Jumbled Up Thoughts on the Gift and Grief of Disability

I’ve been wanting to say something about disability and abortion, in light of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but haven’t been able to put it together.

I think my pastor summed up the scattered thoughts I’ve had when he said something to the effect of, “When someone discovers their unborn child is disabled, it’s the one time abortion isn’t just a choice, it’s considered by many, the right thing to do.” That’s not a direct quote–it’s probably not even close–but I think it represents the gist.

Disabled kids are just plain de-valued, both in the womb and out of it. Most pro-choicers view abortion as a necessary tragedy. One helpless life is being sacrificed at the hands of a bigger, stronger person. It’s a horror and I think most people’s consciences are at least pricked by it. But many people view the abortion of a disabled child as a kindness to the person they’re killing. They think it’s better for the disabled person to die than live–that their quality of life wouldn’t be worth the effort.

I don’t have anything new or insightful to say about it except, it’s a big fat lie. Disabled people are made in God’s image. It’s not OK to kill disabled people in the womb or any where else. I call them people. Children. Babies. Human Beings. They are NOT vegetables. Not less important than your dog. Or a whale. Or the environment.

The truth is even cognitively impaired, non-responsive people without voluntary movements or the ability to communicate represent to us people of mystery at the very least. No one can pretend to know the extent of their understanding or love or responsiveness. Why? Because they can’t tell us. (Except this man can: Ghost Boy.)

Disabled people are a gift.

Having a son with an abnormal brain has only convinced me further that every human is made in God’s image. We have more to learn from the disabled among us than could be imagined–especially the cognitively disabled.

So, if disabled people are gift (and they are), if their lives represent something incredibly important for us as the body of Christ, why this nagging grief? Why not just celebration? That’s been knocking around in my head for a while.

I think it’s because we want for our children the same joys that we’ve experienced. We want them to know things in the way we know them. We want to protect them from sin and there is deep grief in realizing that sin has had it’s impact from the moment of conception, in cases of congenital disability. It’s sad. It should be sad. It is not easy or simple to show people the simultaneous sadness and celebration–not because it’s too hard to understand, but because it’s hard to live.

Disability brings with it little and big griefs and little and big joys. Even the happiest times can be tinged with some heartache. Our Titus is doing so well the last 3 months. This has been a time of celebration. And I want to declare, “We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming!” I want to do everything to make life as “normal” as possible. At times, it seems like I’m really succeeding. Until I find myself learning how to remove a button from my son’s stomach and replace it by inserting a deflated balloon through the stomach wall and then inflate it to hold the button secure. Something about that just isn’t normal, no matter how much we get used to it.

wpid-g-tube.jpg

I sat in Titus’s neurologist’s office last week, eager to be told that my baby boy is somehow better, that his problems are mostly gone, that the MRI’s findings were a bad dream. Instead he carefully reminded me, “He’s doing wonderfully, but you’ve got to remember that he does have something really significant going on in his brain. He’s not out of the woods.” Why does that sting so badly, if disability is a gift? Because it’s a loss, that’s why.

How can something be a loss and a gain? How can disabled people be so essential to our understanding of God and love and each other and also be a reminder of the incredible loss that sin has wrought? This truth has been helping me see it:

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:18-25 ESV)

And what if that truth meets with this incredible statement from Joseph after the sin of his brothers sent him on a journey of awful trial after awful trial:

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20 ESV)

Satan desires evil against us and our children in disability, but God is writing the story and He is planning it for glory. Subjected to futility in hope.

I have to remind myself that there is both gift and grief in disability. I keep falling off either side. Different people emphasize one over the other, and different seasons allow one to take center stage, but both are true, whether the gift feels huge and the grief tiny or vice versa. Making space in conversation and life for both will surely bless any family who’s walking through the happy heartbreak of disability.

Some dear friends have lost their baby to Trisomy 13 after nine months in the womb. Their story will tear you up and hold you together all at once. The only hope in life and death is our risen Savior.

Eleven-Year-Old Eliza

Eleven years ago today, on MLK Jr. Day, Eliza was born early in the morning after a fairly quick overnight labor. The cord was tight around her little neck, but her face was pink and perfect.

