The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honourable we bestow the greater honor…But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
-1 Cor. 12:21-25
Time and disease have worn and withered your once-healthy frame, and you are not the same as you once were. I remember when you could walk and run with ease. You played on sports teams with friends, and you took me for long walks and bike rides. You taught me how to bake as we spent hours in the kitchen. You beat Dad at tennis. You honed your creative talents with tedious, time-intensive labor.
It’s amazing what time and disease can do to a person.
Your frame is smaller, and your gait is unsteady. Your voice sounds different, and your hands shake. Your independence is gone, and you must rely on the kindness of others for help. This was not your choice. This was not what you had envisioned for your future.
But this was not overlooked by Him, this disease that continues to cripple you. It has never been beyond His power to heal you, and yet here you are. Small and weak. Dependent and frail.
And you are a gift to the body of Christ.
You are a gift to me and my family.
On 1 Corinthians 12, Albert Barnes writes:
A man can live though the parts and members of his body which are more strong were removed; but not if those parts which are more feeble. A man can live if his arm or leg be amputated; but not if his brain, his lungs, or his heart be removed. So that, although these parts are more feeble, and more easily injured, they are really more necessary to life, and therefore more useful, than the more vigorous portions of the frame.
Perhaps the idea is — and it is a beautiful thought — that those members of the church which are most retiring and feeble apparently…are often more necessary to the true welfare of the church…And it is so. The church can better spare many a man…who is learned, and eloquent, and popular, than some obscure and humble Chrstian, that is to the church what the heart and the lungs are to the life…The vitality of the church could be continued though the man of talent and learning should be removed — as the body may live when the arm or the leg is amputated; but that vitality could not continue, if the saint of humble and retiring piety and of fervent prayerfulness were removed, any more than the body can live when there is no heart and no lungs.
Oh, the one on the outside will never see; but I do! You are highly valued and prized — a gift to many.
Some will only see the pain and difficulty that your disease brings. The sacrifice to care for you, the money spent to ensure your vitality and safety, the missing out of activities that individuals your age can still do.
But time has not just taken away your vitality. It has given me perspective.
And your disease has not just stolen days of health from you. It has taught me. So much, it has taught me.
I am learning that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Truly. Words cannot express the joy and honor I have in loving you and caring for you.
I am learning that – despite what this Westernized, individual-centric culture tells me – I am not the center of my world. There are people around me who need me to help them along in their journey, people who are hurting and sick and needy. This life is not all about me and my comfort.
I am learning how my life and yours fit into the overarching plan of God to redeem people through Christ. Through your story, I see His redemption. I see the hope of heaven, this sure anchor we have through faith in Jesus. The brokenness you endure, it is not the end of your story. One day, you will be restored.
I am learning that people with sickness and pain cannot be seen merely through the lense of their condition. Everyone contibutes to society in their own unique way. Your disease does not define you, and your talent astounds me. I have so much yet to learn from you.
I am learning the great art of empathy. For this disease of yours, it does not just hurt me. You are the one who has to bear it daily, moment by moment.
And for those who are willing to enter your pain and your story, they will see for themselves as well.
You are a gift, treasured and loved.