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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Last October, in what turned out to be the prelude to a time of great darkness and pain, I went to see Stanley Hauerwas, one of America's premier Protestant theologians. He was giving a talk in my area about the gospel and people with disabilities. I had to go.

Mr. Cross invited me, and Tim, you were there, of course. Mr. Durrwachter was in attendance, as well. It was a big deal; a huge ecumenical gathering of theologians and seminarians from across many traditions of Christianity had formed. I think we were all knavishly expecting that the good doctor would swear a lot (he does that) but he didn't. When he began, his thoughts were a bit scattered; he is up in age, I thought, it's bound to happen. But he hit a stride, and he hit my soul. In truth, I have not recovered since. And I'm only now able to begin applying the lessons I learned about myself, and my place in this world. ["Lookin' for a reason/Roamin' through the night to find/My place in this world/My place in this world..."--ed.] Hauerwas said that unlike the rest of humanity, people with disabilities are unable to camoflage their need for love. It is a gracious mercy, but it is a severe one. It's completely true.

If you know me at all, you know that everything is full-bore. I do not do anything halfway, (except for obedience, it seems) and it's been said that I "have a personality like a bikini." I'm intense, passionate, loyal, and in some ways, reckless. I'm convinced that I'm in no wise cut out for the single life. In fact, this is a large part of the point of this post: I feel less human, less myself, because I've yet to receive this blessing. On the other hand, we are all called to chastity and contentment whatever circumstance we inhabit. And that is a war. To me, to be loved by a woman constitutes proof that I am understood in this world. I just want to be understood, loved, and known, even with all my faults. I recognize just as you do that this sounds like the desire for Heaven transposed. And if it is an idol, I do not bow to it consciously. On the other hand, try not to be smug; most of you aren't alone. I'm less likely to give a rat's behind what you say about contentment if you are married. Just sayin.' And please spare us all the cliches: "Marriage is tough," "Enjoy your singleness while you have it," and all those other stupid ones you say.

It's not about sex; it's what the sex signifies: "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine." Have you thought about that? What better person to talk about the misuse of sexuality than someone who knows its good by its abscence. In an odd way, sexual sin is a great teacher: It shows you limits and possibilities for human relations. We can please each other, but we can't fill each other. To reach out for this kind of love is to beg to be welcomed on the most intimate terms. In the end, it is a microcosm of our desire for God. To break out of the need in order to give must be by grace. Who but God could achieve this without destroying the whole design? No wonder it is our strongest desire! Nothing else could be so powerful, and yet so empty in itself, as eros. But what could two people who love God see together?

This may be presumptuous, but I doubt that a counterfeit offer will ensnare me again. I want to find out what's at the end of this rainbow. Something so hard-fought as continence and chastity must conceal a great reward, even in this life.

What I want you to keep in mind is that I see your awareness that I'm different. I'm aware. My way of dealing with that is to seek assurance that we are alike; we are human. I need you to assure me of this--that I am human--even if you are shocked by the boldness of my request. I know it will be uncomfortable; I am at home in a doubt many of us take for granted. The Fall has robbed me of the conceit of autonomy; do not rob me of solidarity also because you are afraid.

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