I’m sure most of you have seen that joke “If God had Email,” sometimes titled, “If God had an Answering Service.” You know, the one that goes:
Thank you for calling Heaven. All of our angels and saints are busy helping other sinners right now. To speak to the Father, press 1, the Son, press 2, the Holy Spirit, press 3. To contact a loved one in Heaven, press 5 and enter the loved one’s Social Security number. If you get a negative response, please hang up and dial area code 666. For questions about salvation, please dial J-O-H-N 316. To hear a Psalm while you wait, please press pound, followed by 2-3. For emergency assistance, please contact your local pastor.
Yes, it’s funny. And I’d venture to say, most of us–particularly us folks, like me, who’ve been in church since the cradle room, would act scandalized if it were even hinted we acted as if God has an answering service. “Of course not,” we would say. “God is everywhere, and He always answers–and if the answer’s not what we want, then that’s our problem.”
Ah, what a safe and terrible answer, as Belle said in the 1984 version of A Christmas Carol to Scrooge–right before she dumped him flat.
I wouldn’t be saying this to you, except I just realized: I’ve spent today acting like God has an answering service. Like He doesn’t hear me and doesn’t care–and why should He? I’m an insignificant dot in the infinite number of His creations. I even told someone today, frustrated with my life’s perceived lack of direction (and yes, carrying around some hormones), that my heart was not in being a Christian at that particular moment.
But maybe that was okay. What I mean is, I don’t think I could ever give up believing or loving Jesus. But as I said to Him tonight, I have spent the past seventeen years trying to be, not only a Christian, but THE Christian. The best one. The best one, who understands that life is not about her–and never acts like it–reads her Bible and prays because she loves God, not because she fears Him out of terror, realizes she is scum for having a middle-class lifestyle while, meanwhile in Africa… And the Christian who wholly surrenders everything to Him, even the desires she fears she’ll never have because she wasn’t good enough. In other words, I’ve spent my whole life trying to put the puzzle together, and pieces keep slipping out of my fingers.
This is an accurate analogy, actually. When I was little, part of my occupational therapy sometimes involved doing puzzles–a fun activity forced on me to make my hands and fingers “stronger” and “better”–you can see my therapy post for more about this. I can’t remember ever putting together one of those puzzles correctly. Nothing fit where it was supposed to, and I couldn’t tell where it was supposed to go, anyway. You’ve probably figured out, I don’t do jigsaws when I’m not blogging.
But then, I got a divine news flash, something like: “Since when did God retire?” Funnily enough, I’d recently had one of my current novel project’s characters say that to another character. Being of a spiritual bent, my novels can and do come back to haunt me.
Now of course, I knew God had not retired, but I realized I was acting like it, in two ways. First, because I continue to struggle with the hard truth that I cannot become THE Christian–as I covered in the post To Truly Know. But more importantly right now, is this:
I often act like God retired when it comes to my life as a person with a disability. That is, I often get so carried away by emotion that I think, “Why did You create me? What am I supposed to do, be shelved? Just–sit?” This is exacerbated when I think of the truth that in the scope of His universe, I am in fact very insignificant. As Francis Chan said, the equivalent of that extra you see for two-fifths of a second in a movie. It’s also exacerbated when I think of people with disabilities who have been–unfairly–described as “[unfortunates who can] do nothing but sit and drool.” (“The Hugging Judge,” a story from the first Chicken Soup for the Soul).
But remember, God hasn’t retired. He’s still on the job, so that’s got to mean He created everybody–including those with “severe” disabilities–for some reason other than to sit and drool. (If you’re an atheist or agnostic, don’t check out. If you sincerely believe the universe got here through random molecules bumping into each other, fine. But do consider exactly why some of those molecules bumped around to create disabilities, or why evolution has allowed disabilities to exist).
Sometimes, I comfort myself by telling myself that, with all the things I’m doing, God must’ve created me to do more than be “shelved.” But that gives rise to the question–what if He did? What if I’m not supposed to do the things I envision myself doing? Is that okay? Can I cope?
The in-church-since-nursery-days girl part of me would say yeah, sure, because Jesus is enough. Is that true? I don’t know. I’m still working on it. But I do know this: I, and every other person with a disability, was created for some REAL reason. The girl whose autism looks so severe and tragic to you? She might’ve been created to show you the beauty of God’s creation through her hair and her eyes, or to get you to stretch your brain–when you used to think you were “too dumb” because you dropped out of high school. That boy in your class who’s blind? Maybe he was created with blindness because he has a great voice, or great physical skills, that he wouldn’t have known he possessed–and neither would you have–if he could see perfectly. That adult with fragile X syndrome? Perhaps he or she was created because someday, in some way, his or her disability will physically or emotionally save your life. (I saw this happen, in Maureen Lang’s fictional, but fantastic, book The Oak Leaves).
So I must have been created for some real reason, too. We all must have.
I think the problem is, our “culture of caring,” as Kathie Snow has called it, often squelches these real reasons for the creation of a person with a disability. More on that in the next post. In the meantime: think it over. In looking at people with disabilities, have you been playing God? If you have–He got the memo. And He’s probably laughing hysterically at us all.