Why Sunday Matters, Union With Christ in the Wilderness, and Baking The World Better

I’m home again this Sunday. More sickness. Which means I’m writing down everything on my mind. Forgive the disparate nature of it all.

I’ve been trying to get to the nub of why missing church hurts so badly. Is it because I don’t get to hear the sermon? Or the Sunday school teaching? Well, yes. But no, because I can listen to those later in the week when the recordings become available. Is it because I feel cooped up and want to see people and have some social time? Well, yes. But no, because I get to see people and get out other days of the week.

What I miss most is hearing, receiving, and singing together. When we hear the Word preached together, it’s different than me downloading some killer sermon to listen to by myself. When we sing songs together, it’s different than when I find the latest or best hymn album to listen to in my kitchen. It’s valuable to do those things at home, but it’s not the same as being with God’s people on Sunday.

When we gather as God’s people and sing a song to the Lord and about the Lord from our heart, with other Christians singing the same song, and the same words, from their hearts, we are being united. Every Sunday morning God is answering Jesus’ prayer that we would be one as he and the Father are one. When we submit ourselves fully to the faithfully preached Word of God we are being made one as shoulder to shoulder our brothers and sisters put themselves under that same Word. That’s what I miss so much.

I’m never quite as aware of my frailty as on a Sunday when I’m engulfed in the singing of his people. My faith won’t survive without the faithful saints singing next to me. It’s true that “you can have all this world, give me Jesus..” as long as when we say “Jesus” we mean his body, too. I can’t live without his people. Sundays at home with sick kids are God’s good plan to remind me of this even more.

I’ve spent the better part of the past year thinking about our union with Christ. It has become to me the sweetest of all truth in the universe. I was reading through the sermon text for today, while at home, wanting to keep on the same page as everyone. I couldn’t get past the first two verses.

“The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.” Mark 1:12-13 (ESV)

So much to take it. But I was strengthened by remembering that it’s God’s Spirit that puts Jesus (and us) in the wilderness, and that we can be in the wilderness and not fear, because Jesus already did it for us. He did it perfectly. He made a path through. The Israelites couldn’t do it, I can’t do it on my own. But because of him, we can walk through the wilderness and resist temptation. He did it for me and he leads me in paths of goodness and faithfulness right through the desert and dry land.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what goodness looks like. Is it a good attitude? Is it doing good things? Can the world engage in goodness? What is Christian goodness? If I get the laundry done, how is it distinctly Christian goodness–doesn’t everybody have to do that? This is another area where thinking about my union with Christ has made life all the sweeter.

There is a Christian way to do the laundry, and make supper, and tend the garden, and go to work, and clean the house. And that is to do them all in Christ and for Christ, with his garments of holiness round about us. It’s so easy to think that our Christian selves are the selves that do “ministry.” The Christian part of us is the part that goes to church, or does Bible study, or disciples a younger person, or helps in Sunday school, or has a quiet time. But because of Christ everything we do is a Christian thing. And I’ve been reveling in baking bread while united to Christ and seated in the heavenly places.

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There’s this cute hashtag: #baketheworldabetterplace. I love it. I love it because, in Christ, it can be true. In Christ, we can bake the world better. In Christ, baking really can be a way to befriend faithfulness. I can love my children with the love of Christ by baking. I can put my hands to do good works in and for Christ by baking. I can teach about him through baking; I can love Christ with baking; I can enjoy Christ in baking.

Baking in and of itself is a common good–it provides food, it is enjoyable. But baking while belonging to Christ is something else entirely. The metaphor (bread is food that sustains) and reality (Christ is the bread of life that sustains) meet spectacularly when baking as a Christian. Doing good works in Jesus’ name is transformative, both to the “good work” and to the person doing them and the person receiving them.

I mention all this baking hubbub, not to get you to start baking, which is completely unnecessary to your life as a Christian. But to ask you, what are you doing everyday that you can see in a new light because of your union with Christ. The laundry (making dirty things clean)? Making supper? Reading books? Accounting? Science experiments? You are doing those things in Christ. They belong to him and are for him. What metaphors are brought to fullness in your doing them?

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When we’re in Christ, nothing happens apart from him. Not our relationships with other Christians, or our relationships with non-Christians, or our interactions with the stuff in the world (like flour, clothing, tools, tv). We don’t invite Christ into those things. If we’re in him and he’s in us, it’s a reality that he’s there. But our awareness of him is what needs heightened. Which is part of why we need each other, Christ’s body. To keep each other remembering and reminded.

