Thursday, July 5, 2012

My Thoughts on Faith & Disability

Welcome to the extra-heavy Disability Blog Hop topic, Faith & Disability.  When I first thought about what I would write on this subject, the word religion came immediately to mind.  But somehow, that just didn't seem right.  Faith may lie intrinsically within religion, but religion may not always lie within faith.  According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, faith is "confidence or trust in a person or entity," and may include trust or belief without proof.  Also from The Great Wiki, "The word religion is sometimes used interchangeably with faith or belief system, but religion differs from private belief in that it has a social aspect."  TGW goes on to say, " Classical Judaism does not require one to explicitly identify God (a key tenet of faith in Christianity), but rather to honour the idea of God."  I had wondered where my belief that God is more of an idea than an identifiable being had come from, and, with my Jewish upbringing, I now think I know.

All that being said, the groundwork having been laid, my own personal beliefs do not center around any organized religion.  In a world where my circle of friends grew out of common interest, out of similar educational and social circles throughout my life, religion and faith never entered into our conversations, were never part of who we were to each other.  Some subconscious part of our selves betrayed our lack of faith, or of religion, and surely that's what attracted us to each other in the first place, creating life-long friendships.  Now, in my grown-up, mommy life, in this life where I have been joined with so many new and different cross sections of society and human nature by both motherhood and by disability, I struggle with this vast division placed between myself and my beliefs and what I have discovered are the beliefs of far more humans in the world around me than I'd ever, in a million years, expected to find. 

The divide is great. 

My beliefs, my possible lack of faith in a deity or other omnicient being, is great.

I know this sets me apart from the masses.  But truly, I think my resolve holds fast despite the beliefs of my otherwise-peers. 

God does not give special children to special people.

Praying will not change the outcome of my IEP meeting, nor will it cure the sick, heal the wounded.

But meditation?  Introspection?  Will those help calm my mindset, settle my nerves, allow me to think more clearly and make better decisions?  Of that, I am certain.  Perhaps that's what praying really is, regardless of what others may think.  I think we need to rely on ourselves to show us the way, not place blind faith in a power that was created and built on fables and fear.

My father once asked me, sitting together outside schul on the High Holiday of Yom Kippur back when I was in college, what my thoughts were on religion.  I paused, thought carefully for a moment, then responded simply, "Religion is a crutch for people who need it."  My father nodded his head, let it go.   

Crutch may have been an unfair word to have used.  I do not judge.  I do not condemn another's beliefs, decry what gives another strength.  I have always had a great appreciation for the beliefs of others.  Even with this new world of disabililty into which I've been thrown, this world that seems to be dominated by Christians and Christian belief, I believe what I believe, and that is in the intrinsic goodness of people.  If there is a god or otherwise all-knowing deity out there, one that will judge and will give and will take away, it will know a person's heart, regardless of performed ritual, or of organized tenet.

We do not, and we will not, suffer for our beliefs, or lack thereof.  Knowing onesself, knowing where to seek comfort, whether in Biblical verse or in modern poetry, performing a ritual, or marveling in the beauty of a painted masterpiece, is what works to bring peace, or to make sense of the world around us.

Disability does not need to be explained by faith, does not need to be fixed or otherwise lessened by faith.  Regardless of where you live, what you believe, needing no higher explanation, nothing to justify it in the cosmic sense, disability just. is.



Melissa said...

I sometimes find it difficult to be a non-Christian in the Down syndrome world. I find it isolating at times and I struggle with the dialogue that often springs up - that God gave us our babies, that we can overcome with God's help, etc.

I agree that disability doesn't need explanation or a solution - it just is.

Team Lando said...

As a (I hope) pretty committed Christian, I agree a billion percent that god doesn't give special children to special people.

Kacey Bode said...

This is a brave post, lol!!! I agree with you 100% I have some spirituality? some days and some days I even pray when things are really bad, but I don't expect it to change the know what I mean. I don't know. It's so complicated!!!

Becca said...

To Kacey - I know exactly what you mean. I, too, have been tempted to pray from time to time, but I know it's not going to do anything except provide me the comfort of just voicing what's upsetting me. It *can* offer comfort in some way, but I think it's all part of that introspection and meditation.

