Tag Archives: Stereotypes

God’s People, part 198: Deaf Man

Read Mark 7:31-37

“If you were blind, you wouldn’t be guilty,” Jesus replied. “But you remain guilty because you claim you can see.”  (John 9:41, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

009-lumo-deaf-manPart 198: Deaf Man. When I had graduated high school, I had gotten a job as an aide on a special needs bus. To begin with, I had been put with special needs kids who had behavioral issues. There was one boy I specifically remember, who was a good kid but had a hard time sitting still on the bus. Of course, that can pose serious issues for the bus driver and the safety of everyone on board.

This child would get angry if you tried to enforce the rule that he stay seated. He would even get combative.  It was a challenge to work with him, but it was a blessing as well because in the end he and I bonded and I became one of the few people who could reach him and keep him calm.

The next year I ended up working on a bus with deaf kids and that experience taught me a lot about myself. I headed into that assignment thinking that I was dealing with “handicapped” people who were different than I or the other “normal” people I that I went to school with when I was back in elementary school. I didn’t consciously think those things, but they were underlying presumptions I made because I knew that these children were deaf and attending a special school for deaf folks.

Those presumptions couldn’t have been further from the truth. The kids I encountered on that bus were regular, “normal”, kids. The only differences they had from me as a child was that they could not “hear”, and they fluently spoke two languages, English and American Sign Language (ASL). In other words, these kids were actually brighter and more advanced than I was at there age. Wow. Humbling.

I have always been a quick learner with a fairly open heart and so, I learned quickly that I had been wrong in my presumptions and I opened myself up to learn from them. They taught me ASL, at least as much as I could learn on a bus ride and I learned to communicate with them so that we could understand each other. When they spoke in sign language, they also spoke verbally, though the formation of their words were not as clear, because they cannot properly hear themselves speak.

I am imagining that this is exactly what we have in this account of Jesus healing the deaf man with a speech impediment. The speech “impediment” was not that he couldn’t speak properly, but that he could not hear himself speak due to his deafness. When he was brought to Jesus, he led the man away from the crowd so that they could be alone.

Why alone? Probably because Jesus didn’t want a spectacle. This man, no doubt, had be the victim of everyone’s presumptions. To them he was a deaf man who sounded funny. To them, he had a problem and they were the “normal” people. They had written this man off as less than them, someone who needed fixing. No doubt, this was the case for many of the people Jesus healed; however, this time, Jesus led the man away from the crowd so that they could be alone, and he healed him.

What this account does is tell us about ourselves. We often see ourselves as “normal”, and others as “abnormal”. The truth is, while people without hearing would love to hear again, it was the “normal” people who need healing from the hardness of their hearts. We think that our lives are the pinnacle and anyone who has “less” than us should be pitied and prayed for.

The challenge for us is to be aware of that bias we place on our abilities and to become an agent for removing the stigmas associated with “disability”. In fact, many people choose not to even use that word because of the connotations of it. Remember that while Jesus healed the blind man, he told that Pharisees that they were the ones who were REALLY blind. And while Jesus healed the deaf man, we are the ones who really need to have our ears opened, along with our hearts, to Jesus Christ.

“My disability exists not because I use a wheelchair, but because the broader environment isn’t accessible.” – Stella Young

Lord, open doors of my heart so that I might view all people as children of God, no matter what differences I may perceive. Amen.

Pieces of You

Read James 4:1-12

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1-2 NLT)

Jewel-Pieces_Of_YouI love music that speaks to my soul. I am not a radio listener, for the most part. I do not listen to music for the sake of hearing catchy pop tunes, or the latest fad. Every now and again I will turn on the radio, just because I am not sure what mood I am in and/or what music I want to listen to, and occasionally I am blessed to come across a gem of a song that inspires me to check out other work by an artist.

It was somewhere during the Spring of 1995 when I turned on the radio in my car.  I had just got my license and I wanted to listen to some music. It was in that car at that moment that I heard the voice of an angel singing a question that still resonates with me today, “Who Will Save Your Soul?” That artist is, of course, Jewel Kilchner (often just referred to as Jewel). The song stuck with me and at some point my parents went out and got me her debut album, “Pieces of You”. It is an album that spoke to my soul in a way that most albums have never done, and most certainly never will.

There was an honesty and complexity in her hauntingly beautiful lyrics mixed with her folk-style guitar playing. Her angelic voice plays on the eardrums like a harpist plays on one’s heartstrings! One of the songs that spoke to me so much was the eponymous track, “Pieces of You.” In that song, Jewel puts each and every one of us on trial as she begins to address common stereotypes and askes probing questions of the listener, who may or may not hold those stereotypes. For those who don’t, the questions reflect the need for them to become a part of the solution rather than just sitting quietly on the sideline. For those who do hold those stereotypes, the song becomes rather convicting and, perhaps, quite a bit uncomfortable as Jewel puts their consciences on trial.

If you haven’t listened to the song, YouTube it. I highly recommend you listen to it as it will add a deeper meaning to this devotion, though I must warn you that she uses language that is often used by those who label those they are stereotyping. It’s not gratuitous, however, and the language is certainly appropriate given the context of the song.

The driving question of the song is this, why do we stereotype people? Why do humans tend to group people together and label them as if they are all the same because of the label we attribute to them? For instance, are women to be defined by their looks? Are they to be defined by their sexuality? Are they to be defined by their body parts? Do men (or women) want to reject a woman because they perceive her as ugly, or do they want to “get with her” just because she is perceived as pretty?

How about gay men and women? Do we want to deny their humanity, that they were created in the image of God like the rest of us? Do we want to shun them? Should they merely be defined by their sexuality, by their orientation, and by who they are in love with? Or how about people of different religious beliefs? Do we judge them as less than us because we view our beliefs as superior? Do we judge them as peculiar because their normal is different than our normal? Do we judge them as sinners because their expression of faith is different than ours?

The question that Jewel asks is one we should be asking ourselves. Do we hate different people because of any valid or good reason? Is there any reason to hate? Or do we hate different people because of fear, because when we look at them we are reminded that they are pieces of us, and that the differences in them remind us of the parts of us that are unknown and uncertain? If we are truly lovers of God, if we are true followers of Christ, we know that it is not our place to judge and that we are constantly being called to step outside of our comfort zone to love ALL people. Jesus didn’t put any exceptions on who we should and shouldn’t love. What’s more, Jesus did not give us any loopholes in which it would be okay for us to judge. Instead of rejecting people, I pray we can all begin to accept others as “pieces of us”, for if we do that we will begin to recognize that we are all related to each other and to the human experience.

For every sin you point your finger at in the Bible, the Bible has ten pointing back at you.

Lord, teach us to love others as you have loved us. Help us to drop our false labels, in order that we may begin to see people as they TRULY are…your children. Amen.