It was surreal. I was carrying my 16-year-old son through a sea of typically-developing high school students. They were all so. . . . independent and articulate and put together.
What does a boy who lives with blindness, autism, cognitive disabilities, and eating, sleeping and seizure disorders have in common with these young people?
It made me ask of myself, do I really believe that my son is indispensable to this group?
Yet, when Pastor Kempton said, “he is welcome here,” the tears came, because I believed him. And he wasn’t speaking to me, but to that same sea of young people now seated in the young adult Sunday School class. It was a personal, public proclamation.
After 16 years, disability is no longer a new concept in our family. Yet the same questions still rise in my mind – will he be accepted? Will he have a place? Will he be safe and affirmed and loved? God grants Paul inherent dignity and value, but it is still nice to hear words of affirmation.
We have details to work out; Paul may never be a regular participant in that class. He slept through his whole introduction because his days and nights are mixed up again.
And I have no illusions about American teenagers at my church. I know some of them may have our culture’s strange, unbiblical view about the worth of people with severe disabilities confirmed by Paul’s unusual movements and noises, or sleepiness.
But how sweet it is to hear those words of welcome and not have a single doubt those words are true not just from this one man, but from the very heart of my church.