Tag: disability theology

Gathering

Gathering

by Liz Carter

‘As we are gathered, Jesus is here…’ So goes a (slightly dated) worship song. It’s all about the people joining together, the congregation united in worship, the sense of harmony. The gathering.

But what if we can’t gather? What if the very word ‘gathering’ sends us into a great sadness, because the physical act of gathering with others is impossible for us?

I’ve lived with a long-term lung condition all of my life. Over the years, it’s progressed, caging me in further and further, robbing me of my career and those dreams of youth; dreams of travel and far-flung skies and running on lonely beaches, the wind in my hair. Some days now, I’d be lucky to manage a few steps before I collapse on the sand, spent and breathless. I live within four walls for weeks at a time – sometimes, even, for months, when infections have hit me particularly hard. On days like these I can barely gather myself, let alone with others. I cannot gather up my clothing or my home or my thoughts, and when visitors come my desperate thoughts remain unsaid in my pain-soaked exhaustion.

In the last year I’ve been very ill. I’ve been better over the past couple of months, but there were weeks and months on end when I didn’t make it to church at all. I didn’t gather together with others for worship. Does that mean Jesus wasn’t there? Does Jesus only show up with the gathered ones, the ones who can make it, the ones who are healthy?

Over the years, I’ve learned something about what gathering means, and what it means to come together to share life and to pray and praise. I’ve discovered that gathering goes far deeper than the physical presence of a few folk in someone’s front room.

The book of Revelation talks about a great multitude from every nation, every tribe, every tongue, every people, gathered together around the throne. They worship together all day and all night, clad in white and digging into the depths of who God is. I recently attended a seminar about worship, and the speaker introduced the idea that when we worship we join in with this song around the throne, this endless song which never ends. As well as that, we join together across cultures and nations, class and race divides, one voice around the world as we join together in the song which is always sung. This great harmony which climbs walls of hatred and oppression and shatters the bondage of poverty and injustice. Walls crumble as we join hands across our boundaries and barriers, and give glory to the God we love. 

Here is a real gathering. A gathering of millions upon millions, myriads upon myriads, of those gone before, those living in the groaning pain of the now, those waiting in agony and in hope. We can all join in the gathering, the weak and the strong, the lesser and the greater, those who have nothing at all. Because God cannot be defined by boxes of words or concepts, and because God longs to pour fullness of life on all of us, whoever and wherever we are – so certainly cannot be restricted to church meetings and festivals.

I’m so grateful that God is bigger than I know.

I’ve discovered something else about gathering, too, and it’s something I am so thankful for. I remember a time when I was in hospital with very painful and serious double pneumonia, and it was in a city far from where I lived. It was a lonely time as well as agonising; hours were struggled through and wrestled with without let-up and with few visitors. I felt un-gathered, with nothing to ground me or bring me into company with others. I wasn’t even allowed to leave my room, for fear of cross-infection, so I remained in my pen, walled in by my own body.

It was a time social media was taking off. I’d recently joined Facebook, and hadn’t realised the effect it would have on my life, in those early days of poking people and playing silly games with farms and fishes. In this time, I began to understand the power of online gathering, as people from across the world joined with me in my suffering, stood with me and prayed with me, joined hands with me and worshipped with me. Since then, I’ve gathered hundreds of times online with hundreds of people in hundreds of situations, and Jesus has been there with us, despite our presence being only of the cyber type. That’s why I’m so grateful for the work of YouBelong and other organisations that seek to gather people online, to build up and to encourage and equip people who perhaps wouldn’t be able to gather elsewhere.

So I gathered with the world and joined in the song, and I gathered with the online people and joined in with care and justice and peace and mercy and holiness. Somehow, in my un-gathered cage, I learned to gather more profoundly, and found God at the very root of it all, present by the Spirit in gatherings un-gathered and gathered, present with one and two and a million, gathering up my own pain in tender arms of love and rivers of joy.

Liz Carter is an author and blogger who likes to write about life in all its messy, painful, joyous reality. She’s never known life without pain and sickness. She likes Cadbury’s and turquoise and lives in Shropshire, UK with her husband, a church leader, and two crazy teens.

Liz is the author of Catching Contentment: How to be Holy Satisfied, which was published by IVP in November 2018. This book digs into the lived experience of a life in pain, and what contentment could possibly mean in difficult circumstances.

