Monday, April 13, 2009

Disability, Chocolate Bunnies and Easter Eggs

What does disability have to do with chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs? Well, nothing really! But persons affected by disability - which, in a sense, includes everyone because we are all broken in various ways - need so much more than chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs. Chocolate bunnies might fix the chocolate craving temporarily. Easter eggs are dyed pretty colors and hidden for happy children to find. But neither chocolate bunnies or Easter eggs offer hope for change to people affected by disability.

Disabilities profoundly change the way life is lived. Disabilities affect more than the individual - the whole family is affected. Children affected by disability are often not included in "normal" activities like an Easter egg hunt for a variety of "reasons." These exclusions contribute to the isolation many who are affected by disability feel. Sometimes people with disabilities find that they have no friends. They are often over-looked or intentionally excluded because of their disability.

It’s an ugly reality of our society that perfection is honored and disability is distained. It is so sad that often people who can dress up and fix up and live to such a standard of “perfection” are really very broken people themselves.

People affected by disability are just like anyone else. They want friends. They need meaningful relationships. They deserve being treated with dignity and value. They want to be able to contribute to life and family in significant ways. They want to be included. They want to make significant contributions.

Just the other day I was at an office where a young man affected by disability was being coached in sound editing using certain software. He sat diligently with his headphones carefully listening and making adjustments. Being given a significant task and knowing he is making a difference is huge encouragement for him!

The real truth is, we all need each other. People affected by disability can teach the rest of us so much about endurance and hope and persistence. They are living parables of how to face challenges. We can all learn from each other. We all can contribute to the completeness of the whole.

Yesterday was Easter. For many people Easter means little more than candy and egg hunts.

For people affected by disability Easter should be the most wonderful day in the whole year. Easter is our celebration of Jesus coming back to life. The hope of the resurrection is the best news of us all and especially for people affected by disability! Jesus promises to “make all things new.” That includes broken bodies and minds! That includes broken relationships! That includes broken dreams and dashed hopes!

Jesus promises to “make all things new(Rev. 21:5). This ULTIMATE makeover begins with Easter, continues when we journey with Jesus through life until that day in eternity when He will totally “make all things new”!

I have my own missing and/or broken body parts so I’m looking forward to “being made new.” My “issues” pale in significance when I consider how some live. Joni Eareckson Tada who has been a quadriplegic in a wheelchair for over 40 years wrote a devotional I received by email just today:

My girlfriend arrived to get me up and ready for the day. It had been a rough night - sleeplessness, and stabbing, razor-sharp pain in my neck and shoulders. When I told her about it, she sighed and said, "Joni... I'll bet you just can't wait for heaven." As she brushed my hair, I sat and dreamed about what I've dreamed of a thousand times: my eternal home, just over the near horizon. … Some people look at my wheelchair, hear my enthusiasm for heaven, and conclude that it's a death wish. Now it's true, when I was first injured, I only viewed heaven as a place where I could get back what I had lost. I would receive hands that worked and feet that walked and even danced. … My attitude changed as I studied the Scriptures. I realized that heaven was mainly focused on Jesus, not me. (Joni Eareckson Tada, Pearls of Great Price, 2006)

And Joni knows what I also know: Heaven is the “getting” place for NEW in every sense of the word!

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