Today we hear from Dwayne Milley, Vice President of Christian Horizons Global. Dwayne is a regular contributor to the Forum. He has a heart for people with disabilities around the world and seeing them belong to communities. He lives with his wife Karen and daughter Deepika in Toronto, Ontario. You can check out more of his writing at dwaynemilley.com or learn more about Christian Horizons’ international work at www.christian-horizons.org/where-we-serve/global.
Hope deferred makes a heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12).
My heart is sick. My hope is dying.
I wrote those words on January 13, 2014. We were still waiting for our daughter.
In Christendom, we are wrapping up the season of Epiphany. The word ‘epiphany’ means “a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or suddenly become conscious of, something that is very important to you”, or, “a powerful religious experience” (Webster, online). I like to call it a divine “aha!”. It’s that moment when, for no explicable reason, something occurs to you and makes perfect sense, and seemingly nothing prior to it would have prepared you for it.
My divine “aha!” was the decision to want to adopt a child internationally. Briefly, I was in Asella, Ethiopia as a volunteer with Christian Horizons Global. We had just spent two days with several children who were being assisted by Christian Horizons. In that moment I decided I wanted to be a dad. It was another year before Karen, my wife, had her own divine “aha!” and five years later, in 2014, that we met our daughter.
Celebrating Epiphany was not part of my Christian tradition. Some use this season to remember the three wise men, who, after following a star for two or three years, met Jesus and worshiped him. It was a powerful religious experience.
Others celebrate it by remembering Jesus’ baptism, marking the public announcement of Jesus’ earthly ministry. As he was baptized, a voice came from Heaven saying, “this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). I dare say that each person present had their own epiphanies, shocked by the heavenly voice as they witnessed this historic event.
I like this story a lot because I never really understood how much God loved me until I became a father. There’s nothing my daughter can do to make me love her any more than I love her right now. And I don’t expect there’s anything that can make me love her any less.
In Jesus’ baptism, God declared his love for Jesus’, the value he ascribed to his son, before Jesus had even started his earthly ministry. Before the miracles — the healings, the water-to-wine, the water-walking, and the storm-calming — before all of that, God was pleased.
In today’s world this is a refreshing thought. Nowadays, likely as in Jesus’ day, people are valued for what they do and how they perform — not necessarily for who they are. Think about it. One of the first questions we ask people when we meet them is, “What do you do?”
This is significant.
For people with developmental disabilities, their gifts and talents, the things they do in society, these things are sometimes a little harder to discern. But the heavenly voice at Jesus’ baptism reminds us that our value comes from who we are. And who are we? We are children of God. The things we do, no matter how great or significant, do not determine our value to God. Our worth is found in our status as children of God.
Yes, people with disabilities have God-given gifts and talents. We all do. But our worth, our value, is because of who we are, not what we do. We are children of God. That’s enough.
This Epiphany, let your divine “aha!” be the realization that God loves you. And as you grow in the knowledge of that love, spread it around a little — not because it’ll make God love you more, but because the world needs it.