The dance of love

The dance of love

With Trinity Sunday just past, I came across a word which I first saw and learnt about in my second year of university – Perichoresis. It’s a rather long word but I like it and if you don’t know what it means at the moment, I hope that by the end of this blog post, you will not only understand the definition but also grow to like the word and what it stands for.

My favourite definition of the word comes from Jonathan Marlowe. It’s long but well worth reading:

‘The theologians in the early church tried to describe this wonderful reality that we call Trinity. If any of you have ever been to a Greek wedding, you may have seen their distinctive way of dancing . . . It’s called perichoresis. There are not two dancers, but at least three. They start to go in circles, weaving in and out in this very beautiful pattern of motion. They start to go faster and faster and faster, all the while staying in perfect rhythm and in sync with each other. Eventually, they are dancing so quickly (yet so effortlessly) that as you look at them, it just becomes a blur. Their individual identities are part of a larger dance. The early church fathers and mothers looked at that dance (perichoresis) and said, “That’s what the Trinity is like.” It’s a harmonious set of relationship in which there is mutual giving and receiving. This relationship is called love, and it’s what the Trinity is all about. The perichoresis is the dance of love.’

The dance of love. How beautiful a vision that creates inside my mind. The Bishop of Huntingdon, Dr. Thomson, spent a lot of his life working with people with disabilities and he was quoted in the ChurchTimes in August 2018 ( https://www.churchtimes.co.uk/articles/2018/17-august/features/features/once-we-connect-on-to-something-that-s-it ) saying of the connection between the Church and perichoresis, “It’s the dance of the Trinity, in which each person of the Trinity is going round the other one, so that the actual DNA of God is always to be in community. It’s a lovely model of the Church. I know we have a history of viewing people with differences in a very negative way, and feeling threatened by them. It’s good for us to be paving the way for building a God-shaped community here.”

The shape of the Trinity, the group dancing together, in time and to the same beat, yet with different styles, shapes and appearances, is so relevant and applicable to the Church. We also should be dancing together, completely in unity, but different, yet not being held back by those differences but instead enabling one another to use those differences to improve the dance and not judging others because their dance style is different to our own.

So as we reflect on Trinity Sunday, and the power of each element, unique yet also working as one Triune God, let us not forget how this metaphor is applicable to our own lives and that of the Church as a whole. May we work with one another, including those who are different to ourselves in mind, body or spirit, to move as one in the dance of love.

Praying when it is physically and spiritually challenging

Praying when it is physically and spiritually challenging

As Christians, we are taught to pray. When we are young, we might be taught a simple rhyming prayer to say before eating or before going to bed and as we get older, the style of our prayers changes as we do. First the Lord’s prayer then something deeper, longer and more frequent but nevertheless, we pray. We do it not just because the bible tells us to, but because it is how we communicate with God.

When I was in primary school, I used to pray all the time – a constant, ongoing conversation with God, thanking Him for my food, asking for protection from bullies or help with homework or asking for forgiveness when I hurt someone. Then I grew up into adulthood and became too busy to pray and lost my connection with God. Everything was going good, why did I need to? Then things started going very much downhill within my family, church, work and health but I had lost my relationship with God and forgotten how to pray. In the same way that friends have drifted away whilst I have spent my days alone inside the house due to chronic illness, when I drift away from God and don’t talk to Him, I lose that closeness we once had when I was praying to Him everyday.

So prayer is important but how do we keep praying when barriers appear? Even before I became unwell, I would struggle sometimes to pray in the evenings or mornings because I was too tired, I would struggle to pray at work because my mind was too distracted by other things to think about listening or talking to God and I even struggled when I was by myself on a day off as I would find other things I thought I should or needed to get done.

I would have to say that at this point in my life, prayer is difficult. I am always tired, busy or asleep so never feel that I am able to focus solely on God so instead of trying and failing, I often don’t start in the first place. This is the first big error. Don’t let your mind slipping away to other things put you off. We are human, it happens and God knows – He made us this way, just how He wanted us, and knows how our minds work. When we become distracted, all we need to do is write that thing down to remove it from our minds if it is important to remember. If not, allow your mind to wander there, and then come back to God. He is loving and patient and will wait for us. Although we are not of the world, we are still in and therefore, affected by it so we cannot expect to be perfect before God.

