David snagged a book from his parent’s house- and when we arrived in Detroit I snagged it and started reading it. Anyone who knows me well knows that I do one thing particularly well… and that thing is to cry. I cry. If you’re crying and I am connected to your story- I’m gonna cry. However, I generally don’t cry when I read books- I feel deeply inside, but that feeling doesn’t manifest itself in tears… until I found said snagged book. If you believe in Christ or you’re interested in the Christian life or you just like to read about spiritual books- and if you love my son, Bentley. Go get this book.The Road to Daybreak: A Spiritual Journey by Henri Nouwen.
Henri Nouwen moved to a community in France called L’Arche on August 13, 1985 (23 years and 1 day before the birth of Bentley) to live with those who have mental disabilities (he uses the phrase mentally handicapped which I will quote in his words).- He left a teaching position at Harvard University to pursue this opportunity. Part of L’Arche communities offer those with severe disabilities full time aids who can wash, feed, and fully take care of someone else. This is called La Forestiere (in this particular community)- keep this in mind during my end quote.
“It was important for me to be reminded again of this gift of the handicapped. They see through a facade of smiles and friendly words and sense the resentful heart before we ourselves notice it. Often they are capable of unmasking our impatience, irritation, jealousy, and lack of interest and making us honest with ourselves. For them, what really counts is a true relationship, a real friendship, a faithful presence. Many mentally handicapped people experience themselves as a disappointment to their parents, a burden for their families, a nuisance to their friends. To believe that anyone really cares and really loves them is difficult. Their heart registers with extreme sensitivity what is real care and what is false, what is true affection and what is just empty words. Thus, they often reveal to us our own hypocrisies and invite us always to greater sincerity and purer love.
My limited experience with handicapped people has made me see the truth of Jean’s observation. Being at L’Arche means many things, but one of them is a call to a greater purity of heart. Indeed, Jesus speaks through the broken hearts of the handicapped, who are considered marginal and useless.
But God has chosen them to the poor through whom he makes his presence known. This is hard in a success and production oriented society” (19).
I have found that life lived is a spiritual journey. We are all trying to figure it out. When I traveled to Cuba in 2003 it was the poverty and oppression of that place that led me away from believe in Christ. No God would allow an entire country to suffer- and if God would allow that suffering- then I wasn’t going to follow God.
Yet a pastor in Phoenix who was from Croatia and has seen genocide- watched the suffering of children in a place with no children welfare system- convinced me that God is the only way to enter the suffering. I don’t have profound answers here- just a life story- and my story is that he changed my mind about God. And through perseverance and faith I found myself in a place where I can hate the oppression and be grieved about the poverty and pain and also believe in God.
And so it was the very thing that led me away from faith that God used to usher me back in. And sine then He has revealed over and over His faithfulness in the needs of the world, while also showing me that it will not be fully healed- not now- not until Christ.
The other week Rod talked about the idea of not being totally 100% healed until Christ. So while we pray for healing for those who we love- for cities, for countries, for wars- those things will never be totally 100% healed- until Christ.
Enter Bentley. My son- my joy- my deep and innocent connection with the God who creates.
I often wonder if Bentley is broken. With my spiritual lenses I see that Bentley is changing me and he is changing you. He offers something to my life that my other two children just don’t offer. Is this offering a spiritual offering that can be met in no other way? And if that is true- then is my dear son broken? Or is he whole? Is that cell- with three chromosomes- duplicated over his entire body a mistake? Or is it God ordained wholeness? Does it matter if his Down syndrome is a mistake or if it was willed before the light was set in it’s place?
I don’t know that it matters. What matters is that God is revealing the characters and qualities of Him through this world seen broken child. When everyone else is running in circles and trying to get ahead and finding the secrets of success- my son is quietly whispering- stop. Find success in the not success. Find happiness and peace and rest in the- not success. Find the wholeness in serving those who cannot feed or dress or take care of themselves. Serve the broken not the idols of our eyes.
Those who have met and served and cared for and loved a person with disabilities are changed. They have a sparkle and they smile wildly at my son. But there many who are afraid and haven’t discovered the mystery of the God loved and created people with disabilities. If you are still unaware of this mystery- search for it- ask God that would reveal it to you. You won’t be disappointed with the luminous beauty that will be revealed.
“If I can truly believe that God loved us so much that he became flesh among us, the people at La Forestiere invite me to see how deep that love is. Indeed, here I can meet Jesus, the same Jesus whom I adore in the prayer room- L’ Oratoire. Here, too, God is hidden: here, too, is unceasing prayer of simple presence: here, too, is the utmost poverty.
The first commandment (Love God) is lived out in L’ Oratoire (the prayer room),
the second (love others) in La Forestiere” (29).