Now back into the swing of things following a break in the Algarve, in Jacqui’s left metatarsal to be precise, this time last week. Which meant me pushing a wheelchair for four days, just like pushing a pram but faster.
However, when you are disabled, you experience life – and particularly other people – in a very different way.
What was most striking was something I was already aware of but nevertheless was an eye opener. That is when you are in a wheelchair, you cease to exist. I found this totally amazing.
So when Jacqui tried to engage with someone else, whether they were a waiter or even a medical professional, invariably they would speak to me. Sometimes it could become ludicrous as if I was an interpreter between two people who spoke totally different languages.
I tried various strategies – looking away, pretending to be hearing-impaired, trying to look vacant (that comes easily). To no avail.
This is an experience that everyone should have sometime in their life, to know what it feels like to be disabled and demeaned.
In “The Screwtape letters,” CS Lewis’ 1942 Christian classic, Screwtape the senior Demon writes to his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter, charged with guiding a man toward Our Father Below and away from God who is seen as the Enemy. However, he is always aware of “one abominable advantage of the Enemy”, that God knows what it is like to be human, to know the limitations of being just flesh and blood.
God knows that it is like. In Jesus he has experienced first hand what it means to be human. And the New Testament is in no doubt. Jesus as he walked the dust of Galilee was truly like one of us. His tears were real, in no way just a performance. They came from an aching heart.
“Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, Jesus himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil”
It’s not easy following Jesus. It can be so difficult to trust in a God we cannot see (although if we could see him, he wouldn’t be God).
Often we are called to make a step of faith when our feelings are dead and we have nothing to go on. What makes all the difference, as Screwtape readily acknowledges, is that God knows what it like. In Jesus he’s been there himself.
So John ends his Gospel (that is, until he decided to add chapter 21 – but that’s another story) with Jesus’ final words to his disciples:
“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:29).
We walk by faith not by sight. As Jesus did. And he knows it’s tough.