One of the aspects of my job that I love is the opportunity to work with students with intellectual disabilities. Congressman Harper's son, Livingston, has Fragile X syndrome. Congressman Harper is responsible for starting a Capitol Hill internship program for students with intellectual disabilities. It has been a huge success and our office has grown and learned so much from the students we have had through the program.
I have copied an excerpt from FPC's First Epistle by Steph Hubach, the PCA's Coordinator for Special Needs Ministries, entitled "Special Needs: We all have them." She does an excellent job of bridging the gap (that really doesn't exist) that people sometimes perceive between themselves and individuals with intellectual disabilities.
"In our Christian life, we all have struggle with focus. And it often stems from focusing on the wrong things. You've probably seen the image before. It is a black and white optical illusion that reveals two totally different pictures depending on where you focus. If your eyes focus one way, you will see a vase. If they focus another way, you will see the silhouettes of two faces pointed towards each other. It all depends on your perspective. Both images are real-but only one can be the focus of the viewer.
In a similar way, our perspective on others in the body of Christ will impact what we see in them. When you focus on another individual, do you tend to see their deficits or do you tend to focus on their competencies? More often than not, we tend to view people-especially people with disabilities-from the orientation of what they cannot do. This view comes, in part, from an unbiblical worldview of disability-and therefore an inaccurate view of not only others, but also of us. The Bible teaches us that disability in the broadest sense (physical, emotional, and spiritual) is a normal part of life in an abnormal world. Brokenness occurs across a spectrum-in differences of degree for each of us-in every area of life. None of us exists in a state of complete and utter brokenness on every level. None of us exists in a state of complete and utter blessing or "wholeness" on any level. Disability is a normal part of living in a world where there is a complicated mix of the blessedness of creation and the brokenness of the fall. All of us need encouragement and supports to deal with our limitations and to build on our strengths.
Now, think about the grace of God for a moment. When the Father looks at us, does he focus on our inadequacies, or does His gaze focus only on the ultimate, beautiful competency of Christ alone on our behalf? God knows what our deficits are more fully than we do-but instead of condemning us for our inabilities He supplied the supports we needed to be successful in a relationship with Him-the perfect sacrifice of His Son, and His perfect life lived on our behalf. Can we do any less? How can we be any less than intentional about sacrificially making the Gospel-the good news of the coming of the Kingdom-accessible to all, in word and deed?
In addition, not only do we all struggle with perspective when we look at the disabilities and abilities of ourselves and of others-we also all struggle, at times, with having a sense of perspective on God's purposes in our lives too.
"By interacting with people with intellectual disabilites, we are..."
- Learning to see people with disabilities through a biblical lens, and thereby seeing ourselves more accurately as a result.
- Learning to view our life's circumstances through God's eyes, and thereby fully embracing the life that was always in His plan for us-even if it was never in ours.
- Learning to make the Gospel-the good news of the coming of the Kingdom-accessible to all of us-in word and deed.
What great lessons for all of us in every situation and every relationship."
What a great lesson! Certainly something I need to be reminded of on a daily basis.