If you were at church today, I hope you know the gift you were given. And if you were at home or the hospital or somewhere else, I hope you know Christ as the one who blazed a trail through the wilderness for us.

Doing the Spiritual Splits

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I was looking at my calendar and realized my church attendance on Sunday morning is less than 50% for 2017. I’m sure I’m not alone. This has been a brutal winter for illness in MN and I’ve found myself rocking an ever-growing and under-the-weather boy on many a Sunday morning.

Rocking this morning is as calm as you’d hope, but my mind has been anything but. I’ve been pinned, all the while the laundry goes unfolded, the dishes unloaded, the supper un-prepped, the Bible study undone, the garden unplanned, the knitting un-knit, the lovely sunshine un-basked in. And on and on.

I was chatting with a fellow mom of five last week, brainstorming ways to bring structure and discipline to our mornings with so many variables in the form of small people and exponential relationships and possibilities for things to go awry. Change, thou art steadfast. It seems we never do live the same day twice.

I’ve always been a go-with-the-flow type. Probably a fourth child thing. Going with the flow ensures that I am GOING! And WITH others! Nothing worse than being left behind for a fourth child. This go-with-the-flow personality has served me well in many ways. I’m not opinionated about many decisions, as long as the people I love are around, which means I’m usually easy to get along with. But, it’s not a personality forged from virtue, it’s forged from my desire to have maximum enjoyment in life–and I tend to think that going with the flow will make me and those around me happiest.

But I’ve learned over the years that it’s easy to mistake this go-with-the-flow style for true flexibility–the kind of flexibility that’s learned to be content in any circumstance. All it takes to learn the truth is take away the ability to go with the flow. What happens when I’m forced to stop the movement, forced to be still, forced to make my own decisions without the comfort and enjoyment of the company I long for? And then what if even my best laid plans are thwarted? Like today with the laundry and the dishes and supper and actual work that I’m supposed to do?

There are probably many of you reading who aren’t go-with-the flow types. Maybe your type A or you like to run the show and make the decisions. Maybe the idea of being a passenger in the ride of life is a thousand slow deaths by pin prick. It’s probably more obvious for you that growth in Godly flexibility is necessary. You know your rigidity, your fight for control. And hopefully you know that it needs to be crucified in favor of trusting God.

But, if you’re more like me, your lack of flexibility might come as a surprise. So I’m hoping this reflection is helpful for you. Spiritual flexibility is just my way of saying that we trust God in every circumstance, without bitterness or bucking, that is to say, with real contentment. How flexible are we when we aren’t even allowed to be flexible? When we’re just stuck in the same place over and over, learning the discipline we want to run from?

So my hope today is not in getting up from the rocking chair where I currently type away with my little boy’s head resting on my arm. My hope is not in what I will accomplish or how easy I am to get along with on lunch choices. My hope is in God. I can trust that while I sit in this chair, he is accomplishing everything he wants to in and through me. And when the time sitting here is up, by faith I will flex to do what he’s put before me next. I’ll mess up, but I can trust him. He’s teaching me the spiritual splits, so that I can bend and flex and never break as I stretch out to love others in Jesus. Oh that our arms would reach out with Jesus’ as his were nailed to the cross. And they do, because we are united to him in life and death and life.

Warding Off Darkness By Laughing At What’s To Come

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As I vote today, I’m remembering that the act of voting was secured for me by sacrifices I didn’t make. I’m giving thanks for those sacrifices as I vote. I’m also remembering that every single act of my life as a Christian was secured for me at an infinitely higher cost by my Savior Jesus. Every act of our life in Christ is of significance beyond our telling or voting. From eating and drinking to giving my kids a hug in the morning to making dinner. Every thing we do by faith as his children, we do in Christ and for Christ. It’s all blood bought and costly, because *we ourselves* are blood bought. We are redeemed, new people. 

So I vote and give thanks that this act of voting is an act I do belonging to Christ and for him. I vote by faith—faith in Jesus, not a party or a candidate. Then I hug my husband and teach my kids about the real cost of freedom in Christ—a freedom that can never be quenched. I stoke the flames of *that* fire—one whose light will never go out.

My worth as a woman doesn’t come from my ability to vote, although I’m thankful for it. We were made by him and for him; our names are written on his palms. Our influence is deeper and broader and realer than anything we find inside the ballot box. When I laugh at what’s to come with my kids in the Gospel-soaked air of our home by faith, I do as much to ward off the darkness as any vote.

So I vote, then I exercise the real guts of my freedom, a freedom bestowed by God through Jesus. The freedom to pass this faith on to others, which is unable to be contained by laws; the freedom to know YAHWEH, that is Christ the Lord; the freedom to be loved by God and to love others. We are free to be his, friends. Today is a day for thankfulness.