Here are the top ten of her tenth year:

Flower press

Flower press

1) You enjoy beauty and have an eye for it. Whether pressing flowers or making cards or drawing pictures or even cleaning your room, you have an eye for knowing when things look pleasing and right.

UGSC

UGSC

2) While you don’t have a passion for soccer, you do enjoy it and the perks that come with it, like spending time with the team, snack time and giggling with friends. I’m glad that you persevere, despite often being one of the smallest on the team.

Music camp

Music camp

3) Music is always a part of life for you and you got to try your hand at handbells at music camp. Bonus that you got to do it with this sweet friend. You two had more fun than should be allowed!

mini fall fairy gardens

mini fall fairy gardens

4) One of your biggest projects from being 10 was your garden. It was a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of joy, and thankfully, gave a lot of reward in food and sunflowers. Also, making these little fairy gardens was a great way to spend a warm fall afternoon.

big sister, baby brother

big sister, baby brother

5) It’s a special privilege and responsibility to be the oldest and it’s a blessing to see you in the role. As a ten year old, you’ve grown in love and care for your sibs–especially for this littlest brother. I love the kindness you spread in our family!

first day of school at school

first day of school at school

6) You’ve transitioned to three days a week at school beautifully and I’m so happy for you. You seem to be fully engaged in all the activities and learning that happens there and it’s great fun to watch. I still love having you home too.

Dancing in the Christmas program

Dancing in the Christmas program

7) Speaking of school, you joined the Hallelujah Dance team and got to perform this dance in costume, native to the Karen. You move gracefully and soak up all the details that go with the dance.

slip n slide

slip n slide

8) You definitely have a bent for adventure and laughter with a streak of the competitive spirit in there! You like to invent games and competitions and laugh your way through them.

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9) You’re never far from a good book. It can be a challenge to keep enough new material in front of you, but thankfully you like to re-read your favorite books over again. You even started a Bible club with your brother and sister, taking some time together in the very best book.

the North Shore

the North Shore

10) You have a love for God’s world and a taste for new experiences in it. We spend a lot of time going back to the favorite, well-worn places and the favorite well-worn people, together as a family. And you love that–I think we all love it best. But I see a desire for more in you–a desire to know more of God’s world, the different people and places. There is a desire to serve God and share him in places we’ve never been. My prayer is that God would grant this to you. That He would make a level path for your feet. That He would equip you to do every good work that He’s already prepared for you in advance. May you say with all your heart, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” (Psalm 16:5, 6) May you share that inheritance, the gift of God’s Son, with many people for the glory of God with joy.

It is such a happiness and pleasure to to call you daughter.

Seth Turns Nine!

Today is Seth’s 9th birthday. He is a blast to celebrate. And 9 is a great age.

Here are the top ten of his year 8!

Get set!

Get set!

1) You’re ready for action. Spirited and competitive, you were born ready! When you’re engaged in something the passion is never lacking. It sure makes life fun to be around a passionate kid.

big brother

big brother

2) You’re a caring big brother to your little brother. God has given you a lot of love for your brother and he’s given your brother a lot of love for you! You boys have a special bond.

UGSC

UGSC

3) You’re still loving soccer. You’ve had to learn in defeat and victory this year. At soccer camp, your team won the “World Cup,” but in the school rec league, your team lost every game but one. You’re unquenchably optimistic, even when all the chips are down. I’m just plain proud of you. wpid-sethfriends.jpg

4) As you grow, so do your friendships. God’s given such an incredible gift of people to you, Seth. You’re learning how to be a friend and I hope you discover more and more the virtue of loyalty and commitment.

slip n slide

slip n slide

5) You’re up for adventures and challenges, whether a crazy rigged slip n slide in the back yard or exploring new places along the North Shore or learning to ripstick or trying a new food, you’ll give most things the ol’ college try.

1st day of homeschool 2014

1st day of homeschool 2014

6) You continue to enjoy a good book. This year you (along with the rest of us) have been immersed and taken with Andrew Peterson’s The Wingfeather Saga. We read the series out loud as a family and you’ve re-read it a number of times since. The books are never far from your bed.

boy v. leaves

boy v. leaves

7) You’ve got ideas about what you want to do and you’re willing to do what it takes to make it happen. Like raking a lot of leaves and having piles to jump in and hide in and whatever else. I like your get-er done, action-minded way.

