From the outside, he doesn’t look like he has much to offer the Church. He can’t speak. He can’t walk independently. And, he requires maximum help and medical interventions to do things most people take for granted. Yet his differences—the very things that make it hard to include him in the Church body—are the very things God is using to teach us, the Church, through him.
I used to think that we were a burden on the children’s ministry. For us to go to service, it takes finding multiple buddies for alternating weeks who are willing to learn how to work a feeding tube. When my son comes strolling through the lobby at a snail’s pace in his walker, it takes other families (including my own) tremendous patience. A couple weeks ago, a teenager held the door open for approximately three minutes—the time it took for us to maneuver the entrance. It is hard for parents who are ushering their children out of church when their little ones begin to ask, “What is wrong with that boy, Mommy?” And their sweet parents don’t have an answer.
We are stared at and stumbled over. Yet we keep coming.
I used to attend church with the mentality that it was for me. I went to get fed spiritually, to find community and encouragement. And those things are oftentimes the result of me attending, but that’s not my main reason for going. Ultimately, I go to worship the Father alongside others, and one of those others is my differently-abled son. My son, although difficult to accommodate, is invited to the table.
In Luke chapter 14:13-14, Jesus told the Pharisees to not invite the people who could repay them as dinner guests. Instead he said, “But when you give a reception invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (NASB)
We go to church because it is my son’s ministry. We go because the Church needs to engage with “the least of these.” It is the “least of these” who Jesus reminds us to keep on loving and including. My son’s presence at church on Sunday is an act of worship to a God who deeply cares for the vulnerable. His presence is a gift—a reminder to us, the people of God, that we have a future hope in the resurrection of the righteous.
I encourage you to seek out the people in your community who are more vulnerable or differently-abled. Welcome them. Tell them you are glad they are here. Remember, it is a great honor for us to worship alongside all of God’s people.
Kathy McClelland is the author of Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent. Her second son was born with a rare (1 in 50,000 births) chromosomal disorder which catapulted her into the world of special needs parenting. A former marketing manager, she now blogs at kathymcclelland.com about finding beauty and hope in the midst of broken dreams. She is also a regular contributor to PreemieBabies101.com and KeyMinistry.org. She has published on TODAY.com, TheMighty.com, HerViewFromHome.com, EllenStumbo.com, and Sparkhouse.org.