I want a storyline finish for those who are oppressed.
In college I took a class on Disability Studies and we got to look into people’s perceptions of disability in the media. As we watched many films depicting disability we found that most of these films either portrayed the “disabled character” as the hero by way of overcoming their physical or intellectual challenges or as an object of pity. I would like to encourage you to do your own research and decide how society views disability based on perceptions in the media. The conclusion many of my classmates came to was that society (in general) likes to pay tribute to those who beat the odds. This is no profound statement.
As Americans we find our identity in our careers, not in who we are. Our value is reflected in our productivity levels. I would submit that we are consistently trying to earn our way into Heaven by proving our good deeds. However, Scripture tells us only His grace can cover our sins, and only Jesus’ death on the cross can restore us into right relationship with God. How does this understanding of grace tangibly play out in our perceptions of people with disabilities? I think that this is the point where we may need to ask ourselves if our worldviews are fully in alignment with His. I confess that even as a woman living with a disability and working in a disability ministry I sometimes place greater value on raising up women who are to overcome their disabilities.
In 1 Corinthians it says, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;” (1 Corinthians 1:27) Paul wrote that God told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a) The Beatitudes tell us in Mathew that God ascribes honor and value to the meek, those who mourn and the poor in spirit. There are multiple references throughout Scripture to the fact that in His Kingdom the “last will become first, and the first last.” He has mandated value and honor to those who are weak.
One late night in my college dorm room I had a friend who expressed her utter awe at the fact that she could go on living, not moving a single muscle, not doing one good deed even, and God would love her just exactly the same as if she were a woman like Mother Theresa. My friend was ascribing equal value to one who may be considered extremely productive and one who is not. I remember listening to her revelation and thinking, “That’s great…. But seriously, what kind of lame-o would just sit around all the time anyway?” I missed the point.
Disability, when we are truly honest with ourselves, blatantly causes us to evaluate what we ascribe to as valuable: productivity or content. Tonight I gained a new perspective on the story of Noah’s ark. I listened to a man named Jamie Trussell from the Downline Discipleship Ministry discuss the fact that “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8) God decided to solely spare him and his family while wiping out the rest of humanity. So Noah builds a huge boat and stuffs it with two of every creature on earth…..That’s kind of a big deal! Jamie pointed out the fact that God never commends Noah for his fine workmanship, but instead commends him for his character.
This is it.
Naturally I want each of our women with a disability to play the role of the heroine. I want them to stick it to society, prove any negative stereotypes wrong, overcome challenges linked to disability, and rise up as a leader in their community. These things are happening, and will continue to happen by God’s grace! Then I think about one of our women named Patricia who cannot even sit up in a wheelchair and does not leave her house. Let us worship fervently as Patricia rests in the knowledge of who she is in Christ just as we cheer for the recent track star, Oscar Pistorius who was the first double-leg amputee to compete in the Olympic games. These are two individuals with severe challenges living out the purposes God created them for. Let us in our minds make sure to contextualize God’s grace to fit into the realm of disability and take a moment to celebrate the works of God displayed in them both.
The vision God has given the Women of Hope International team is to watch God be glorified as women with disabilities are restored dignity, purpose and hope. In many cases this vision will be played out as women learn how to be stewards of the gifts God has inherently given them and develop new gifts they didn’t know they had. In many cases these women will leave their lives of begging and prostitution and become agents of change in their communities. However, let us not elevate giftedness or productivity above godliness. As we run the race let us all rest in His upside-down economy and admit that we are all utterly crippled before our Savior.