1st day of school at school

1st day of school at school

8) You went to school for the first time this year. We’re still homeschooling, but also at Christian school part-time. This has been a pretty big change and you’ve handled it well. Trustworthy and focused are two words I’d use to describe you in regard to school.

arms around your sibs

arms around your sibs

9) Your sisters love you Seth. They admire and enjoy you. This picture started out with you stretching your arms around all three of your sisters, then Titus was added in because, well, that’s where he belongs. And you were excited to get your arms around all your sibs.

our boy, never alone. :)

our boy, never alone. :)

10) Your heart has tenderized as an 8 year old Seth. This is an answer to prayer. God is working in you; He’s showing you His great love for you. You have gathered up a lot of knowledge about Him and about His Word. You know the old, old stories. You know His ancient ways, His law, and His sacrifice for sinners. Our prayer is that all your knowledge would flood your heart, so that you don’t just know that He was sacrificed for sinners, but that you know that He died for you. It’s started already, you’ve gotten your feet wet, and our prayer is that Christ would drench you in His love. Seth, you are appointed of God. Chosen and beloved.

We are altogether delighted to call you ours.

A Mom’s Made-Up Holiness at Christmas

For years this very vague version of Christmas has been floating around my mind. In this version, there is no chaos, no hurriedness, no cleaning, no messes, no loud noises, no shopping, no cooking, and especially no illnesses. It’s the “how it should-be”, or at least the “how I imagine it would be if I were much holier” version of Christmas. Unfortunately that doesn’t leave me with much, since those things fill up a pretty hefty part of life for the mother of many.

I think moms with littles can fall prey to wanting Christmas to be exactly what it isn’t and never was: simple and easy.

We think that surely Christmas is about quiet reflection and pondering silently with our coffee in one hand and Bible in the other. That real holiness lies in uninterrupted thoughts and long stretches of time gazing at the Jesse tree. That if we were further along in our sanctification we’d chuck this madness called Christmas and relinquish our duties to shop, prepare food, decorate and celebrate. Surely these extravagant feasts and gifts are a little over the top. We may even feel guilty for participating, as if by making snowman cookies with the kids we cheapen this holy time. We worry about too many presents and decide to do less next year.

Strip Christmas down to its essence, we think. Get rid of all this clutter. Christmas should be easier, we’re sure. But it hasn’t been that way from the beginning. From Mary hopping on a donkey and birthing in a stable, to terrified shepherds and shouting angels, to Herod’s horrible decree, to wise men  bringing their gifts and their worship under a giant star. Christmas is a spectacle.

Yet we want Christ to come to us and bring external peace to our circumstances at Christmas. We want him to make young needy children, less needy; to make time-consuming food preparations quick and hassle-free; to make relational tensions with family disappear; to make getting ready for guests, seamless; to make the trek to relatives’ houses unhurried and simple; to make all this work on our to-do list, not work.

But Christ came to rule in our hearts, not change our circumstances. He came to give us the kind of heart that looks at the to-do list and sees a hundred ways to bless her family and extend that blessing to hundreds more. Through his perfect life, death and resurrection, Christ came to undo our small-minded resentments at our work and replace them with willing hands and thankful hearts. Christ came to change our ideas of simplistic solo holiness and instead he put us in families.

What has God entrusted to you this Christmas? Is it the privilege of hosting family, friends, neighbors or co-workers? Then welcome people in Jesus’ name and show them how extravagant God’s love is. Is it traveling to someone else’s home? Then go willingly in Jesus’ name and be a blessing. Is it making Christmas memories for your immediate family? Then do good to them by celebrating Jesus in ways that minister to every age represented. Is it caring for sick people and missing out on everything you’d hoped for? Then do for the least of these as you would for Christ.

