My wife and I met a woman and her disabled one-year old son this past weekend. He was born without eyes, his ear canals were incomplete, he had a cleft through his lip and into his palate, and perhaps a variety of other disabilities. At only one year old, he has already had numerous surgeries, and many more perhaps are on the horizon. We obviously felt compassion for this little boy, as well as for his mother, but we started to wonder what might God do with such a boy? If he was born this way and wasn’t in pain, would he naturally see his circumstance as “disability” if he isn’t taught to see them that way? I think the answer is absolutely no! And later as we were talking, we realized that the whole time we were with them, this beautiful little boy was laughing and smiling and in completely good spirits - in fact, he was much better behaved and had a better attitude than most other kids that age that we know!
Now I certainly don’t mean to minimize the inevitable struggles that this little boy faces in life, but I do think that our cultural perspective on “disabilities” is skewed and leaves little room for the blessings that God might bring through some disabilities. The problem is that many of us, at some level, see them in a negative light and tend to downplay their abilities, and therefore devalue their lives. Take, for example, this woman I mention above: the doctors suggested and even recommended on multiple occasions that she terminate the pregnancy. She said that she even felt pressured to do so. Because this baby was going to have certain “disabilities,” the value placed on his life by our culture and by the so-called “medical community” was so low that, according to them, he wasn’t even worthy of being given a chance to live. Think about this for a moment: these people are pressuring and influencing women in an effort to decide who gets a chance to live and who doesn’t. How is this different from genetic “cleansing” and genocide in Nazi Germany, for example? Regardless of your opinion on abortion, how is this influence that is being peddled in doctor’s offices across America any different from Hitler writing Mein Kampf and defining what type of human was worthy of living and reproducing? And while ultimately this mother made the choice to allow this boy to live, many young women succumb to the pressures of culture and the “recommendations” of the doctors, and choose to exterminate a life based on a set of perceived “disabilities” – i.e. their potential to fail – rather than their right to experience life, rather than their potential to impact the lives of others, rather than their abilities, and rather than their potential to succeed! Why can’t we lean more towards the latter, rather than the former?
And this approach and perspective that we have toward disabilities is very sad, shallow, and unfortunate, because there are so many so-called “disabled” people who have vastly impacted the world around us. Many “disabled” people even see their circumstances as a blessing, not a curse! Take just one example the blindness that this boy will live with: is there anything good that can come from this? I say yes! For one, beauty would take on a whole new definition and scope! Especially in America, beauty is almost exclusively defined by physical appearance. Without the sense of sight, a person would be free to develop their sense of beauty completely independent of physical appearance!! What a person says, how they say it, their actions, how they love - these would define beauty, and what a beautiful definition it would be! Vanity would be essentially non-existent in their life. Honestly, how many of us don’t check ourselves out when we walk by that glass door? Or that tinted window? Whether we actually struggle with the sin of vanity and are obsessed with the way we look, let’s face it, we all deal with vanity at one level or another. Without the sense of sight, there is no room for vanity, and no need to compare your own looks to someone else. Teenage girls would no longer be obsessed with posting selfies on social media, and depressed if they don’t get enough “likes.” Check out this video to hear from some actual blind people and how this so-called “disability” has impacted their lives and their love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlcx_q8u_YI. One guy says: “I feel that losing my sight has been a blessing,” and he wasn’t even born this way!
What about Nick Vujicic? If you haven’t heard of Nick, you should go check out his website at http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/. Nick is awesome and encouraging and such a motivation to so many people around the world, both with so-called “disabilities” and without. Nick was born without arms or legs and he started the organization Life Without Limbs to spread the message and absolute truth that God has a plan and purpose for every life. He says this on his website:
“It’s been said that doors open to a man without arms and legs much more easily than to anyone else, we thank God for providing that privilege. I’ve been invited into very unexpected places to share about my faith in Jesus Christ and literally millions have responded.”
“We thank God for providing that privilege”! The unfortunate truth is that if Nick’s mom were pregnant today, she would very likely receive a recommendation to terminate his life based upon a perception that his life is not valuable enough. What a shame that would have been! Where our culture views disabilities, as the name implies, as a hindrance to “abilities,” Nick sees his as a blessing and an opportunity - and his view is shared by many, many others as well.
There are so many testimonies and stories of how God has used people that our culture would have us throw away, or at least relegate to the outskirts of our society, and my hope and prayer is that we would learn to place equal value on every life; that we would stop giving our children excuses to fail by dwelling on their “conditions” and “disabilities”; that we would stop trying to convince mothers to throw away their unborn children because of these things. We have been so blinded by cultural norms and perspectives that it is so easy to lose track of the fact that God says that every life is valuable, and has a purpose and a plan. As Psalm 139:13-14 says “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Trust the report of God over the report of man, even if that man happens to be a doctor – God is greater.