I’ve been thinking a lot about our bodies lately, about the human condition. Partly because there is a new gym, Planet Fitness, opening with advertising stressing one needn’t be embarrassed to go there because it’s not “that kind of gym.” You know, the kind with the buff bodies in the sexy gym clothes showing off the perfectly sculpted, muscular bodies. Partly it’s the abundance of surgically enhanced bodies parading across the movie and television screens lately.
I worry about people who obsess over their bodies, much to the detriment of their minds and souls. Yes our “bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), but they are not to be worshiped. They are to be cared for and maintained to the best of our abilities. Some of our temples are not as “perfect” as others in the eye of the world. But they are perfect in the eyes of their maker. And just like all living things, we age and we die. That is the normal process. And it got me thinking.
What if “disabled” were normal? What if we’re supposed to go to Heaven bruised and battered and broken, and those of us with disabilities were ahead of the game? What if showing up at Heaven’s door looking pretty much the way we did when we reached maturity was so abnormal that God didn’t know us? "Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness" (Proverbs 16:31).
I was very touched by an article this past week about Jean Vanier winning the Templeton Prize. A similar article appeared in my hometown paper, which pleased me. Vanier has created communities where those with and without developmental disabilities live side by side. He says those with intellectual disabilities have spiritual lessons and gifts to teach our success- and power-driven world:
“They are essentially people of the heart,” he said. “When they meet others they do not have a hidden agenda for power or for success. Their cry, their fundamental cry, is for a relationship, a meeting heart to heart. It is this meeting that awakens them, opens them up to life, and calls them forth to love in great simplicity, freedom and openness."
"When those ingrained in a culture of winning and of individual success really meet them, and enter into friendship with them, something amazing and wonderful happens. They too are opened up to love and even to God. They are changed at a very deep level. They are transformed and become more fundamentally human.”
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3)
Each time I looked at the photo of the young man with M. Vanier, I saw a face that knew God, that was a link to God. What if this is how we need to approach God? Less worldly, more childlike, more vulnerable?
It is interesting that we refer to M. Vanier’s friends as “intellectually disabled,” but perhaps it is we who are disabled by an overabundance of worldly knowledge and a lack of trust in heavenly grace.
Dear Creator God, We thank you that we are part of your marvelous creation. We yearn to be close to you, to hear you when you call us, to be ready to serve you when and where you need us. We ache to understand how you can use us in our present condition, but trust that You know the directions you have mapped for our lives, and will guide our way, today and every day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.