This Christmas Jesus wants from us the same thing He always wants: death to our selfish desires and made-up notions of holiness and absolute joy and loyalty to Him. He’s bought our faithfulness so that we can make the food, set the table and wrap the gifts in the strength He supplies. The Prince of Peace has come and He can make our love multiply a hundredfold in Jesus’ name, even, maybe especially, during the chaos of Christmastime.

Keep On Keepin’ On!

Titus is 16 months old today! He is growing so much. When he stretches out or stands with his own weight on his feet, it can shock me a bit–he really is the size of a 16 month old!

Back when he turned a year, we had (after months of trying unsuccessfully!) worked up to eating baby food twice a day. It was a feat! And the thing that got him interested in baby food was those dissolvable puffs. I would put a little baby food on the puff and he would try it. There were a few times he was even able to feed himself a puff.

wpid-titus16monthpuff.jpg

Well, since his big seizure in mid September, he hasn’t been able or willing to eat anything by mouth. We started trying solids again a while ago, but it’s been no dice. Until last week! And lo and behold, it was those same puffs for the win.

wpid-titus16monthpuff2.jpg

I’ve been putting one between his teeth and he really seems to enjoy crunching down on it. He’s tried a few times to get it in his mouth on his own, and even been successful once!

wpid-titus16monthpuff3.jpg

I’m so thankful that he’s beginning to re-take this step forward. How much of my life is learning and re-learning the same old things? I tend to think it must be annoying to the Lord to have to keep teaching me the same things over, but as I delight in my son’s relearning, I’m reminded that God loves me. He isn’t irritated. He’s a loving Father instructing again and again.

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.” (Philippians 3:1 ESV)

16 months old

16 months old

Reaping a Harvest in the Snow

I was shocked last month when I saw our lilies with new buds and blossoms among the falling leaves of mid-October. The kids had told me about them a day or two before, but I hadn’t made it outside to check and had completely forgotten about it until I happened upon them for myself. It was startling and looked out of place, but beautiful.

Lilies in October

Lilies in October

At the same time, our indoor orchid was slowly dying after having bloomed for many months with the most blossoms at one time we’d ever had: 11. I pruned it back and now we wait to see when it will decide to flower again. It’s blossomed twice since we moved here over a year ago and three times at our old house.

The last of the blossoms.

The last of the blossoms.

Pruning.

Pruning.

I made it outside again the day before the snowstorm that hit yesterday. I was picking some things up and admiring the work of some friends that had come over to help us get our place ready for winter. I was surprised to see the lilies still going, even with the temperature having dropped.

Lilies in November

Lilies in November

I walked around to my garden which had been utterly neglected the last two plus months just to see what the damage was. I had purposely avoided looking at it, knowing that my priorities had to be taking care of the people under our roof and feeling guilty about the garden wouldn’t help anything. So my shock when I found three heads of cabbage just waiting to be plucked up was substantial, so was my delight!

November cabbage

November cabbage

Surprise Harvest

Surprise Harvest

I can’t help but relate this to life currently. When I step back from our life and see what it’s like, it’s not what I thought it would be like. It’s harder and sometimes scarier. Sometimes it seems like our life is an unexpected snowstorm in early November, when what we planned on was a nice spot inside with the fire going. We want to be the orchid that blossoms on the counter. Instead we find ourselves in an unattended garden with dropping temperatures.

Yet, isn’t that the miracle? Somehow or another, when we weren’t paying attention, just taking step after step in the life we were given, asking God to help us weather the cold, fruit happened. And by fruit I don’t mean accomplishments, I mean His fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

By God’s mysterious grace, He ministers to us and through us in ways we never could have foreseen and wouldn’t have chosen. He causes growth in the winter and then uses it to nourish others. This is the ministry He gives us, walking through our own unique life circumstances with His Spirit. The love and peace he grows in us will be the fruit that another will need to sustain them as they walk through difficulties.