Deanna said...

Even though our posts are very different- we both went out on a limb and said what we've been holding back from our blogs for too long. I'm proud of us. (-: What a beautifully written post. I love the last paragraph so much. Well said!

Rochelle said...

Oh my friend, you know I will lovingly disagree with you (although I totally agree with the God gives sped needs children to special people, that is some mumbo jumbo someone said once). Trust me people all too often make God or the words of the Bible to suit their need.
But, I do respectfully disagree that prayer does nothing. I have seen pray heal, I have been on the healing end of prayer as a cancer survivor and have faith that it is from God.
Hope you never feel a divide with us. We think you are awesome no matter what your beliefs are! Great post!

Dayna Chandler said...

I can't imagine going through life with my faith in God.
I've had so many prayers answered. In fact, I wouldn't have Luke if God hadn't changed my heart. I grew up and went through my 20s and 30s saying I was never having babies of my own--when I was 42 I learned about strongholds and how by saying "never" I had taken control away from God--when I prayed for this to be broken I still didn't actually want a baby--but over the next few months He softened my heart until I wanted one more than anything...and I got pregnant right away and we had our joy boy!
I can give you so many examples of seeing God in action--one time I was prompted to pray for my pastor's wife by a vision of her crying and waving her arm, calling out.....found out later at that exact time her young son had been lost at a very large festival. He was found-safe and sound.
One way to look at is: If I am wrong and there is no Heaven, who cares? My life is far better because of my faith in Christ, But my question to you is, 'What if I am right? What if there is a Heaven... and therefore there is a hell... What then? Not a chance I'd want to take! Sorry--to sound preachy but when you have something wonderful you want to share it!

Anonymous said...

I have always loved reading your blog for many reasons. Mainly all of your knowledge and your love for your daughter. This post will probably be the last one I read. I found it very offensive. My faith and God are part of who I am...just as DS is part of who your daughter is. Neither should be "judged" and are both special parts of who we are. Calling faith and God a crutch made me feel sorry for you for the 1st time.

teal915 said...

I like reading things like this, because it differs so vastly from my beliefs. And that makes me have to think about what I believe and why. So I figured I would respond. I agree that God does not give special children to special people, because I am not special. But I do believe that God knew that I would be the mother of each of my children, and that He made them exactly the way they are. I also agree that disability just is, but I believe that God has a plan for it, and it can bring good if we let it. I think that just as some people put God into their own little box and turn Him into a genie in a bottle or a trite catch phrase, some people also put God into a box that makes Him impersonal and a cruel judge. I hear" why would God let that happen", ie. people suffering, someone dying, tragedy, etc. but some things just are. We live in a fallen world, and with that there will be death and sickness and tragedy. I do believe that God hears prayer and answers it. But sometimes the answer is no. Just like there are times I tell my kids no, there are times that God says no too. I do believe that prayer can change an outcome too. The Bible recounts times when prayer "changed the heart of God". Again, I think there is a genie in a bottle misconception about prayer. God knows and hears those that are His, and let's be real, not everyone has accepted God. Anyway, moving on, am I boring you yet. I agree that we all have an instinct that is useful,at times in our life, but I also think that trusting oneself can be a dangerous thing. That teenage girl, who trusts in her feelings with a boy who sys he loves her ends up pregnant and alone. That is why God says not to have sex before marriage. And again, I don't believe that God "leads" people who don't know him personally. Just like I wouldn't take authority over someone's else's child, God doesn't direct people who aren't His children. And despite popular belief, we are not all God's children. We are all created by Him, but accepting a personal relationship with Him is another matter. Anyway, that is way too long, and I apologize. I hope you don't mind me commenting. I may not always agree with everyone,mbut I respect everyone and their free will to choose their beliefs. Thanks for bearing with me : )

Not a Perfect Mom said...

Indeed the world is a wonderful place, that we can all voice our differing opinions and respectfully agree or disagree with each other...
I'm a firm believer in God, and though I can't stand when people tell me He gave me God because I'm so special, I do think that my children were made specifically for my family...and even as far as believing the Bible and the Resurrection, many an atheist have turned to Christianity simply by viewing the scripture as historical documentation, which of course it is.
I adore you and I'm proud of you for putting this out there...

