The Irrelevance of Disability

blind-man-with-caneSometimes I can’t keep myself from indulging in some English professor nerdiness, and today is just such a day. To that noble end, I’d like to inflict on you a poem by the 17th century English poet John Milton. Milton is the guy who took the 49 verses of Genesis 2 and 3, and expanded them to the 10,000 lines of Paradise Lost. You’ll be pleased to know that he’s a good bit more succinct here, sharing a sonnet (14 lines). Give it your best effort here. I’ll translate below.
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or His own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at His bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

Milton had gone blind less than half way through his expected life. That’s bad for anyone, but for a man whose profession required reading and writing, it would seem to have effectively put him out of commission. That’s what the poet is complaining about here. In line 7, he’s uttering a complaint that we might render like this: “You expect me to serve you when you made me blind? What’s up with that?”

But before Milton can get those words out of his mouth, he is reminded that God doesn’t require his puny gifts or his feeble work. God is God, after all, and simply desires obedience and a willingness to take up the yoke of service.

The reason why I share this poem is that all too often Christians look at their disabilities, whether they be physical, mental, or situational disabilities, and say, “You can’t expect me to serve you when I’m like this. What’s up with that?” We lament being too fat or too thin, too young or too old, too sick, too tone deaf, too short, too clumsy, too bald, too hairy, or something I’ve not even imagined. We complain that God gave us dyslexiya, anorexia, or dyspepsia, big hands, small feet, color blindness, or iron poor blood.

All in all, those complaints boil down to us saying one thing: “God didn’t know what He was doing when He made me.” To that, John Milton would say, “Just serve.” If all you can do is stand and wait, then do that. If you can’t even stand, then just wait.

Your disabilities, whether they get you a special parking spot at the grocery or not, do not get you off the hook from serving God.

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