Snow Lily

Snow Lily

Your life may be nothing like you imagined it would be. I never dreamed we’d have an IV pole in our kitchen or that our son would get nourishment through a button put into his tummy. Maybe you never dreamed you still wouldn’t be married, or that you’d ever be divorced or that you’d be longing for a baby, or that you’d be moving again, or stuck in the same unhappy job, or that you’d be so.. ordinary. But whatever it is, it is the soil that He intends to make you fruitful in. It is the place that He is growing the seeds of His righteousness and Spirit. So keep on walking and trusting and don’t be surprised when you find yourself covered in snow and blossoming in winter. Because that’s our God.

wpid-novsnowlilies2.jpg

“..May people blossom in the cities
like the grass of the field!
May his name endure forever,
his fame continue as long as the sun!
May people be blessed in him,
all nations call him blessed!” Psalm 72:16,17

“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.” Isaiah 35:1

Bitterness, Forgetfulness, or Deeper Sympathy: Where Will Your Suffering Take You?

Our trials can produce all kinds of results in our lives. Some are beautiful and some are ugly.

I’ve been mulling over one of the beautiful things that Jesus’ suffering did in his life.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)

I want to think about the part that says, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize..” In other words, we have a high priest who IS able to sympathize. His sympathy was secured by his trials and temptations. Do our trials and temptations secure our sympathy for others? Do our trials lead us to the throne of grace, pushing back our tendency toward disobedience and ushering mercy and help in our time of need?

During hard times, the temptations to sin are great. One way that sin tries to take hold is by telling us our suffering is too great to walk through without being angry or bitter. Sin tells us that our trial is so unique and difficult that no one else can really understand it or help us through it. This is the path to bitterness. Bitterness can never be validated enough, it is a vacuous hole of irritation at everyone else for not experiencing the suffering I’ve experienced. Bitterness is a martyr. Bitterness can only be satiated at the cross of Jesus Christ, with the acknowledgement that he has borne it all for us, and there is none to rival his pain.

Forgetfulness is another ugly road suffering can take us down. We come through some hard thing and at the end we’re done. We’ve filled our suffering quotient and did what we had to do to get through it. It’s behind us now. We’d rather not be around the people still stuck in some awful situation. Or, if we are around them, we conveniently offer the “to-dos” of how to get through it. Buck up. We’ve been there, and we’re over it. Everyone else should get over it too. Forgetfulness as a means of avoiding is unhelpful at best and untrue at worst. It’s a way we can almost rewrite what actually happened, we try to rewrite the pain and turn it all into triumph. It’s like the mother whose children are all grown and she mis-remembers everything as easier and better than it was. This woman is useless to the struggling young mom with littles. She can’t sympathize because she won’t remember the truth. Jesus didn’t do that. He remembered the trials.

Notice that no one in the universe had more legitimate reasons to take either of these paths than Jesus. Yet, his trials led him to sympathy. He is willing to sympathize with a people whose trials will always be minute compared to his. Are you willing to sympathize with people whose struggles seem really small to you? Are you willing to feel the hardship they’re feeling in such a way that it leads them to the throne of grace?

I’ve been pondering where our trial with Titus is taking us and I pray it is leading us to bigger love and sympathy for any and all trials, big and small. I felt early on when things were unfolding with Titus a need to harden myself to other people’s pain. My fear and pain over possibly losing him was so great that I couldn’t bear to really feel other people’s hardships. This is not God’s way. I am learning that grief cannot outdo love. No matter how deep it goes, it cannot consume the love of the Father in Jesus.

Recently we’ve had some tragedies strike nearby us. A father of children my children’s age passed away unexpectedly. A friend’s baby diagnosed with trisomy 13 at her 20 week ultrasound, expected to pass away before birth. A father abandoning his family. Cancer that seems to be everywhere. I’m asking God to keep our hearts tender. Let’s fight to go deeper in sympathy and TRUST God that He will be there with us. TRUST him that the grief cannot outdo the love, that death WILL be swallowed up in the final account. The resurrection is real, friends, and all my hopes are set on it.

If you want to read about our friends whose daughter, Mercy, is diagnosed with Trisomy 13, here’s their blog. Please pray for them.

The Risky Business of Bible Reading

The Bible isn’t like any other book. To read it is to be confronted.

It confronts us with the truth about ourselves and the truth about God. One thing we learn as we read it is that reading it is not necessarily a holy act. Reading the Bible may be the most sinful thing you could do, if you use it, rather than come under it in humility.