I know some of you might be thinking, ‘That’s great for people who can pray but struggle sometimes, but what about me? I can’t even bring myself to pray in the first place!’. Don’t worry, you are not alone. I have experienced this and still do so at times, and I am sure many others can also relate. There are many reasons for feeling this way and each has a different method of starting to change:

  1. Distance
  2. Fear
  3. Pressure

Firstly, distance. Like I have already said, when we get distracted long term, we move away from God. God never moves away from us, but we can, and do, move away from God. Sometimes that is intentional but I have found that it is more common for me to suddenly find myself away from God without realising it has happened. This can happen when we get upset or angry at God or when we start to lose faith which brings us on to point 2 – fear.

This is an experience I can relate to in a big way. I struggle to pray due to being fearful. Not fearful of God or of others but that God won’t answer my prayer and then I will lose my faith which is something I fear. I love God. I was raised in a Christian family and have always been open about my faith, no matter the outcome, but I have never needed God to respond to my prayer as much as when I am crying out in pain or starvation, or extreme fatigue or frustration at my situation. I have prayed many times for healing, as have my family and friends from church, yet I have not been healed in the way I wanted and that has caused me to lose faith in God’s being, His abilities or even whether He really loves me.

Finally, pressure. As someone raised in a Christian family, there is pressure to pray about everything. Not because my parents stand beside me with a whip, but because it is a discipline, in exactly the same way as tidying your room or brushing your teeth. This is great and I am really happy my parents have raised me this way, but it can lose it’s ‘magic’ so to speak. Praying because you are told to rather than because you want to can crate a forced conversation and build a fake relationship with God. It’s like talking to a brick wall – pointless.

So how can we overcome each of these problems in our prayer life?

  1. if it is a physical barrier (i.e. you are tired, in pain or distracted), remember we are weak and God knows that. But also remember a prayer does not need to be complicated or long. If you are about to go to bed but feel too tired to pray simply thank God for the day and ask for protection for tomorrow. Easy. God does not see these prayers as lesser, in fact, we are even told that God prefers the prayers of His people who pray to Him from a human point of view than the prayers of someone who stands out on street corners so everyone can see and hear them saying their clever, ‘proper’ language prayers that go on and on. God wants to hear from you, however, whenever, wherever you can but He doesn’t want to pressurise you into feeling bad for not being able to do so.
  2. When it comes to spiritual barriers, it is always us rather than God that needs to change. That doesn’t mean we have to do it alone because He wants to walk alongside us in everything, but it is in our control if, or how, we talk to Him. If you haven’t spoken to a friend in a long time, and they haven’t tried to communicate with you, you can either reach out to them again or ignore them forever and risk never speaking to your best friend ever again. It’s the same with God. We can either ignore Him completely or get ‘back in touch’ and pray. It might feel strange initially but if you keep praying, even if it doesn’t feel right, it won’t be long before it feels natural again and you can hear from God too.
  3. Similarly, when it comes to feeling pressured to pray, forget the pressures you have had in the past. Move away from routine and towards relationship by praying to God when you want to talk to someone. Maybe you want to ask Him for something, maybe you want to thank Him, or maybe you just want to tell Him about your plans for the day, some music you are loving or food you are enjoying eating. Make prayer relational again and it won’t feel so forced anymore.
  4. As fear is something I experience personally, I wanted to do some research so had a look at various resources and I have been able to find literature on praying about being fearful, not about fear related to prayer so I am going to have to talk from my own experiences. In some ways, I think this is very similar to feeling distant – you just have to pray. I was at Spring Harvest a few weeks back and had the pleasure of hearing Pete Grieg (founder of the 24/7 prayer movement) talking about prayer and one thing he said stood out to me over everything else (paraphrased as I cannot remember the exact wording) – ‘Don’t pray to God because He answered your prayer the way you wanted, but pray to God because He is faithful so we know that even when we don’t hear His answer or see Him act in the way we wanted, He is responding/ acting just in His time and way. Our faithful God.’ Just because God doesn’t seem to answering you once doesn’t mean He isn’t or won’t next time. He is listening and will respond in His time and in His way – the best way for you as His child. He knows the situation and He knows you and what is best for you. So we must keep praying, knowing our God is listening and is faithful and will respond and act and therefore, we should not fear His silence for He won’t always be that way and perhaps, He is already doing something. It’s just too big or incomprehensible for the human mind to imagine. God is good ALL the time!

Facing shame and guilt due to chronic illness

Facing shame and guilt due to chronic illness

In her book, ‘Illness as Metaphor’, Susan Sontag explains that within many cultures, illness is believed to be the result of something a person has or hasn’t done. Perhaps you’re ill because you ate too much bacon, drank too much wine, did too little or too much exercise, didn’t get enough sleep, put yourself into too many stressful situations, dwelt on a situation too long or even sinned (did something wrong in God’s eyes) etc. etc. 

