A Picture of Grace in Italy
A new season of life is upon us, and emotions are kind of mixed. James starts Transitional Kindergarten this week. We will finally be able to find more structure in our lives, yet an age of innocence somewhat comes to an end. As I've shared on here recently, some deep-rooted feelings of sadness have unfortunately been associated with this upcoming season. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined being a Mom with disabilities that greatly limit what I am able to do and thus what my child is able to do. God has been good to wire me with an inherent bent toward positivity and to give me an imagination that draws my heart toward the promise of a hopeful future. Yet even still, there is a small, very human part of me that quivers at the thought of a bullying, older kid taunting James with questions about his Mommy's wheelchair. I have received nearly 100% positive affirmation on my journey since the stroke, but this era of new peers, non-believers, and people who don't know me or my story feels slightly ominous to me, for some reason.
My friend Hillary directed me to this wonderful resource regarding disabilities and the sovereignty of God written by John Piper (here). It's a thoughtful reflection on God's purposes and redemption in the context of disability. The main passage is the painful but beautiful story of Jesus healing the blind man (John 9). What an encouragement for me to move forward into unknown circles, as Jesus notes in verse 5, "As long as I am in the wold, I am the light of the world". As we are in Christ, we are now that light in the world, a light that is so needed in the darkness. Further, verse 3 explains that through our weakness, brokenness, and disabilities, "the works of God might be displayed". The story of my life and works of God uniquely displayed through that story enable me to be a special kind of light in this world. It's certainly daunting, sad, and frustrating at times, but on the whole it is glorious.
As I anticipate the Fall, it's hard not to think back on a beautiful Summer and Spring, and naturally, our trip to Italy comes to mind. I am so grateful that we were given that celebratory experience when we were. I am also so grateful that I didn't break my leg there! Wow, that would have been interesting. As I recount the unbelievable countryside, fabulous food and precious memories made with Jay, one moment sticks out to me above all the others, and it is truly a picture of grace, vibrantly personifying the work of God displayed through a disabled body.
On Jay's 30th birthday, April 1, we ventured into Rome for the weekend. That day was a Sunday, Palm Sunday, in fact, and we made our way through the throngs to St. Peter's Square to attend the morning mass. The lines of security stretched around the block, but as we rolled up in my wheelchair, we were instantly plucked from the crowd and directed through a side gate, totally bypassing security. Through broken English and gestures, we were pointed by one guard and another priest and a different policeman all to follow the path cut through the crowd to the front steps of the cathedral. Jay whispered that he was a little worried we were going to get arrested since it looked like we were in a totally restricted area, but we were urged on by people who looked like they knew our destination better than we did.
We rounded a corner and found ourselves at the front row of the entire square, with only the steps leading up to the communion table separating us from where the Pope would be in a few short minutes. We were escorted to an empty space on the aisle but quickly noticed this particular aisle was not filled with dignitaries or wealthy business people, in fact, there weren't even chairs. From our left to our right, we were seated next to people in wheelchairs, most of them far more disabled than me.
Jay and I began to weep at this beautiful picture of grace...the last made first, the invisible brought to a place at the front for all to see. It was truly a breathtaking representation of the wholeness of Christ made visible in bodies that are anything but whole by the world's standards. I hold on to the picture of that moment, a singular moment that I will likely never experience again, and it gives me such hope for the moments I will experience now and in my future. Maybe I will never again see "the works of God displayed" in that same row of wheelchairs, in the midst of a sacred place, on a holy day, but I know that the world I will roll into tomorrow deserves to see the light of the world shining in the darkness and the works of God displayed through a life disabled but one gloriously enabled by grace.
And just for fun, a few previously unshared pictures from Italy...