverance, and a yearning for restoration and healing for both of us.

While researching this topic of disability, I came across these words: “disability has theological power,” and immediately realized her story, my story, the story of disability, has value and needs to be shared. 1

Sunday afternoon, with church cancelled due to a snow storm, I rose early and listened again to one of my favorite songs, “Go Tell John,” by Keith Lancaster. I’ve written about this song here . Jesus comforts John in prison just before he is to be beheaded.

And, yes, John, your life was worthy, even when destined to die by the sword! And yes, Jesus comfortingly says, I am the One you prophesied about in the desert, and the one whom the world has longed for.

Here’s proof: the lame walk, the blind see, the poor hear my voice, and the deaf hear the good news—the Kingdom of God is at hand.

It moves me to tears every time I listen to it. And I often listen to it on repeat — just to let it soak into my soul.

Everywhere Jesus walked – his robe flowing behind him – seemed to bring healing to those nearby. An amazing picture of God’s reigning (a better term than ‘kingdom’) on earth, a bit of heaven on earth, as we often say.

I’ve always known her life is worthy– as one lame from birth.

But I realized right then and there – listening to that song on a cold, snowy morning in the quiet of our living room – that her life is more than worthy. Her story is a gift to the church.

We can learn much from it – but only if and when we take time to see those who are invisible in society.

Years ago I described our faith as a child-like theodicy. Hers has remained a child-like faith – strong and pure. Mine has bounced all over the place while yearning to make sense of her suffering and of the suffering that abounds in the world.

Perhaps that is what Jesus had in mind, when he said:

“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”

Luke 18:16-17

Image credit: Public domain from Wiki Art. Jacopo Bassano, Christ Healing the Lame Man, 1571

  1. Thomas E. Reynolds, Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality, (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2008), pg. 13 Kindle Version

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