In a recent Newsletter for Grace and Fortitude (which you can get if you sign up for my emails) I answered the following question:
What have been your experiences with church and disability/special needs?
In the special needs community, this is a hot topic these days. I actually find this kind of ironic and sad myself. Think about this for a minute, what did Jesus spend most of his time doing? Healing. We are all a broken people in one form or another, we are all in need of healing and redemption.
Why on earth would a group of Christians ever make it uncomfortable for someone with a disability to come to church?
The only way to answer this is to realize one person’s brokenness cannot seem to handle another person’s different form of brokenness.
Church is typically a quiet and reverent place. We already have lots of places where we send the children to “children’s church.” We praise parents for teaching their children to sit quietly and have rooms for them to go to if they are struggling. We want to be able to worship and not be distracted.
There is nothing inherently wrong with any of this, however, there are some children, or adults even, who just are not able to handle these situations, period. Behaviorally, physically, mentally, or whatever, they do not have the skills to sit still, be quiet, or even learn this behavior.
Their parents are so worn out from just daily living, that to take them out to a place where they will be naturally interruptive is a no brainer. Why go? Why put yourself in that situation?
Who is at fault and what is there to do?
As a Mom of a child with a disability, I get both sides.
Perhaps that is the bottom line issue. There are sides. There are expectations. There are rules and regulations, unwritten, of course.
When I am not sure how to proceed, I tend to go back to scripture. So, let’s go to the gospels and see how Jesus handled things.
We all know story after story where Jesus spend time healing people. He spent time teaching and preaching. Thousands often would crowd around to listen to him. There were people in the crowd who were disabled, obviously. There were lots of children, obviously. They were mostly outside. There were times when he taught in the temple courts, where women and children and the disabled were allowed to come.
This WAS Jesus, people were so enamored with him and his ability to heal, that they came in droves and would not be turned away for any reason. Just to get close enough to touch him or hear even a few words was enough for them to hang around. The book of John says,
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” John 21:25
I guess some church have huge numbers, but most are pretty average. I do not hear of many places where people can’t wait for church to start and they come in droves and can’t be turned away. There are some pretty dynamic preachers, yet none quite like Jesus.
My point here is our own attitudes towards what is really important. Meeting people’s needs or getting to sit down and be fed once a week or so. Even Jesus told the religious leaders of the day who scoffed at his healing on the Sabbath,
“If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:11-12
Wow! There’s an idea for us. Perhaps we have it kind of backwards. Maybe there are families who never get a break. Maybe there are people who don’t get out much. Maybe there are families who need love and to know someone cares. Maybe we are supposed to do good on the Sabbath and not turn people away because their loved one cannot act like the rest of us while at church.
Hey, I’m just saying.
I think it goes back to my initial statement that one person’s brokenness cannot handle another’s brokenness.
On any given Sunday, the fields are ripe with harvest of people who do not come into our churches because someone in their family does not “fit in.”
On any given Sunday, our pews are filled with people who have no idea their piousness does not allow others to attend.
On any given Sunday, God commands us to love one another, to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Somehow there is a disconnect. I do not have “the” answer.
Maybe if they won’t come to us, we can at least go to them. At least see them and accept them for who they are.
Maybe, just maybe, we need to make it ok for church to not be so reverent and quiet. After all, a group of four guys even came through the roof, right above Jesus, one time to get to him. That was pretty irreverent. Can you imagine that happening in one of our churches today? Seriously!
Perhaps love is the ultimate answer. Love and learning to sacrifice our needs to meet someone else’s needs.
Let it start with me!