First off, thank you to all my friends, family, and readers for putting up with my recent temporary hiatus. It’s good to be back home the and back on the blog. This last month and a half or so has been one of the busiest of my life. Fortunately, it’s also been one of the most exciting and fun. In early November I was pouring over a giant book of Supreme Court opinions preparing to compete in collegiate Moot Court, a new type of debate for me. (Who knew Supreme Court justices were so long winded! Huh, maybe I’ve got a future on the highest Court in the land! It was a privilege to compete with my school’s team. It seemed like I had just finished all this when the stress and pressure of my first college paper season set in. Once my papers were all done, following my great sigh of relief, I was immediately presented with my first Patrick Henry College finals season. After a lot of studying, (periodically interrupted by board games, root beer floats, pizza, Christmas movies, and a fantastic Christmas Ball dance all spent with good friends,) I’m happy to say that I think I emerged relatively unscathed.
It’s amazing how, even in the midst of a crazy season like the one I’m just coming out of, God still finds ways to teach important things. That’s one of the reasons I’ve loved my new school so much. No matter how incredibly busy things get, we are constantly reminded of how important it is that we maintain our focus on Him. As a result, I feel like this last semester has been a time of significant spiritual growth. God has dug up and dealt with issues in my heart, particularly regarding my dependence on Christ, that have needed dealing with for a long time. A couple of weeks ago, I was blown away by the way He used a chapel message to make me see all my business in a completely new way.
The honest truth is, growing up with a disability I’ve often felt like I had something to prove. Let’s face it, singing “Jesus loves me this I know” in Sunday school is a lot easier than living with a peace that comes from knowing that you are infinitely valuable to God exactly as you are. Even harder is living out the fact that God’s estimation of you makes other people’s estimation not all that important. I wouldn’t have admitted this publicly a couple of weeks ago, but whether in academics, debate, relationships, personal popularity, or even things I’m not terribly good at, way too often I fall into the trap of thinking I always need to be the top of the heap. This is why I become so frustrated with any perceived personal failure. I’ve repeatedly bought into the lie that I needed success in order to force people to see more than the disability on the surface.
Yet, in that one chapel message, God exposed so much of my sinful motivation for this kind of attitude. The great mystery of the Christmas season itself is enough to prove what a boldfaced lie this is. The God of the universe humbled himself and came to earth as a baby. That baby would grow up, suffer and die for you and me. The King of the Universe sacrificed his Only Begotten Son so that we could have fellowship with him. Isn’t that enough to prove our value, despite what other people think? It’s sad how trite Christmas has become, even in Christian churches. The incarnation is God’s proof positive that he loved the human race, no matter what shortcomings we struggle with. I hope that those with disabilities can realize this, and rest in the joy it brings. We have nothing to prove. Christmas is God saying, “You are valuable, case closed.”
For the disabled and their families, going through surgery is a common and not always easy experience. Having been under the knife eleven times myself, I can identify with what an ordeal surgery can be. No matter how talented and trustworthy the surgeon, it’s almost impossible not to worry whenever a procedure is impending or under way. We thank God for the ever-expanding blessings of medical science, and we know that the goal is to improve the person’s life, but the possibility always exists that something can go wrong. Even though we expect people to come out on the other side of surgeries changed for the better, it’s still a challenge to trust our loved ones (or ourselves) completely to someone who claims to have the expertise to get us through this moment of danger safely. We have to learn to trust that, ultimately, God watches over his children, the doctors know what they are doing, and this trial will, in the long run, work out for good.
It occurred to me recently that the experience of going through surgery, one so common to those of us affected by a disability, is a great metaphor for spiritual growth. We are sinful human beings. We all have deep-rooted flaws and imperfections in need of correcting if we are to remain spiritually healthy, and our Heavenly Father loves us too much to leave us as we are. He is in an ongoing process of molding and shaping us, making us more like His son, a process theologians refer to as sanctification . If we are in an active relationship with God, we are always laid open before Him. Every day he probes our inmost parts, working to makes us more whole and functional than we could ever have been on our own. At times, some of our most unhealthy, unholy tendencies do not respond easily to His work. Something becomes set wrong, twisted up, too tight, within our souls. At times God has to subject us to some momentary pain in order to set these areas of our lives straight. Like undergoing surgery, it is not always a pleasant experience.
I mention this now because I feel like God has been putting me through an experience of “divine surgery,” gradually revealing shortcomings and deficiencies in my own life that need to be brought more under His lordship. Since I started college, I have been stretched, altered, and shaped in many ways by the new people and new ideas I am encountering, the encouragement I am receiving from fellow Christians in my spiritual walk, and the demands of a new independence that enable me to realize my need for a growing dependence on Him. God has used this new college experience to crystalize and directly address issues He had laid on my heart for some time.
These challenges haven’t always been easy to face, but how much more we can rely on Jesus Christ than on human doctors in an operating room! We can rest confidently knowing that the Great Physician always knows exactly what He’s doing, that He always acts with the greatest skill imaginable, that He cannot make mistakes, and that He begins with an unfathomably good end in mind. It is an honor and a privilege to be made gradually more whole by the King of the universe. We ought to welcome, not shy away from, his shaping and changing work. It might be painful at times, but we will be amazed what the final result will be.