I know my health problems are not my fault, in fact we are pretty sure that it is likely the result of my genes, but sometimes I still wonder if I should have exercised more or eaten healthier or done more meditation even though I know this is unlikely to make any difference at all. When I think about what I could or should have done differently, I feel guilty as if I could have changed the past, I wouldn’t be suffering but nor would I be making life harder for those around me. 

My parents suffered when I couldn’t eat and was very weak and when I experience high levels of pain because there is nothing they can do to help me. They suffer financially because I cannot work enough hours to earn enough money to sustain myself so are looking after me at home too. There relationship may even suffer because I take up their time and energy so they have less left for each other. I am almost certain they would not want me to think like that but I feel guilty for what I have taken from my family and those around me who I care most about. 

Another avenue that produces shame and guilt is being vulnerable and honest. When I am vulnerable and honest with people, I will tell them when I am in too much pain to continue walking or too tired to stay up and socialise or that I need to have something different on the menu due to dietary requirements or I need to have extra cushions on my bed, a downstairs room in a hotel to reduce energy usage. In real life, it means saying no to baby-sitting because I am too tired or in too much pain to help out despite having done nothing else all day, leaving someone who has done 8 hours work, cleaned and tidied, walked the dogs and already baby-sat yesterday to do it again today. That leaves me feeling very guilty but there is nothing I can do. My body is out of my control. 

Shame is the result of societal norms being broken. If the shame came as a result of wearing bright pink clothes to work in an office where everyone else wears suits, the person may be embarrassed but they can wear a suit to work the next day and the shame will slowly disappear. When the shame happens as the result of something beyond our control, the only we can do is hide it the best we can. For me, that looks like not using the wheelchair when out in public, eating foods that my friends eat even if they hurt so as to not appear ‘fussy’ and provoke questions and doing all I can to keep up with those around me and then going up to my room to sleep and take medications or cry until the pain subsides or I fall asleep. 

As a Christian, I fear shame every time I open up to someone new about my health issues because society says illness is our fault (see above) and many Christians often say that if you are not ‘healed’ it is because you don’t have enough faith/ don’t pray enough. When I have done all I can and prayed everyday for many years, had prayer evenings dedicated to my healing, this not only leaves me feeling upset and frustrated but shamed because I can’t do anything to change those people’s views of me and my condition. 

However, we know that God does not want us to experience guilt and shame. They are not heavenly emotions and do not belong in God’s people. Often, guilt and shame are our own fault in which case, the bible tells us we need to ask for forgiveness but this is different because chronic illness and disability are not our own fault (generally). Even the disciples, who were only out to do good by sharing the good news of Jesus with those around them, experienced shame but instead of letting it overwhelm them, they turned it on it’s head -“rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). It might not seem like it, but we can use the shame we feel for having disabilities or chronic illnesses and use them for good by using them for His name and glory and for the extending of His Kingdom.

It is likely this will not keep the guilt and shame away completely but we can ask God to protect us and block the unfair attacks that are aimed at us. When we pray, He listens, and He will work in our guilt and shame and stop the devil/ accuser from hurting us through his lies. Overall, we must remember that even when we feel guilty because others are making us feel that way, God is not saying that to us. He loves us and cares for us and has not given up on you.

Palm Sunday – the revised version

Palm Sunday – the revised version

Here is my Palm Sunday 2019 experience, from the perspective of someone with chronic illness…

I walked into church, sat down and held my head. The music was loud, and every beat made it hurt more but taking medication for that now would mean less medication to be taken for potentially worse pains later and the side effects also needed to be considered as the fatigue was already bad and would be made by taking some pain relief. I was spaced out and dizzy and nauseous but I wanted so badly to be there. The start of Easter and my first chance to be back in church in many weeks.

After a few minutes, I decided I would need to take something to get me through the service but the medication takes a while to take affect so I continued to sit whilst I waited for the headache to fade. As I sat there and listened to the words of the songs being sung, tears filled my eyes. The people around me were fully immersed in worship and seemingly, whole-heartedly believing every word — ’cause when we see You, we find strength to face the day’. I didn’t feel strong at all. In fact I felt the complete opposite. I felt so weak. This sudden rush of emotions swept over me as I looked at people in their 70s and 80s stood up praising God with their voices, standing and raising their hands and yet here was I, a 26 year old woman, sat in a chair, lost in a crowd with my head in my hands, pain relief working its way through my system and wondering why I don’t feel God’s strength like they do. Just as I wiped the tears away, we were instructed that if we were able, to come to the front, collect a palm cross and follow the procession outside and around the church and back in again. This was just about too much for me as I watched the majority of the church collect a cross, follow the crowd and walk outside, singing and praising God. My first thought was, ‘Why God? Why can’t I do that? Why won’t you let me praise you like they do?!’ Then my mind went to the first Palm Sunday — Jesus entry into Jerusalem. I wonder what people like me did then?