Reading the Bible to gain standing with God or other people is one way we use it sinfully. Reading it to know God, to be taught by him, to receive from him, is the only way we can read it rightly. There is a sense in which the study of the Bible can itself become a god. We can read it in such a double-minded fashion that we believe because we study it, we know the One whose book it is. To read the Bible and not be changed by it, is risky. To read the Bible in order to look smart, is to profoundly reject what it actually teaches.

The Bible’s purpose is two kinds of knowing. Knowing the information and stories in the pages, and knowing the Person. You can have the first without the second. You can’t have the second without some amount of the first.

As I reflect on how I’ve read the Bible, there has been much of the wrong kind of reading over the years. There are so many temptations to read it like a cookbook, or a self-help pamphlet, or fix-it manual, or to look holy. Yet, in all that, there has been profound grace. In all the mis-use and tainted motivations, the Person in the pages has been revealed. The evil motives have been confronted as the reading rolls on. Repentance has been taught. Forgiveness has been given.

Reading the Bible will always be risky business and we shouldn’t take it lightly. A healthy dose of humility and fear should accompany our reading. But NOT reading the Bible is whole different kind of frightening. Taking it for granted, ignoring it, assuming we know it all already, avoiding the confrontation we know it will bring–that’s as close to soul suicide as I can think of.

Do you have a Bible? Are you willing to have your life crushed and reborn? Do you want to know God? Then read your Bible and ask the Person in the pages to meet you there.

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life—the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us—that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:1-4 ESV)

Borrowing Praise in the Pew

Have you ever come to church in turmoil or sadness, feeling rattled, asking questions, with heavy weights and the wrong kind of fear?

I praise God for the many times this hasn’t been my lot, but there are enough times where it has been to leave a strong memory of what it’s like and to notice when I see someone who looks to be in that spot.

Everyone stands to sing and for one reason or another the words aren’t coming out. Maybe they’re choked by tears, because there’s nothing theoretical about what’s being sung, it’s all utterly real and has stunned you in the farthest reaches: “I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name.” Or maybe they’re too dissonant to what you’re walking through. Perhaps singing, “O, Death, where is your sting?” seems impossible when you feel sucker-punched by death or its effects have dramatically altered the life of someone close to you.

Whatever the difficulty in life: disease, divorce, death, betrayal; this difficulty may leave us feeling very out of place in the middle of the worshiping body of Christ. But I’d like to share my experience in the pew during some difficult times. It’s a testimony of the Spirit’s gracious care. Through the tears or hardness or pain, God has reminded me of something very kind: His body is One. He’s put me in the middle of pew after pew of His children, some of whom are singing full-throated, robust praises. Some have their hands raised and some have faces that are beaming like light, unobscured.

Even when I can’t sing or raise my eyes, the soon-to-be-married bright young woman five rows up can do it for me. When I can’t lift my arms to clap, the 7 year old down the aisle can clap on my behalf. And when my hand is too weak to raise in praise, the man up ahead with a couple littles squirming around and a wife about to have another, can lift his. This is the body of Christ and each one of us is apart of it.

When one part of the body is weak, the other parts take up the slack. When one part is strong, it pours itself out for the rest.

There is a danger for the suffering, the danger of anger and bitterness toward the strong. It’s an attitude that begrudges them their faith and circumstances, and makes a mockery of it, as if to say, “If you were in my shoes, see how strong your faith would be!” But this attitude is like a man who has a broken arm deciding to break the other arm out of a sense of spite and twisted fairness. We are all part of One Body.

Praise God that there is an alternative to that kind of soul-shriveling envy. We can borrow the strength of strong. We can praise by proxy. We can give thanks that someone else is happily proclaiming the words that stick in our throat. We can say amen to the truths we know, but can’t speak.

And by God’s grace, there may be a day not far off when our eyes are clear and our hearts bursting when we sing with all our might to the God who is with us in the valley. Perhaps just a few rows away from us someone will need to hear our voice penetrating into their heaviness, they’ll need our hands lifted up, offering what they can’t, with their whispered amens to it all. And we’ll do it for them, because we are members of one another in this body that belongs to Christ.