This is the eighth entry in the UCCDM Lenten Devotional 2016 series and will be published on Palm Sunday. This devotional reflection comes from Candace Low. She is the Executive Director of Independence Unlimited, a non-residential, non-profit center for independent living serving a diverse population of person with disabilities, a member of Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, CT, and a student at Hartford Seminary working on certification in worship and spirituality. This devotional reflects the views of the author and not the views of UCCDM.
The Biblical Passage for this reflection is taken from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. In it, Paul begins by writing about himself and his character.
“If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this 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 heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:4b-14)
When I was growing up I had ambitions of grandeur to do great things. I wanted to be a lawyer and a musician, perhaps a judge one day or a great concert pianist or singer. Like most dreams, they were all about me with little thought given to how I might serve God. I was destined for great things. One beautiful sunny day the stillness of the day was broken with the earthshattering sound of the crash of my car and the crash of my dreams in the aftermath.
In an instant I went from an invincible teenager to a grownup with a traumatic brain injury that caused deafness and a host of other issues including memory loss. How could I accomplish anything when I could not remember who I was? I woke up from a coma angry! How dare God do this to me? Of course God didn’t do this to me but I had to blame somebody, right?
I have to confess that I spent many years being angry and trying to find something I could do to be somebody, accomplish something of significance so that I would be judged worthy. I was incredibly misguided in thinking I needed to use the judgement of those around me as a measure for my worthiness. It was a beautiful and empowering day that I realized that God was not going to judge me on my accomplishments, or how much I remember, or that I sometimes sing off key because I don’t hear the pitch. It has been promised that I will be judged on what is in my heart.
I sometimes wonder what I would have done or if I would have the passion for social justice issues if I had not acquired disabilities. I can say that I have learned many lessons through living with disability and I can honestly rejoice and thank God for the opportunity to learn that what I do or accomplish is not nearly as important as the intent in my heart. I can rejoice because it has been promised in the scripture reading for this wonderful Sunday in Lent that faithfulness will restore and make me whole. I do not believe that this promise necessarily refers to my body which really needs some work. The condition of my body is not really relevant to my journey. It is the condition of my heart that needs my focus for it is this upon which I will be held accountable.
Prayer: Dear precious Lord, open our mind and hearts so that we may nourish the love in our hearts and do good works in Your Name. Amen.