by David Morstad
As a young child with cerebral palsy, Barry knew all about hidden places. The son of an alcoholic and abusive father, he first came to understand his disability as something mysteriously and undeniably burdensome on his family. Like all children (with or without disabilities) who are victims of abuse, Barry believed the lie, that the abuse was his own fault, that he caused it. “I was ashamed,” he would say years later, “He didn’t love me, and it was my fault.”
The painful paradox is that there are places inside each of us that are still too far away to reach. They are the places we do not understand, or we fear, or we are simply too ashamed to consider. When he was just 11 years old, Barry’s father left home, never to be seen again, but the emotional scars had long since taken up residence in the darkest places of the young boy’s heart.
The church remained one of the few positive voices in Barry’s life, but even that he had learned to keep at arm’s length. “When I was in high school,” he said, “and people talked about God, I had nothing to think about. Everybody needs a picture in their head. I had nothing – nothing good, anyway. ‘God, the Father’. Who needs that? One more person whose expectations I’ll never live up to? One more person who is abusive, judgmental and, eventually, absent?”
His view began to change the day Barry said those words to his mother. Her response was unexpected – no anger, no disappointment, no judgment. She simply said, “It’s not about you, you know.” And with that, a years-long dialog began, one that would eventually redefine nearly every relationship in his life.
“It’s not about who we are or what we bring.” This was her theme, if not her mantra. It wasn’t about ability, or muscle, or nervous system. It wasn’t about flesh; not Barry’s, not even his father’s, for that matter. It wasn’t about reaching up in futility to an unreachable father. It was – and is – about a God who made us, and who knows the places within us that we alone dare not touch. This is a God who sees those places clearly, strides into them boldly, and seeks to quiet them completely.
Buried in one of the verses of the Christmas hymn, Joy to the World, is a line that we may be tempted to sing past too quickly. “He comes to make his blessings known far as the curse is found.” As far as the darkness is found, light is made known. As far as the wound is found, healing is made known. As far as self-lies are told, the truth of God’s love is made known.
It’s not about us. The Spirit of God comes down.
It’s not about me. God always comes down.