“Because I can’t not be.”
This was my friend’s memorable response to the seemingly harmless question of “why are you a Christian?”
It’s brilliant. It’s succinct. It’s true. And it resonates far more in me than the elated superstar responses of rich and famous Christians for whom Jesus has apparently made all aspects of their life more sparkling.
Most folks who have had anything more than a passing acquaintanceship with Jesus realize rather quickly that Shane Claiborne wasn’t overstating things when he said, “Jesus wrecked my life.” I doubt there is a middle or upper-middle class person who has actually been invaded by Jesus’ outlandish affection and stubborn insistence on the totality of their allegiance who hasn’t felt the fault-line tremors of his comprehensive call and demand right down the center of their heart.
One of our partners in actively bringing the glad tidings of Christ’s reconciling mercies to the nations (aka “missionaries” our church supports) were being clobbered with maladies. In a correspondence to our church they helped us see how they endure when they seem hemmed in with frustration and actual spiritual attack.
When Meddlesome Hindrances Present Themselves
They’ve figured out a way to reframe their existence by faith so they don’t sink when a storm of meddlesome hindrances present themselves in their bodies, the lives of those they are trying to serve, and even in the children they adore.
Their antidote to despair came from the misspoken exuberance of a new believer in Northeast Kenya where they were laboring among a tribe of Muslims. This young man had been happily captured by the pursuant Jesus. In the joy of his capture, but hindered by the limitation of his broken English, he made a valiant effort to broadcast his astonishment to fellow believers, “We are disciples of Jesus Christ.” What came out though was probably closer to reality, although not nearly as marketable, especially to Westerners, “We are disabled for Jesus!” A divine handicap became his unwitting claim.
“Disciple” becomes disabled through bad English or through the tampering affection of the once mangled but now resurrected Jesus who knows how to accomplish the impossible. C.S. Lewis once remarked, “All sorts of things are possible with God. In fact, a camel might even make it through the eye of a needle, but it will be very rough on the camel.”
I suspect we have no clear notion of just how much needs to be disabled in us. We are strangers to ourselves in myriad ways. Who can tell how much insistence on having our own way, how much of our own strong immuno-defense against the allergen of God, how much grudge-holding, and resistance to love simply needs to be dismantled in us before we could possibly live as intended as radiant reflections of the One who has sought and captured us?
Our missionary friends, realizing this, decide now to take a deep breath of refreshing grace-heavy air in the midst of crumbling health for themselves and their children, in the middle of Jesus-resistance from those they try to reach, and in each confrontation with downright, adversarial evil...with a somewhat lightened heart by rehearsing the truest things about themselves, “Oh, well, we’re just the DISABLED for Jesus. And thank the Lord for getting us through another day’s worth of troubles.”
The Weird and Unwanted Gift
The Apostle Paul could only be elated in prison because he knew the suffering was a gift. A weird and unwanted one surely, but a gift nonetheless. And one with a surprising purpose. “It has been given to you not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for him.” So all of life is intertwined and comprehended in Jesus’ life. Knowing the exhilaration of his resurrection requires first chafing under the deprivation of his disabilities.
We become disabled for Jesus so one-day we can become the leaping lame—mini-theaters of divine reversal, of captivating renovation. And we let ourselves be disabled as we adopt his reclaiming and restoring mission in the world.
Some dear readers are literally physically disabled right now. You’re leg doesn’t work as it ought. Your back isn’t correctly supported as it should be. And others are entrusted with less apparent, but nevertheless soul-aggravating disabilities, the sort that come from following the Savior from the suburbs of heaven into the housing projects we call the world, and letting the abrasive complication of broken down lives get inside your life like a pebble in your shoe.
And still others, are contemplating, “am I willing to re-consider my life entirely as belonging to Jesus?” We contemplate, because we know that such a consideration will mean suffering. But it will also mean glory. Sorry, that’s an impotent, worn-out word for us. How about take-your-breath-away gladness? How about a sense of security so deep that you’re never threatened? How about graduation day joy mixed with wedding day delight, topped off with birth of a child exuberance---a cocktail of unrepeatable warm and undeniably wondrous happiness with Him who is its Author.
If we are to know such festive mirth one day, and even the approximations of it we are regularly treated to now, we must keep after Jesus who has always kept after us.
Our Kenyan friends keep after Him and His call, because they noticed something else at work. While they have their lives wrecked, and therefore feel unable to evangelize as they are called to do, their prized friend and recent convert to Christ, has, himself, been visiting new, formerly closed villages and being used to reclaim many who are now strangely hungry for God to Jesus for whom they were created to hunger. In one meeting for prayer, he recalled, “We gathered, prayed, and chased Satan!”
These missionaries, like many of you, see their well-intended efforts blocked by disablement. But then, like the Apostle Paul who rejoiced in the irony that his imprisonment had merely served to start a jail-break of God’s grace gallivanting all over the place, they notice their disablement become an enablement of a rescued man they’d come to love and the advance of the replenishing gospel in the hand of the transforming Christ to win more of the world to himself.
For all the impairments and burdens that come from following Jesus, he is still the giver of the easy yoke and the restful burden. To be disabled for Jesus is to be a strange and happy creature who doesn’t live in fear of what will happen to you because, since you’ve nothing any longer to protect, whether you live or die, all of it means more of Him. And once you’ve been disabled by him, who else do you really want? Where else are you going to go?
Contact Eric Youngblood, pastor of Rock Creek Fellowship on Lookout Mountain, at firstname.lastname@example.org