Women and Work

DG posted an article on women and work that I’d been working on (get that, working on?) for a while. It’s a tricky topic to talk about because of the pet ponies so many keep in the stall on this one. But how many of us are willing to really work the way God requires? Having totally crucified our selfish ambitions and laid down our lives? How many of us are hoping to be a living sacrifice? I think lots of us are hoping for something a little more affirming, a little easier, a little less exhausting, and a lot more, well, fun.

But there’s a paradox that IS the Christian life: death to life. A million deaths each day doesn’t end in the grave. It ends in JOY. So here’s my attempt at understanding our call to work as women.

The pertinent question for women entering the workforce or motherhood or setting up their home or any sphere of work is this: Am I faithfully obeying God as his child by meeting the genuine needs of others, or am I pursuing self-actualization, self-fulfillment, or selfish ambition apart from him?

Our faithfulness first requires a kind of death — death to self and selfish ambition. Yet death leads to life — life in Christ, through him, and for him. What exactly that death looks like will vary from person to person, but in every case, it will be a gospel act, a spectacle of crucifixion with Christ.

For a single mom who must earn an income, prioritizing Christ and the home may mean doing what it takes to provide for her kids’ needs and spending herself at work, then at home, at great cost to herself — to the glory of God and for the good of her children.

For a single woman without kids, it may mean considering cross-cultural missions or walking fearlessly into her job, while saving some reserves for the life of the church or investing in her neighborhood or opening her home — whether it’s an apartment or a house or a room — so she can share what she has, especially Christ in her.

For a married, stay-at-home mom of littles, it may mean seemingly endless physical tasks and training, laying down the pre-motherhood feelings of proficiency as she can no longer earn an “A” for her hard work or receive a promotion.

For the mom with a part-time job that helps financially but isn’t essential, it may mean laying that job down and the extra financial cushion so that she can intentionally sow seeds of the gospel in her children. Or it might mean keeping that job and using her gifts to serve others.

For the woman whose husband is facing long-term unemployment or disability, it may mean becoming the breadwinner or caretaker, shouldering a larger portion of responsibility than she had perhaps desired.

For a mom whose children are older and gaining independence, it may mean a shift in the type of work she does, bravely considering the options and doing things she hasn’t done in a long time, or trying something brand new.

Sometimes our circumstances aren’t ideal. Often they are not ideal. This isn’t heaven. And the call to lay down our lives will take different forms. But this is our calling, with its countless manifestations. Not because we’re the one who finally will save our kids or our family or our neighbors or ourselves. We’re not Christ. But we are Christians. We gladly follow the God-man who laid down his own life to meet our truest needs. We gladly echo his great sacrifice in our little deaths-to-self.

We seek to faithfully live the actual life God has given us, not the one we hoped for or wish we had. We take the principles God himself has given us — for work and dominion, the priority of the home, generosity and hospitality, caring for the children (and adults) God has given us (their bodies and souls) — and we apply them to the real life in front of us. Not the ideal. Not the fantasy. But the actual life God has given us.

Our work is not about us. It’s not about making a name for ourselves with a fabulous career or being superior because things went well for us and we’re doing it all “right” or trying to “have it all.” If we ache to make a name for ourselves — in self-glorification — we should remember that we serve the one whose name is above all names. He will not suffer us as competitors. And far better than making a name for ourselves, he’s written our names in his book, not because we have a great job, but because we’re his children.

So work really hard. Do amazingly good work. Excel in every single way that you can, in every single area that you can, with the self-forgetful happiness that can be found only when you’ve laid yourself down and are trusting in the name of a tireless, serving Savior. Trust the author of the Lamb’s book of life to guide you in every circumstance to every good work that he’s prepared for you.

Read the whole thing.

Special (Needs) Vacations

Upon returning from vacation, I thought I’d write down some thoughts.

First, if you have a special needs child, vacations are different. Sometimes you may wonder if they should be called vacation, since they’re often more work than staying home. But they should be called vacation, even with the added work and disruption to normal life. Even if you’re packing up an IV pole everywhere you go. Even if you have 6 crates of enteral formula in your trunk and tubes and syringes galore. Even if you have a throw up bowl in the car that’s not even for carsickness or a stomach bug. Even if you and your husband have to take turns eating and sleeping. Because what makes them a vacation is not the lack of work, but the intentional time together doing special things that you can’t do in your normal life. What makes it worthwhile is the intensity of time together, the experience of newness and beauty together. The appreciation of all God’s made and done, seen together.