Lacey said...

I love that you are braver than me to post this, and I love that we can discuss it without the nastiness that usually happens in controversial posts.
Where do I begin??? I was raised in a specific religion. My dad never went to church, my mom took us alone. I went because all of my friends were there, and all the activities involved my friends. As I got older, I began to question a lot of things, and saw a lot of inconsistencies. Now I'm not sure where I am. Sometimes I say I don't even believe in God anymore, sometimes I do truly believe there is a God, but that we don't have to be a specific religion to go to heaven. I had a co worker once say "I was baptized into every religion there is, and I figure if I treat everyone the way I want to be treated. And don't steal, lie, or cheat, I'm going to go to the same place as everyone else"
I truly believe that!!
And sometimes I'm not sure about prayer either. But I don't think if anything it does calm your heart, and I don't think it hurts, and maybe it does help. So I'm all for Jax getting as many prayers as possible!

Becky said...

You have read my blog...know my beliefs...and I am so glad you were able to write openly and honestly about yours. You get judged if you are a Chrsitian, and you get judged if you are not. You cannot please all the people all the time. I have respect for those who are honest, open, and willing to be vulnerable by putting themselves out there. I am glad you did it. Thanks for sharing your true self...I enjoyed reading this post and getting to know who you are and what you believe.

Lisa said...

Wow, beautifully said, Becca.

Rochelle, what makes you think prayer had anything to do with allowing you to survive cancer? My husband is also a cancer survivor, and I can assure you that it was science and medicine that put him in remission - not anything supernatural.

starrlife said...

Great post! It's great getting to know you. I love the dialogue around these issues. Is there a god , heaven, hell? It's the mystery of it all I love and I'm happy either way! There's room in the world for all kinds of people and all kinds of ideas.Thank goodness.

Alicia Llanas said...

i disagree with you in this but i will not stop reading you because of this (like someone said before) because we are all in this whole world, God (sorry) loves everyone no matter what we do, or who we are, so i cant stop 'loving' you because we disagree in this point ;)

now on to what i think (not that you asked :p)

i was raised catholic, as most of the mexicans. here being catholic is religion, go to church on sunday, get batised as newborn, do your first holy communion at 9, and once in a while get confessed. oh also pray to God, but mostly pray to the virgin Mary (the mexican one, because there are different versions of Mary, or i cant really explain this point).
i did believed one God existed but it was on the top of the heaven where you cant talk to him because you are no body, so this is why you go to the priest and talk to him and is like you are talking to God. whatever.

when i met my husband, we were in college, he was christian, and he was the first christian i new. his father pastor of a methodist church (a contemporany church ) and well we dated, and then we got pregnant. HA! yes many people left the church because my husband was expected to be perfect and well he wasnt, as none of us is, but people has some kind of funky idea about how the families of who serve in church should be. anyways.

here theres the belief that is a punishment or a blessing because you are so special right? (special kids for special parents, yikes!)

so for many it was a punishment because we had sex before married.
for my mom was a punishment because she didnt wanted his grandson (she wished i could abort )

so what we believe? we believe in God, we believe that he has a purpose in our life, but we have to do what we have to (like you said, take medicines, take good care, be good, follow his commands, etc) but at the end is our choice. we have the choice to follow or not, and we choose to follow Him.

I find hard to understand healing since i've never experienced that, but Elias loves to pray for healing .

I know Elias is doing good because of Him

I know we found Eva because of Him

etc etc......

well that was just my comment for today ha! hugs my friend, and love that even you disagree with many or the major part of us you still posted what you thought and its good. is your blog and you can do whatever you want! :)

starrlife said...

Well I had a comment that was pithy and deep :) but don't know where it went! Well gist was the world is full of different folks and different beliefs ( I subscribe to the notion that facts are really just beliefs in disguise) and isn't that the whole freakin point ! It's beautiful, and I lI've your post. Thanks.

Becca said...

I wish I could respond to every one of you! SO many amazing comments - thank you all so much for sharing your beliefs, whether they're the same/similar as mine, or completely different. I love hearing them all. I have always said I *appreciate* religion, and, in particular, others' beliefs. It's what makes us who we are. It's like colors, or textures - each one is just a little bit different, unique, pretty in it's own individual way.

