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The Curses of Brokenness, the Blessings of Limitations

I've written one final (at least for now) response in this conversation about disability and medical intervention. If you're just joining the conversation, this post is in response to Ellen Painter Dollar's piece, "I Want to Be Accepted As I Am, But I'll Take a Cure Too," which was written in response to my article, "Considering 'Curing' Down Syndrome With Caution."
As Ellen Painter Dollar argues, brokenness in our bodies is a result of the Fall, a result of the entrance of sin and evil into God's good world. But brokenness and limitedness are not one and the same. Brokenness comes as a result of the Fall, and it will be healed by Jesus. That healing will take place both as God's kingdom enters this world (be that through miraculous answers to prayer or medical technology), and, finally, in the resurrection to eternal life.Limitedness, on the other hand, is a part of what it means to be human, yet we often confuse limitedness with brokenness and thus think it too will be overcome. Limitedness—our need for one another, and for God, as manifested in our bodies, minds, and spirits—is a good gift. The first sin was that of trying to be "like God," of eschewing limitations and dependency. Limitedness is constitutive of our humanity, and will remain. When it comes to disability, we must discern between brokenness and limitedness, rather than assuming that every deviation from the norm is a manifestation of the Fall. Christians must construct a response to disability that upholds Jesus as healer without assuming that every difference in cognitive and physical ability needs to be repaired. When I consider our daughter Penny, who has Down syndrome, I consider her disability through a lens that understands sin as separation. Just as Adam and Eve experienced separation from God, from one another, and from their bodies (as evidenced in the shame of being naked and then the curse of death), sin manifests itself in our lives through spiritual, physical, and emotional separation from God, one another, and ourselves. Ellen Painter Dollar describes the separation she has experienced in her own body, and she trust that Jesus will heal her body accordingly. It's not quite so clear to me what will happen to Penny. She wears glasses and she has braces on her ankles. She has had a procedure to close a hole in her heart. I am grateful for the ways in which the prayers of our church, family, and friends, have combined with medical professionals to offer fullness of life here and now for our daughter. With that said, I don't know what her physical body will look like in resurrected form. She isn't in pain as a result of her vision loss or weak ankles. Will Penny one day be able to run a marathon? Have 20/20 vision? Scripture simply tells me that, as one who believes in Jesus, she will see God face to face. Moreover, Penny's disability, Down syndrome, is most often understood as a cognitive disability. And, as I suggested in my earlier article on this topic, it remains an open question to me whether a low IQ is a problem that needs fixing, a manifestation of sin that ought to be healed by God (or "cured" by drugs). Our brains will continue to experience limitations, even in the presence of God, and those very limitations may be gifts in and of themselves. Western culture is a culture of perfection, a culture that seeks to overcome limitations, whatever the cost. As a result, parents routinely terminate pregnancies when an ultrasound picks up "fetal abnormalities." We measure value by tallying academic, athletic, and financial success. In response, Christians can proclaim the message that Jesus heals us of our brokenness and overcomes the separation caused by sin. But we can also proclaim that God has given us our limitations that we might learn to depend upon Him and one another.

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