Returning home from another retreat for families touched by disability (my 26th to be exact), I stood in worship at our Sunday service just two days later and I was overwhelmed as we sang about our God of love.
I realized in those moments that I had personally experienced more of God’s love than most people would in a life time because of the people that I have gotten to know whose lives are touched by disability.
In Luke 14:12-14, Jesus taught, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
I believe Jesus was teaching on this so that we would check our motives in all that we do. I believe that Jesus said to do these things for people who cannot repay you because that is what he had come to do. No one can ever repay Jesus for what He has done on the cross for us! Jesus also came as a servant and it is through serving that we get to know people’s needs, it builds relationship and we begin to see beyond the physical and into a person’s heart. You begin to see their value, you see their worth. You experience the love of Jesus Christ.
Even our country proclaims in its Declaration of Independence: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and that among those rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
It is a rare thing to find churches who are willing to treat equally, the needs of families and individuals touched by disability, providing them a place to worship, a place for fellowship and a place to utilize the spiritual gifts that God has given them. People with disabilities are not disqualified from the Declaration of Independence, nor are they disqualified from the promises of the Bible.
In Numbers 6:22-27, the Lord told Aaron and his sons to bless the Israelites by saying to them, “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious unto you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
We stood in church and sang, “I want to see your face, I want to touch you, I want to know you more.”
And I heard God say, “You have.” And with my eyes closed, I could see the faces of the people we have served and I wept. I could see the volunteer who gently wiped the face of an elderly gentleman who had had a stroke, caring for him as he ate his meals. I felt the arms of the woman with cerebral palsy, wrap ever so tightly around me as we said goodbyes, and I saw her tear stained cheeks, forever impressed in my memory. I saw the woman with 7 children in Peru, TWO of her children had Down Syndrome, calling to me as their bus pulled away, “Don’t forget us, I love you, please don’t forget us!” I felt Rebekah’s arms around me as I helped lift her out of her wheelchair. I could hear Kimo’s laughter as we sat, rolling on the floor. I could feel Alex’s fingers, entwined in my curls. I could hear Jenay, yelling my name from what seemed like a mile away.
I see God’s presence show up at these family retreats all across the world every time because people are being celebrated, they are valued. We put ourselves aside, we recognize each others needs, we see and acknowledge the person beyond the disability and God’s face shines down upon us, His love over flows to all of us. The families who come to these retreats would rather come to camp than Disneyland because they know that what they experience there is REAL! It’s the way God intended us to live, serving, honoring and loving one another.
God has been impressing upon my heart, that when the body of Christ recognizes, honors, and values those whose lives are touched by disability, a shift will take place throughout the world because of it. When the church begins honoring these individuals, the world will too. Lives will be saved, babies diagnosed with a disability will be valued instead of aborted and the body of Christ will be blessed. God’s face will shine upon us and we will experience – His extravagant love.