The Triumphal Entry

(Mark 11:1–10)

11 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 Off they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. 5 And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

Additional revised verses: And those who could not see, could not hear and could not walk, sat at the road side, a great distant from the crowd and from Jesus, unaware of what was going on, unable to get too close and participate. They loved Jesus so much and knew He could do amazing things in their lives but those with able bodies blocked them from getting near enough or didn’t offer them a way to express their love for Him in a way that suited their needs.

Obviously, we don’t know what really happened on Palm Sunday for those people who were disabled or chronically ill but we do know from other passages in the bible that in Jesus’ time and society, lepers were outcast, the blind were forced to be beggars and the lame were considered useless as they could not earn money to provide for themselves or their families. Today should be different than it was 2000 years ago, and it is in many ways. We have laws that enforce a certain level of equality but there are certain things that mean that either have yet to be made better or simply cannot be accessible to every single person. But the Kingdom of God is.

With the big focus in the UK being on politics and specifically, Brexit, at the moment, this is particularly relevant. In Heaven, there are no nations, but one Kingdom, and one over-riding, almighty, powerful King — Jesus. We might not have the power to control our circumstances but Jesus does and that was my mistake at church. I thought that God had given up on me. I wanted to praise Him and be strong and stand with my church family to worship Him but when I found that I could not, I gave up and got angry at God for my situation.

We are told in Luke’s gospel that when the Pharisees asked the disciples to stop shouting their Hosannas and Hallelujahs to Jesus, He explained to them that if they didn’t shout out, the stones would. This tells us that there is a close connection between the natural world and redemption. Paul said the entire creation groans for redemption, and from the beginning we see how creation was twisted and thorns infested the ground because of sin and the same can be said of illness and suffering (although please do not misunderstand this as me saying your sickness or disability is due to your sin, but rather because we live in an imperfect, fallen world).

Whilst those around Him were praising Him, we read in verse 41 that Jesus, was crying! Jesus is probably the only person weeping in Jerusalem that day. Why does He weep when He is surrounded by a crowd that adores Him?

Jesus wept as He took in the faces of the crowds of people who were spiritually blind to the Son of God. God is with them but they don’t recognise Him so they crucify Him, thinking they have done right by God! Jesus weeps over lost souls, defeated lives, people in the chains of sin without hope.

Let us not let our ailments, problems, disappointments on earth affect where we spend eternity. We need to give our stony places to God and praise Him for who He is and not what He has (or has not) done in our lives. He may be the King, but He is also the suffering servant who understands our situation and one day, will free us of our pain and suffering. All we need to do until then is wait on Him and recognise Him as our strength giver, provider, healer, friend, Father, Saviour, King, and Holy Spirit who is always with us.

When we stop singing because we have lost hope, the only way we can go back is to start singing again. So even if you don’t feel like, start singing and shouting praises to God and He will show up! That’s a promise.

When physical disability affects faith…

When physical disability affects faith…

As a young child raised in a Christian home, I must have appeared very strangely to the children around me who saw me holding hands with no one (even though I was convinced it was Jesus next to me). They laughed at me when I gave my life to God and got baptised aged only 11 and told everyone that when I grew up, I wanted to be a missionary.

Although I was embarrassed then, looking back now I am jealous of the faith I had as a child. I still very much identify as a Christian but can also remember the moment when that deep seated, unwavering faith changed and yes, it happened after I became ill. I don’t remember actively swaying from it but I do know that the continual ups and downs of chronic illness including the pain, fatigue, loss of independence and friends and the recognition my life would, and could, never be the same again had a large part to play.

Over the next few months as I continued attending hospital appointments, trying new medications to control pain and help to ‘fix’ some of problems, I became very much aware of how far away God felt. Further than ever before. At this point in time, I was 2 years into one diagnosis, months out from surgery recovery and just stepping into new issues and diagnoses and I came across this quote and others like it:

‘Never let an Earthly circumstance disable you spiritually’ — Donald L. Hallstrom.

