My husband and I enjoy volunteering in the disability community. This week is one of our most anticipated events of the year: Skiin’ with the Galilean. Skiin’ with the Galilean is an annual event when we invite families with special needs to one of the local lakes to spend the day in a boat. We teach water skiing, wake-boarding, and provide tube rides. We also provide a catered meal before we play water games and share about Jesus Christ –the Galilean.
Families set their alarms to 10am on May 1st so they can register to be one of 100 people attending. In past years, I’ve had waiting lists over 200. Last year, 100 spots filled in under three minutes! This year was no different. It took a little longer, but the registration still filled in under ten. That said, I rarely have cancellations.
A few days ago, I received a cancellation from one of our registered families. Sick little girl was taken to the hospital with pneumonia. Mom hoped she would be well enough to attend our event, but Little Miss ended up in the intensive care unit.
After a handful of emails back and forth, she sent me pictures of her sweet daughter in the ICU. I recognized her little one from our Christmas event. She was a joy to watch as her eyes twinkled reflecting the Christmas lights.
Now, as I gaze at the pictures, I notice how fragile she looks lying in a hospital bed hooked to an oxygen machine. As I continue eyeing her tiny frame in those pictures on my screen, it dawns on me how fragile life really is. Not just for this sweet little one, but for all of us. And in that moment, I’m humbled and grateful for life and breath. I don’t hold back as I feel tears stinging my eyes. God sustains my health and well-being. I can do all I want to be well, but every breath I take is His breath in my lungs. Once again, I’m humbled as I say a prayer for this mom’s little girl.
Then another thought occurs to me, and I hesitate to say it. Our society,
does not readily embrace disability. At best, we “treat” it, hoping one day it will all together disappear, or at least assimilate to the “norm.” If that doesn’t work, we find places for this particular community to fit on the outer fringe of society. Not much has changed since Jesus Christ walked the earth. I can’t say that we’ve really evolved much in our thinking. Oh, technology has evolved. We take more preventative measures and precautions to prevent disabilities from the onset of giving birth. We make provisions for those with different needs. But do we really embrace those who are different? I wonder if society’s standards are an illusion of perfection. Are we afraid to see our weaknesses? Are we, as a society, afraid to need a God who is our strength in our weakness? As we strive for independence, health, and wholeness without our Creator, do we resist those with disabilities because it’s too easy to see what we’ve chosen to ignore in ourselves? All have needs. All have weaknesses we cannot overcome
As my husband and I live within this community of special abilities and needs, I often wonder if God has allowed disabilities in this world to give us a clearer glimpse of who we are as human beings who need Him. Although I’m healthy and well, I can’t help but see my reflection in my friend’s lives, whether they sit in a wheelchair or have Downs syndrome or autism. I even see a part of me in these pictures on my laptop screen. I’m not hooked up to oxygen as I lie in a hospital bed, but it’s God who sustains my every breath, regardless of what I do or don’t do to maintain my health. My life could end today as this little girl grows into grandmother-hood.
Interestingly enough, many of the strongest most inspiring people I know live with disabilities. My sons, Noah and Judah, remind me to embrace my weaknesses. Therein lies character. In some areas of life, my weaknesses are the best part of who I am becoming. If my struggles are opportunities for me to grow closer and know my Creator more intimately, may my life never become so easy that I forget who my Creator is. If I see Christ in special needs, then may I always find wholeness in the strength of His character. May I never be so complete without Him that I cannot be whole in my brokenness with Him.