A long time ago I was going to give a talk to a woman’s organization, and for some reason I was using the word “jacuzzi.”
At that time the computer didn’t recognize the word. Know what word it suggested? The word means “a male donkey.”
Many years before that, a group of experts developed a computer program to translate texts from one language to another. After extensive work, they were sure they had it right, so they typed in the very first text ever to be translated by a computer.
It was a familiar text from scripture: “The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Without a moment’s hesitation, the computer printed out the translation which read as follows: “The liquor’s still good, but the meat’s gone bad.”
Life is a struggle, from beginning to end, and few things ever come easy. Those who live with a disability know that too well. At the beginning of life, we strain hard to stand upright without anybody holding onto us. At the end of life we’re back to the very same task.
Some who are disabled live with that kind of existence always. And for some disabled, the struggles are laid end to end: raising kids, making a marriage work, finding their life’s work, taking care of children or elderly who need us, becoming faithful friends, finding the money to do what needs to be done.
A lot of struggling is done right out there in plain view. But the real struggle is always inside us: the struggle with fear which is always there whispering in our ear, “Don’t risk because accident or injury would further limit you. Save your strength for later.”
At every fork in the road, fear tells us not to invest: in this moment, or in this person, or in whatever is at hand, because there’s no guarantee we can do it, no guarantee that our kids will be good, that our spouse will be faithful, or that our good work will bear fruit. “No guarantee,” says that evil little voice inside, “so, stand pat; sit in your wheelchair or scooter at home. Better safe than sorry.”
Jesus responds to that lying little voice with a warning: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
God has given every one of us some very clear life assignments. They’re spelled out in our gifts and in the circumstances of our lives. Will we accept God’s assignments and do the important work he’s given us? Has God given gifts to those with a disability? Will we succeed in building our piece of his kingdom? Only if we invest everything we’ve got – for the long term. But by ourselves that’s impossible, especially if our fears are just too great.
However, we do have an alternative, and that is to look straight into our Lord’s eyes – there on the cross – and ask ourselves if he can be trusted. The answer is so obvious. The cross says it all. So, trust him. Invest your whole heart in every moment. And remember that, in the end, the only absolutely safe and sure investment in all the world is working as his full-time partner.
Father Dennis Meinen serves as chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home, Sioux City, for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in the diocese and Faithful Friar of the Garrigan 4th Degree Assembly of the Knights of Columbus, Sioux City.