Disability in the race
Revisiting the factor of disability, some of us, such as Kayla and Nick, bear more visible weaknesses in this life than others, but the fact of our sinful nature actually makes each one of us a runner who is disabled (Hebrews 12:1). We all rely on God’s grace to quicken us to be able to move, and make us sufficient in our insufficiency (II Corinthians 12:9). When we see Christians running their race who have special limitations, we are really looking into a mirror of our own broken state before God. The word “autonomous” comes from the Greek nomous meaning “law”; and auto, meaning “done on its own.” Only God is truly “autonomous,” truly a law unto Himself; we are heteron, separate but dependent beings, and subject to the law of God. Since the law excites sin and sin is a fact of our lives (Romans 5:18-21), we all are spiritually crippled and in need of someone to hold us up. How easily and how often do we forget how debilitating sin is and that it’s a hereditary condition for us all. Those who live with disabilities serve as a reminder of how much each one of us needs Christ to sustain us to the end (I Corinthians 1:6-9, I Peter 4:11).
In an interview with Tabletalk, Dr. Michael Beates discussed how God can use disability to magnify His glory: “A well-known saying is: ‘God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good.’ In John 9, Jesus corrects a common mistake people make. If someone lives with a tragic disabling condition, it must be the result, so we think, of someone’s sin — either that person, or perhaps that person’s parents. But Jesus offers a tertium quid, a third way: some people live with disabilities so that the glory of God might be displayed in and through them. I have called this ‘the Mephibosheth Principle.’ In 2 Samuel 9, David, serving here as a type of Christ to come, brings Mephibosheth to the king’s table, even though Mephibosheth remained lame in both feet. What a picture this is of the goodness of God for us. We, though we remain broken and sinful, are invited to the King’s table. We are given a status and honor beyond what we deserve or merit, just as with Mephibosheth. As we grasp this truth, and as those who live with radical brokenness are brought into fellowship with God and His people, the goodness of God is made manifest before the watching world.”
Human autonomy is truly an illusion. Even for the healthiest, most robust, most virile members of the body of Christ, our own strength is a veneer, for “… he himself [God] gives to all mankind life and breath and everything … for ‘In him we live and move and have our being'” (Acts 17:25-28). No matter who we are, the only reason Christians endure in the faith is because God loves us and permits us by His strength (Psalm 28:8, John 6:27, 63, Philippians 1:6, 29, 2:12-13, 4:13,I Corinthians 1:6-9, 15:10, II Corinthians 4:7-12, Colossians 1:11-12, II Timothy 2:12, I Peter 4:11).
Rather than eschew our brokenness and weaknesses, we can acknowledge them as means by which God glorifies Himself. Like Kayla Montgomery, simply persisting to run will exacerbate the inherent weaknesses that threaten to hinder us along the way. But if we stay the course, then even on our last legs we know Who is ready to catch us at the terminus.
(Philippians 3:10-14) “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”