I was born in a small town in southwest Missouri in 1955. Eventually I was diagnosed with a rare form of dwarfism that wasn’t even named until after I was sixteen. At the time of my birth my family was just cautioned not to get attached to me because I was too deformed to survive. After three days my daddy decided enough was enough. He told the doctors and nurses he was ready to take his perfect baby girl home and love her as long as he could. Daddy died loving me when I was only twelve. He loves me still and I feel his presence but that is another blog. I didn’t see him much after my parents divorced when I was seven but we were together long enough for him to instill in me a sense of sacred wholeness and relationship to a divine energy within everything. We weren’t big on church but my early religious experience was a funny mix of pow wows in Oklahoma and Forest Park Baptist church. Spirit sang to me in gospel and drums.
Fast forward nearly thirty years and my perfect baby girl Sarah died at four months old. Numb with pain I searched for a place to hold a memorial service and my mom recommended a church she’d found, Unity. The teachings resonated with me. The opportunity to be in spiritual community and study this healing theology of innate divinity pulled me through the darkest days into a new light. Life marched on. I adopted two children, my career took twists and turns, and recently I found myself reflecting on how physical disability is viewed in my Unity tradition and spoken of in our healing teaching. I was curious how others experienced spirituality and healing in their faith traditions. I wrote an article for the May/June 2019 edition of Unity Magazine challenging the idea that individuals with physical, intellectual and psychological differences from the articulated “normal” values of society are somehow broken and in need of spiritual healing. I lamented that clergy often speak about healing as an inner process but then often end up with that inner process only manifesting as able-bodied. Radical Wholeness is my language for innate divine wholeness within each of us AND the belief that this innate wholeness can manifest with the infinite diversity which is the very design of our humanity. “Normal” is just a setting on the washing machine, not a single version of how spiritual wholeness should appear in my life or yours. Radical Wholeness is also the inner resource I tap into when I desire healing. A key concept is that healing is self directed. At any given moment I am called to consider healing work in my body, my thoughts and my outer affairs. No one else is entitled to tell me what to heal or whether or not I am spiritually successful in my healing.
The article I wrote seemed to be only the tip of the iceberg of exploring spirituality and disability. I felt there was more to discover and discuss. There were individuals feeling left out of spirituality discussions by the language clergy use in describing healing and by the perceptions of others in the spiritual community. As both clergy and an individual who identifies as being impacted by disability (which is a discussion for another time), perhaps there was a ministry here in this place. So Radical Wholeness is my experiment. Disability is not a word to evoke shame or feelings of less than. Speaking the word disability is not an admission of spiritual failure. I have a sense that most of us have ways we feel we are not “normal” and we allow the judgment of others to impact our feelings of self-worth and wholeness. In the interaction with this blog, the ways we talk about spirituality and disability might speak to an audience that includes people who do NOT identify with a disability. Perhaps the ideas we explore will prompt clergy to reflect on how they preach. Some perspectives we explore could trigger us to question our beliefs, examine our attitudes and behavior and maybe even cause us to change how we think and act. That all sounds a bit ambitious for a blog. I’ll just begin by saying this is an experiment and maybe a ministry. I invite your interaction as we see where this goes.