I was giving my new buddy Daniel (see Ugly Dancing here) a ride home from church in my jeep and I asked him about his story. He seemed uncertain what I meant and did not respond, so I asked some specific questions about his background and he briefly answered each question. I was trying to work up the courage to ask him about his disabilities. I do not have any experience with special needs people and it may not be appropriate to ask them, but I wanted to know what kind of disability he had. With the wind blowing on us from the topless jeep I cautiously asked him what his disability was. He stared down at the floor, not answering-I was afraid I had hurt him. Then the unexpected happened. He looked up, stared right in my face, and bluntly asked “so what are your disabilities?” I nearly ran off the road! I felt like I had been punched in the gut and was trying to get my breath.
What are my disabilities? I had never been asked that, I had never considered that I might have disabilities. Without thinking the answer that came out of my mouth completely surprised me, but seemed to satisfy Daniel. “I am sure I have lots of disabilities”. He moved on to a far more important question, “what do you think about those high gas prices?”
I cannot get his question-and how the tables were turned on me-out of my mind. I went from being the pastor with all the wisdom to being the counselee! I am far more comfortable in the roll of the teacher or counselor than I am sitting in the hot seat with the light shining on me. What are my disabilities! Did he just spin this back on me? Was he as certain of my disabilities as I was of his? Did he just feel sorry for me for not being more like him? Could this be God using a very simple man with a very high pitched voice to speak to me?
The question, “What are your disabilities?” makes the assumption you have already judged them as being disabled-leaving the only option-for someone to acknowledge them. It is much like asking someone if they have stopped beating their wife. I realize now I could have asked, “Daniel do you have any disabilities?” He may be completely unaware of being different or he may think everyone else is weird and he is normal. More likely though, he just accepts others as they are without trying to diagnose and label them, hoping others will do the same to him. He reminds me of one of my favorite movie characters, Forest Gump. I have always felt Forest is a great example of a childlike Christ follower. Forest would say “I may be a simple man, but I know what love is.” We all need that kind of disability!
What are my disabilities? I have come to discover that one of my greatest disabilities is not thinking I have any. It is so easy to see the deficiencies and flaws in others, but mine all seem so acceptable. It is like trying to smell your own breath (which is nearly impossible). It requires an honest friend, a Daniel, to lovingly open our eyes. Even the Apostle Paul celebrated the fact of having a “thorn in the flesh”, a disability that gave him the awareness of desperately needing God’s grace. (2Cor. 12:7-10) When we are strong, without apparent disabilities, we live in a prideful self-confidence that leaves no room for God in our lives. When we are weak and aware of it, we know we must depend of His grace, which invites God into our lives. (I call this the Power of Ugly)
Jesus warned us to first take care of the large wood beam in our eyes before we attempt to help a friend take a small speck of dust out of their eye. (Mat.7:3-5) It would be a painful experience to have a two-by-four sticking out of our heads, beating the person we are attempting to help with their problems. In fact, Jesus describes this as hypocritical and warns us to get the beam out of our eye first before we attempt to help another with their disabilities. Looking into the mirror is far more challenging than picking the weakness out in others. I am sure the Lord would have been far more pleased if I first told Daniel some of my weaknesses and disabilities before assaulting him with my beam.
Far too many Christians have the reputation of judging others and pointing out the evils in the world around us, blinded to their own sins. They are much like a person walking through a hospital shouting at people telling them they are all sick! We must learn to be like Dr. Jesus who “came to heal those who were sick”. (Mark 2:17) In fact, Jesus has nothing to offer those who have no disabilities-it is only the broken, the sinful, the weak, the lost, and the nobodies that He came to save. There is not a more difficult group of people to reach than those who feel they are good people. Rarely do people seek out a doctor when they feel healthy; no it is the sick that look for a healer. The only hope for those who are blinded to their need for healing is an “Epiphany of Weakness”. It is a gift to have our eyes opened to our true condition, revealing how desperately disabled we are. Only when we understand how sick we are will we seek for Doctor Jesus, who alone has the cure.
When I dropped Daniel off at his apartment, he got out, walking fast, as usual with his head down and he said “thank you for being my friend”. With tears in my eyes, I choked out the words, “No, thank you for being my friend”. I need him far more than he needs me! “God chose the weak things of this world to shame the strong”. (1 Cor. 1:27)
So what are your disabilities?
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