If we’re going to define a vacation by how easy it is or how little work there is or how much we’re able to do exactly what we want every moment, then just forget it. You’ll never have a good vacation, special needs or not, because all people, all relationships, all of everything worthwhile, requires effort. Better to just go be by yourself with nobody around at all, because people everywhere have needs, including us, special ones or not. You can’t escape that on vacation. The “special needs” part is simply a reference to the scope and quantity of the needs. We’re all on the “needs” scale somewhere.

So, my encouragement to special needs parents and all parents really, is to get out there and try it. It’s going to be work. It may be harder than normal life. But get those expectations in line and start seeing things. I think the reason why I’m passionate about this is because I’m a recovering vacation failure. I thought they were supposed to be a break for me. I thought they were about closing my eyes, rather than opening them wider. I mainly just wanted to stay home because I like being home and it keeps things simpler. I like predictability. But if there’s hope for me, there’s hope for you. Let go of cynicism about how much it will cost you. Stop seeing how impossible it will all be before it happens.

“You can’t go on “seeing through” things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.” -C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

Vacations give us an opportunity to see through TO something, not just looking at something, but seeing it. And even more, seeing together. You may wonder what how that’s supposed to work, since your special child (or your very young child) can’t grasp what they’re seeing. That may be true. But they can have a parent who sees, who knows how important it is to see the beauty all around, who sees through it to the God who made it. Let’s give them that at least. Then let’s put aside our doubts about what they can and can’t see.

And the seeing is of more than creational beauty. See Narnia together in the car, see Middle Earth and Hogsmeade as you fly down the road. Then go outside and really see it. See an earth that is stranger and darker than Mordor and more beautiful and safe than the Shire; a world with more magic than Hogwarts and more children of secret royalty than in the Wingfeather Saga.

And see your kids as well, special needs or not. See what delights them, what they dislike, who they’re drawn to. See what it’s like to be them, what it’s like to sit in the back of the van, how their character is coming along in new settings and with different people. See them and see through them to what drives them, what motivates them, what inspires them. See your people and see if they like being your people and why. Then do what you must to right the ship. That’s what vacations are for. For seeing and loving. For laying down the pettiness and sin, again.

Vacations are for making life special, special needs and all.

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The Man of Dust

The Bible always has a newness to it. Even the most familiar passages are new when they are received by people who are continually being transformed, because we’re never the same when we come to them.

When I read a passage as an 18 year old, it has an effect. And it’s effect is entirely new when it lands on the different person that I was at 20, 25, 30 years old. I’ve read the Bible so many times, but I never read it as the same person. Every time there are differences and changes in me–in my circumstance and the transformation God’s working–and every time there are new beauties that I couldn’t see yesterday.

“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:44-49 ESV)

“We shall bear the image of the man of heaven.” It’s as though I’v never read it before. There is so much discussion about being made in God’s image. It’s good and sometimes helpful. Yet, that image was so horrifically broken by sin that in a very real sense, our image bearing was made untrue by sin without Christ. In sin, we bear the image of the man of dust. But for those in the incorruptible Christ, we bear the image of One who will never tarnish.

The Honored, Undaunted Weaker Vessel

Here’s an excerpt of a new post up at Desiring God. By way of preface, I’ll say that this is not an easy topic for me to write about–because there is so much room for misunderstanding. C.S. Lewis advises that writers should try to close all the possible wrong gates that readers could take and say precisely what they mean to (or something like that). I don’t think I’ve ever written something to that standard. And this is just another attempt. The beauties of the Bible, of God’s works and ways are too wonderful not to write about–even when the attempts fall short.

A package came in the mail with the warning “FRAGILE: Handle with Care.” We fastidiously cut open the cardboard and were disappointed to find a few broken pieces inside. If only the fast-moving conveyor belts and jostling trucks could have read this helpful label. Then they’d have known to give it its proper consideration and value.

A glass chandelier is exquisite in its fragility. We could replace it with a wood frame, sturdy and functional, which would have a certain virtue to it, but it would lose all the things that make it what it is: the light that twinkles off the multi-faceted glass, the gentle high chinkling of pieces as they’re nudged, the suspended refinement that underscores a necessary sort of civilization. It would be a mistake to deem a chandelier worthless because it’s fragile. It misses the point.

Fragility isn’t a defect; it may be the defining worth of a thing.

We have a parallel in 1 Peter 3. How is it that God calls women to “do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” in one verse (1 Peter 3:6), and in the next verse refers to them as a “weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7)? We don’t often put fearless and weaker together.

