I am happy to introduce my good friend Elizabeth (Liz) Sawatzky. I met Liz approximately 8 years ago, and since then a friendship has blossomed that is very important to me. Liz is passionate about both MCC and the environment, to name a few things. Liz has been working on something new that involves her personal story and her passion to support MCC, in fact she’s been working very hard! I’m excited that she can share her journey and thoughts in this space. -Heidi
And his disciples asked him, saying, Rabbi, who sinned, this man, or his parents, that he should be born blind? Jesus answered, Neither did this man sin, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. John 9:2-3
Various Christians I’ve encountered, in response to this passage, have told me something like: “See Liz, you were born with cerebral palsy so that God can use you more”
Oh yes, how blessed I am to have severely tight muscles and painful inflammation. I pity those who don’t walk with a limp. I just need to sit here and wait till God shines his face upon me and I am healed.
(Hopefully you picked up on the sarcasm.) The sad thing is that I once sought comfort in these verses. “God’s got something big for me, that’s the only explanation for my having a birth defect.”
Recently, my friend told me that the Greek text makes it clear Jesus is speaking to this certain blind man. In other words, the passage is not suggesting that that “the works of God will” necessarily be made manifest in everyone who is faced with some physical or mental challenge. Sometimes we just don’t know the reason why God allows hardships.
I’m not going to get into a discussion of the causes (moral or otherwise) of birth defects. Instead, I want to talk about how society—the Christian community in particular—treats those whom they see as ‘less capable’. Our tendency is to focus on what people cannot do. Instead, we should be focusing on what people can accomplish.
Two year ago I started seeing a physiotherapist for my hip. The pain and inflammation was so severe that I was often having difficulty sleeping, and I found that my walking was getting worse. Looking back after a few months of hands-on treatment and guided exercise, I noticed a radical change had taken place. No, I wasn’t ‘healed’– I still have cerebral palsy – but I have been healed of the constant pain. Even more importantly, I feel I have been freed from limitations: some that other people had placed on me; and others that I had imposed on myself.
I was once told ,flat-out, “You’ll never climb the Grouse Grind®” (a 2.9-kilometre trail up the face of Grouse Mountain. It’s commonly referred to as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster.”) And I used to tell myself the same kind of thing. Maybe I thought I was being realistic, but on the other hand I believe I was looking for a reason not to try. It’s easier to give up before you start.