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Monday, November 11, 2019

He Took Away My Security In A Moment

I didn't expect to be utterly taken apart. Certainly not by one sentence. And maybe I expected fireworks from arguably America's best living theologian, who also has a penchant for public vulgarity. Yet I didn't think the fireworks would go off inside me. Let me pause the story to tell you another one.

One day, I went to a trivia night to benefit L'Arche, a Catholic community made up of "normals" and those with intellectual disabilities. Most often, it's Down Syndrome. Mr. Vanier (founder of L'Arche)--in plain, undramatic terms--wanted us all to see Jesus in each other, even if some of us are pushed to the margins. And so it goes.

Anyway, I had a few odd interactions on the way into the trivia, and my friend says, "Sorry some folks treat you like you live at L'Arche." Now, without doubt, I am a proud man. I'm proud of my mind, my words, my degrees. But in a sudden attack of good sense, I said, "Who am I to think I'm better than someone who does?"

I had this in my mind when America's best living theologian began to talk about his 25 years living and working with L'Arche. I was not inclined to radically separate myself from the people he'd met. We have enough ground for solidarity that I figured any talk about disability, and living with one as a person would be highly pertinent. How right I was, though I couldn't have known how much beforehand.

The man said, "People with disabilities are unable to camouflage their need for love." Aptly, I nearly lost a grip on my emotions in that moment. I was seen, as I'd never been before. And I gave to myself a gift of self-acceptance--dare I say, self-love--by the grace of those words.

Draw the conclusion with me: If this cross of physical infirmity takes away my hiding place, if I cannot pretend to be tough, strong, and independent, then where else do I foolishly try? And if this is truly so, I'm not sensitive, or womanly, or weak--as if any of those are bad--I am gifted with an opportunity for the humility and vulnerability that admits me and all of us into the Kingdom.

That was in itself worth a word of thanks to the speaker, and so I gave it to him later. Infirmity of whatever kind is not a gift, as such. But the opportunity to draw close to others via my own need, and in that, to extend mercy for living, absolutely is such a gift. Who am I to refuse to give it?

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