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My arm doesn't need healing

I was born missing my left arm below the elbow. This technically means I have a disability, though I find it hard to identify with the label. Missing my arm is simply what I know, part of my basic everyday existence. I know the limits of my ability, but I see no need to define myself by them. Similarly, I don't mind being asked about my arm, just as I don't mind being asked about a new haircut--I feel no need to be ashamed or apologetic for my physical form.

So it is always a bit jarring when I encounter people who think I should feel ashamed about my appearance. These people, when meeting me, look at my arm and immediately say, "I'm sorry." From their point of view my life must be so miserable that I deserve their pity.

I have church friends (and yes, family members) who let me know that they have been praying for years that God would grow my arm. According to their view, if I only had the faith of a mustard seed then some sort of miraculous arm sprouting would occur. I've learned to take such responses in stride, knowing that their rejection of who I am says more about their insecurities than it says about me. But I struggle more when I hear such things from church leaders.

For instance, Rowan Williams, writing about the eucharistic interdependence of the corporate body of Christ, says that abled people should not respond in fright to handicapped people but instead realize that abled people need the healing of the handicapped for their own good--just as the handicapped need abled people's wholeness for theirs. He calls this the outworking of the sacramental vision.

I could barely read any farther, as his words forced me to realize that he views people with disabilities as "other." Instead of being allowed to be ourselves, we are reduced to a category of people who must be healed before we can be accepted as equals.

Few people would deny that it is hurtful to tell a woman she must become a man or to tell a black man he must become white in order to be a full member of the body and experience wholeness. But some people still assume that people who are differently-abled need to become like someone else in order to be whole.

Our faith celebrates the idea of the word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, yet we reject physical bodies that seem different. It is one thing to say that our condition as human beings is broken. It's another thing to assert that some people are more broken simply because they have only one arm, or use a wheelchair, or have different mental processes. We are all the broken body of Christ struggling to be in communion with God and each other.

God created me to be tall, to be a woman, to have brown hair and a left arm that ends at the elbow. I don't need to be healed of any of that in order to be a member of the body of Christ.

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Chinese New Year - The story of Nian and Good Luck

The Story of NianThere is a legend about the origin of "year". In ancient times, our ancestors were subject to the threat of a most ferocious animal called 'Nian' (year), which lived on various kinds of animals. In winter where food was scarce in the mountains, 'Nian' would intrude the villages to eat human beings and beasts of burden. People were frightened and on tenterhooks. People fought against Nian for many years, and they found Nian was afraid of three things: red color, fire and sound. Therefore, in winter people hung a piece of red peach wood at the door, lighted a pile of fire at the gate, beat gongs and drums heavily to make a loud sound, without sleeping throughout the night. One night Nian intruded into the village again and saw the red color and fire at every door and heard a thunderous sound. It was frightened and retreated to the mountains. From then on it dare not come out again. After the night was over, people gave congratulations to each other. They put up red lanterns and drank liquor and wine at feasts to celebrate their victory.To celebrate the great victory people of every family would paste red paper couplets on the door panels,handan florist, light red lanterns,fanyu flowers, beat gongs and drums, let off fireworks and firecrackers all through the night. Early next morning they would greet each other happily. Generation after generation, the day of Spring Festival came into being.Good Luck CoupletsDecorations are an important feature of the celebrations for the Chinese New Year. One of the main forms of decoration are the 'Red Couplets', which are Chinese good luck sayings written on red paper, often with gold trimmings and usually made up of four Chinese characters which ask for luck in terms of long life, wealth etc.Red is not only a lucky colour for the Chinese, but also frightens off the monster 'Nian' who arrives at this time of year and destroys crops and homes.Some New Year couplets are intended to be pasted or pinned in special places such as the kitchen or doors, while some can be placed anywhere. The couplets are usually taken down after the New Year celebrations, though some people keep them up all year long in the hope of keeping good luck. From: China Festivals Chinese New Year Flowers and Gifts to China - Same day.

Being a TAB

I have many friends with many disabilities. I also have many friends who are TABs. The "Temporally Able Bodied" are those who were not born with a disability or have avoided an injury to date that affects their motion limits, senses or thought processes or have not reached the point the natural effects of aging have set in. If we accept that developing a disability is a natural occurrence then people with disabilities are just another person of the great variety that the Father gave us to live with.

I think...

The healing of the handicapped? Society needs healing in the way we look at one another. We often take differences and create a hierarchy. The quote by Rowan Williams strikes me negatively in two ways. First of all, he subscribes to the thought process that creates a hierarchy. At the top he puts himself among those he terms "whole". At the bottom he puts those who are disabled in some way, and as they are contrasted with the other group it seems he considers them less than whole. Yes he says we need one another, but with the understanding that I am a more complete person than Julie because both of my arms end in hands. This is simply untrue.

The second thing that frustrates me about his premise is that he does not look at Julie or me in our entirety. He makes a judgement about us based on a brief glance. This is never a good place to start. Who knows how complete we each are emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. People are incredibly complex because every single part of their DNA and every thing they experience swirls together to create a unique individual. We should not presume to know what parts of them need healing and what parts of them do not.

Julie, Thanks for your

Thanks for your post--I'm sure there are many who share your sentiments in some way, and I think it's true that in an attempt to overcome social stigmas, oftentimes Christians perpetuate a different one.

However, I think it's a bit unfair to interpret Rowan Williams speech as *defining* folks with disabilities as "other." Rather, I think, along with beautiful souls like Jean Vanier and l'Arche, he's making a more confessional statement about the way we are conditioned to view those who have so-called disabilities. We are conditioned to think of these so-called disabilities as visible brokenness.

We are all broken people, like you said, but I don't think Williams or many others who have made similar statements, are necessarily making the claim that people with physical or mental differences are *more* broken, or that they need to be healed to be part of the body of Christ, and certainly doesn't seem to be saying you need to be like someone else to be part of the body.

Whether or not a "disability" is a sign of the brokenness in the world, in some cases it makes another person's inner brokenness more visible, the very brokenness that many of us try to hide. Where's the wrong in seeing that and being pointed to one's own brokenness?

I would end with a sort of "devil's advocate" question. What is your theological objection to such a thing as a disability? What would be the problem with a "disability" being a sign of brokenness, not necessarily yours, but the brokenness of the world we live in? And lastly, I'm curious how such an understanding of disability fits with Scripture, where a consistent theme in the Gospels is of Jesus healing physical brokenness, and at points these healings being used to highlight the brokenness of those watching. The message of Jesus seems to be that outer brokenness does not equal inner brokenness, but the kingdom of God brings healing to both.

Sorry for the length of my comment--your post intrigues me, so I'm grateful for your response.

Brian Gorman

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