As you well know, I am an obituary fan. And as you may recall, at Easter I was reminded of an obituary for a theologian named Nancy Eiesland who wrote a book called The Disabled God.
In the book, as referenced by the obituary, Eiesland writes about the gospel we hear today.
“In presenting his impaired body to his startled friends, the resurrected Jesus is revealed as the disabled God,” she wrote. God remains a God the disabled can identify with, she argued — he is not cured and made whole; his injury is part of him, neither a divine punishment nor an opportunity for healing.
I suspect that many of us would like to get rid of our bodies – the actual physical parts of them. The parts that ache or leak or don’t look “right” or don’t work the way they should. I find it surprising that it’s here in the resurrection, the very part when I thought Jesus would be most spiritual and least fleshy, that I am finding him to be at his most physical, thanks to Nancy Eiesland.
I looked around and found another quote from her that I liked very much:
“Resurrection is not about the negation or erasure of our disabled bodies in hopes of perfect images, untouched by physical disability; rather Christ’s resurrection offers hope that our nonconventional and sometimes difficult bodies participate fully in the [image of God] and that God whose nature is love and who is on the side of justice and solidarity is touched by our experience.”
There are two very difficult things to believe in this:
1) that our non-conventional and sometimes difficult bodies participate fully in the image of God.
and, 2) that God is touched by our experience.
But these two things remind me of Susan Boyle. And though I'm still trying to figure out why she has had such an impact, I think in part it is because she very much embodies these two things.
I was reminded of this quotation from Marianne Williamson:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Maybe you are a doubting Thomas on this point. Maybe you don't think that your non-conventional and sometimes difficult body has anything glorious and radiant about it. And that is all right. There’s a solution for that. It’s in seeing other scarred and risen people show forth the glory of God that we begin to believe that we can do so ourselves.
Christ is risen, and we are set free. Christ shows us through his scars that our bodies are not the miserable husks we might think they are, that the body is not something to get rid of in exchange for radiant perfection. Instead, he shows us that “our non-conventional and sometimes difficult bodies participate fully in the image of God.” You, in the flesh, in your body, are witnesses to the risen Christ. Truly. Believe it.