To Anonymous, I'm very sad to see you go. I wish you were able to see past a person's opinions on religion and faith, see into someone's heart, know that whether or not they believe in God/organized religion they are still person they were yesterday. Tomorrow I will let this topic lie, and will likely not come back to it any time soon. Not because I'm ashamed of it, or because I felt I've made a mistake in writing it, on the contrary - it's been cathartic, somewhat liberating, and I've learned so much about my peers here through how this post was received, and how much more I value them now than ever before. But I'm still the same person. I never intended to offend anyone, and, to be honest, I think I've tread very carefully here. But again, thank you for your comment and for taking a moment to say something rather than just never reading again.

Zoey's mom, Heather said...

Wow, so many things to say, but don't want to hijack the comment section, but here it goes.

First and foremost, I adore your little family. Always have. Just feel drawn to you all for some reason. Connected from afar that will never change. I will support you and stand by you and defend you, always, cuz that's what friends do.

I was raised Catholic. Not strict, with that fear of God instilled in me, like so many believe old school Catholicism was. The Catholic church is where my parents took us to profess our faith and for that, I an eternally grateful, for they provided me a foundation. But what they also taught me along the way, was not to judge others. They taught us to not look at the color of ones skin,the religion that they did or did not profess, or even back then, sexual orientation. They taught us to look at the person. Their heart. The kindness they extended to their fellow mankind. Deeds done unselfishly, etc. I could go on and on but I am sure you get the idea.

As an individual, I am drawn by the Holy Spirit. This grace that leads me daily in my directions in this life. I am a Christian, a Catholic Christian, because in case you didn't know, even within Christianity, there is dispute on that but in saying that, I do have a side of me that is driven by the Buddhist philosophy and spirituality and I find, for me, both can co-exist.

Now to the prayer thing. I pray. I do. Or at last I think I do.In my mind I do. But my prayers are not as some Christians may believe they should be. For instance, my journey on that cancer floor, found me not praying for miracles, but for peace and strength to the precious kids and their families. Just how I do it.

Bottom line and then I will so get off your blog : I look at the world around me. Filled with both the beauty and the sorrowful and I think how could there NOT be a God? For me, there can be no other answer. This instinctual, deep faith tells me so. Doesn't make me right, just makes me who I am.

Love you Becca. This post and all the blogs I hopped to,were so real and honest and I appreciated each and everyone of them.

And can I say ... why is it people hide behind anonymous? If you feel so strongly about your opinion, if you stand behind the conviction, make yourself known. Never understand it. Jesus never feared the backlash. He never hid. Just saying.

Deborah said...

Thanks for being so brave to post. It's good for me to read other perspectives on many things: life, family, politics, disability, etc. - and faith is no different. I'm a committed Christian, and yours is one of my favorite blogs. That's not going to change. :)

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Love how respectfully you discussed a very touchy topic. My views mirror your's and I think what matters most is a persons ability to treat everyone with kindness and respect. There are no absolutes in this life. We're all just plodding along trying to figure it out as we go! Mary

Melissa said...

I love this post and that you put yourself out there. It's never an easy thing to do.

I find religion fascinating. All religion and faith is so interesting to me. I actually grew up in a church that my current church doesn't recognize as Christian. Which by default would mean my dad isn't Christian (even though he considers himself Christian)...and yet, he has the most amazing faith. Faith and knowledge I wish I had. While I don't share all my dad's beliefs I absolutely respect them. And that is something I wish everyone could do.

Anna said...

We've already talked about this, you've read my blog so you know where I stand. Thank you for respecting me, and my beliefs. You deserve the same my friend. I'm not sure if I can do my belief in prayer justice. But I will try, prayer isn't a way for me to try and manipulate God, he is much bigger than I am, so why would I think that he would be so weak to be manipulated /used like a slot machine? I want this, I need that. I don't want cancer and so on. Prayer changes ME. I would hope that my faith is what makes me strong and changes me for the better, not use my convictions to bludgeon others. This is something as of late that has distressed me.

Lowe Family in MS said...

Loved this post. Thanks for putting it out there.

starrlife said...