This was the kick up the backside that I needed and I started actively seeking God again, desiring strongly to be standing on a firm faith foundation again and get as close to God as I was before. For many months I prayed whenever I could, read my bible every day, talked to others about God and went to church every day but the spark just wouldn’t return. It still felt like God wasn’t in arms reach, let alone holding my hand like He had when I was 10. I had done everything so what was I missing?

For months I reflected on this, trying to work out what I had done wrong or what I needed to do to find God again and it wasn’t until I met with my life coach at uni that I found the answer — ‘You will never get that faith back and should stop looking to be back there again. You have changed and so has your faith and that’s okay.’ This was not the answer I was looking for or wanted and although I reluctantly took it on-board, I didn’t agree. It didn’t feel like it had changed, it felt like my faith had dwindled even though I had tried everything I could think of! It was when thinking about this that I realised yes, I had done everything in my power, but not in God’s. I had prayed to God because I thought I should and gone to church because it was the thing Christians did and I didn’t not want to but my heart wasn’t in it. I had let my Earthly hurts damage my relationship with God even though I had never blamed Him for any of it.

2 years and I am still working on building my faith by building my relationship with God up again and that’s okay. It isn’t a one step process, it will take time and there will be ups and downs but I am more aware of where God is in my priority list now and I take time out not to the things a good Christian would/ should do but to be with Him. Sometimes that means talking, sometimes that means listening. Sometimes it means shouting at God and telling Him how annoyed or angry or hurt I am due to my chronic illness but whatever it is, the connection is there. Not a religion but a faith.

In the last few weeks, we have been introduced to a new song at church called. ‘Raise a Hallelujah’ which was written in a place of desperation and belief after a church leader’s child became seriously unwell. There are a couple of lines in that song which really speak to me and hopefully, also to some of you:

‘I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies, I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief, I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody, I raise a hallelujah, Heaven comes to fight for me.’

I am not perfect by any means and still have periods of unbelief and fear and anger about my situation but this song reminds me that not only is it okay to pray to God in the unbelief but that EVEN when we are struggling to believe, God comes down to fight for us and for that, we should raise a hallelujah to Him in thanks and celebration for His power, goodness, grace and mercy.

Fearfully and wonderfully made

Fearfully and wonderfully made

Whilst at uni, I studied a small amount of ethics and part of that was the ethics of person-hood. When I started YouBelong, I knew I would have to deepen my ethical studies and over the last week, I have been reading about the ethics of person-hood from a disability perspective

From a very simple, biblical point of view, a human is someone who is made in God’s image by God and put on the earth to love Him and those around us. The argument put across by some people is that those of us who do not look or behave in the same way as the majority are not made in the image of God and therefore, are lesser in His sight and in the sight of others. But Scripture does not say However, that interpretation is insinuates that God is either wrong about us ALL being made in His image or that His image is flawed. But that brings us back to the question of ‘how do we know which of us is the purest form of God?’ The answer — no one and all of us. We are ALL made in the image of God. God is not a visual being so His definition of ‘image’ is likely to be different to our own. People with one less finger or an ostomy bag or a feeding tube, a PICC line, a prosthetic leg or arm, scars. There are no two people EXACTLY the same so how could we ever think that there are a group of people who are more like and deserving of God than the rest?

We are reminded in Psalm 139:13–16 that what the world views as ‘disability’ is not unknown by or shocking to God. “He saw our unformed bodies before we came to be.” He saw them AND celebrated them!

When we judge someone to not be in God’s image, we are saying that we are know what God ‘looks’ like and that we are more like that. How can we possibly know?! We cannot. To get a better idea of what ‘made in the image of God’ means we need to pull ourselves away from our human mind set and try to put ourselves into that of God’s — impossible indeed, but we can and should try.

Yes, Jesus healed many people with physical impairments and disabilities but we only read about a handful of people in the bible and not all people then or today were or will be ‘cured’ during their time on earth. Some of us will die young or struggle in the fallen world we live in for many years to come but that does not mean we lesser ‘in God’s eyes’. Although Jesus was perfect (and I am not arguing against that!), He rose from the dead miraculously but still had scars in His hands and side. I am pretty much 100% sure that if God wanted to make Jesus physically perfect, He could have done that, but I don’t believe that it was important to God for this to be done. He doesn’t look at our earthly ‘imperfections’, whether as a result of disability or injury or any other factors, and see His creation as flawed. We are made fearfully and wonderfully made, in God’s image, and part of His creation that He called ‘good.’