What results from physical fragility? Should fragile things feel insulted because we acknowledge they’re breakable? Or could their very nature as weaker lead them to the source of their fearlessness? A powerlessness resulting in trust in the all-powerful Father?

It helps to first acknowledge that what God says through Peter is true. We areweaker, or we could use the synonym fragile. Not stupider. Not less human. Not incapable of reason or achievement. Not emotionally broken. Not more sinful. And not even without great strength, as the Scriptures testify. But weaker. And yet many of us are, or have been at some point, uncomfortable with this because it’s inimical to the spirit of the age and it feels like an offense to our pride. So much so that we may stubbornly spurn 1 Peter’s verity, even as we take every precaution when walking alone in a dark alley.

Our weakness — the fact that no matter how much time I spent in the gym, I’d likely never be able to overpower an average-sized man or beat him in an arm-wrestling match — is not a sign of something gone wrong. It is to be handled with care, because in it resides exquisite beauties, abilities, and feminine strengths — like the beautiful strength of thick beveled glass.

A pregnant woman is one of the most defenseless humans on the face of the earth. She can barely rise to her feet after sinking into a comfy couch. Yet, who but the weaker vessel, called woman, can grow another human inside her body?

Think of the massive strength and endurance it takes to give birth — yet it is simultaneously a vulnerable type of vigor. A woman in a marathon labor of countless hours is then sitting up in bed, even as her body begins to hemorrhage, trying to feed and care for another person. Why did God do it this way? So that we would know that, like a mother with her nursing babe, he never forgets us, even as the blood drained out of his own Son on our behalf. It’s a fragile, mind-bogglingly valiant design pointing to bigger things, to be honored and protected, not belittled by comparison with a man, but accurately understood by it.

Read the rest.

Don’t Hate the Messes of Glorification

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I have an article at DG this morning. Here’s an excerpt and link.

“I survey the kitchen and living room, and my eyes are assaulted with messes. Mail, worksheets, art projects, toys, plates of food with a few bites left, an origami style army of paper tanks, counting blocks. The messes feel endless. And for a tired mom, the messes can feel like the enemy.

Of course, they’re not. They’re evidence of life and growth. They are the essence of learning, exploring, and doing. A home without messes is a home without people, without life. If I want my children to grow as people, I must invite them to make messes. To take part in learning requires physical stuff to be used, to be handled, changed, glorified.

Then I also must invite them to learn to pick up, put away, restore order, and turn their learning into more than mere mess. A messy kitchen ought not to be chaos only, but the evidence of raw materials being transformed into something tasty and warm and good to eat.

And as I study God’s word, I find the same to be true. His word is living and active, and the process of growth that happens as I seek to understand it, and live my life under its authority and protection, makes messes. Not the kind of messes that are atrophy and dust-collection, but the messes of life and growing and glorification.”

Read the rest.

The Puff of Plans: My Calendar Lies to Me

Today I was reminded how my calendar is actually a mirage. It doesn’t tell the truth about the future. It looks like it’s going to be something in particular, but it won’t be what says. It never is.

I keep checking all the days, looking ahead to next week and next month and envisioning what it will be like and what work needs to happen to get there. It’s not wrong–it’s a good thing to do. If I don’t plan for it, it’s guaranteed not to happen. But if I do plan for it, it’s 50/50 humanly speaking. It may or may not come to fruition.

I don’t have control over throw up and fevers, over seizures or headaches. I can’t prevent a car accident or a traffic jam. I don’t make hail fall from the sky or storms blow shingles off of a roof. I have no say over flat tires or dead car batteries. I can’t ground an airplane or make one lift up off the ground. I actually have no real control over the actions of others whatsoever, no matter how influential I may be.

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:13-14 ESV)

Everything I do can only be done one way: in faith. Faith that whether the little guy throws up in the car again or not, God’s got a plan. Faith that whether the storm kills all of Spring’s new growth, God’s got a plan. Faith that whether we end up in the hospital or on a road trip, God’s got a plan.

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There are people whose plans do seem to all work out. They’ve got a calendar and a schedule and it just works. It’s easy to wish for that. But when I think honestly about the disruption of my plans, I know deep down, it’s grace. My sin is exposed and my reliance on Him increased through thwarted plans and unmet expectations.

His plans aren’t like mine. Everyone of His comes to pass. Mine wither and fade like the grass–which is part of His plan.

So, I’m going to keep making plans. And pray for the faith to watch them go up in smoke.

“This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
‘For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?'” (2 Samuel 22:31-32 ESV)

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.

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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.