I have a dream
In the words of Martin Luther King: “I have a dream”.
Actually, I have many, many dreams, aims and plans; ideas are not a problem for me. The only problem I have is that life has a habit of getting in the way of these dreams; life literally keeps disabling my dreams. This is frustrating, upsetting and depressing. I don’t like change which is out of my control. It brings out the toddler in me and makes me stamp my feet and throw a tantrum. Once I calm down, and have a chat with my inner adult, there’s no option but to find a way to cope.
There have been four major change points in my life. I’m going through one right now and it’s this which has made me reflect on my dreams; what it means to be disabled; how we can cope with change as individuals, pioneers and communities and what light may shine through brokenness. The table below shows what happened at these four times.
Theology of disablement and community; drawing on John Vanier
John Vanier, founder of the 130 L’Arche communities around the world, has written about disability and theology. I have been inspired by his reflections and want to share a few. In “Community and Growth” he says “Growth begins when we start to accept our own weakness” and in “Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John” he says “The message of this gospel is simple. It is about being chosen to become a friend of Jesus. It is about mutual presence and learning from each other. To live as Jesus lived and to love as he loved”.
Jesus healed disabilities; the blind man, the woman at the well, the dead, children and even the dreaded tax collectors. Jesus knew that this was necessary to bring them into community with others and with God. Jesus even created community when he was himself disabled, on the cross; he showed us how to live when he formed community between John and Mary.
This was a demonstration of the love which rejoices in each and every one of us for who we are; a love which wants us to love ourselves and others despite our brokenness. Most of us are not healed dramatically in the way that Jesus healed through his ministry, but love and acceptance within communities are a blessing which can heal and allow a true happiness and love between all.
In Japan, broken objects are often repaired with Gold – the art is called Kintsugi.
The flaw is seen as a unique piece of the object’s history and adds to its beauty.
John Vanier wrote “Sharing weakness and difficulties is more nourishing for others than sharing our successes”, it is what God wants of us within communities.
It is what pioneers are called to create; what I feel called to in my disabling, to allow the light to break through the brokenness of life to heal others. But how do we move beyond our broken dreams? How do we move beyond our disappointments and failings and disabling?
Disabled Dreams Model
I have a really simple model which we have been exploring in our missional community for coping with change and which I have been testing to the limits in my own life. It is a model which has God at the centre and prayer surrounding it. It is about trust and calling, acceptance and sharing.
As we have tried this out we have made some interesting reflections:
- Every person will be disabled at some point
- We all need to grieve different stages of life and ministry
- We’ve never been given permission to lean before, it’s so empowering
- Listening has become a sign of weakness but we need to re-generate its value
- Is every change or disablement therefore something which gets us closer to God?
- The disabling itself is an opportunity to dream a new dream
Dreaming through Change
I have always seen the disabling times in my life as problems to be solved, as hurdles to be overcome; but life us teaching me that problems and hurdles are everywhere. It is in these times of weakness that I find God with me and see His call on my life. It is in these times that God shines light into the brokenness and seals gaps with His Gold. God does not want me to focus on the disabling of dreams, but on the opportunities to serve Him. Life is not about merely coping with change but about leaning and trusting God and embracing the call to be His disciples in communities together.