Frodo Baggins. We could stop right there, and for some of us, the metaphor could tell the rest of the story. I grew up with that one. My dad read the Tolkien books to us kids before our nightly prayers throughout my childhood, and as a result, a Christianized version of the hobbit theme adhered to the substructure of my life’s purview: God uses us all; small is not a mistake. What is … is what he intended. In The Lord of the Rings, a small, simple-of-spirit, simple-of-ambition hobbit changed the course of Middle Earth. And this occurred not in spite of his small size or the weakness that came with it; it was a result of the qualities endemic to this little creature—his humble heart and overlookable strength of character. Frodo was far from weak, and he had a particular purpose in his world.
This truth has enduring relevance. It’s one that has been echoed in many other myths and stories across time, but it’s also one that resonates in this issue.
Having worked with people with disabilities for years, you might imagine that I have come across some interesting ideas. One I liked the least, but did occur every now and then was the well-meaning, slightly misguided prayer warrior. It came at me like this: “Let’s pray for (insert my friend’s name who has Down syndrome), and with faith, God will heal him.”
The first time this was suggested to me, I was in my 20s, and as you can probably guess, it really bothered me. I didn’t have a quick response because it had never occurred to me to pray this kind of prayer for the kids I worked with. So I deflected it with a, “Yeah sure, in a minute. Right now I have to gather 40 kids with disabilities into a small room and keep their attention for an hour-and-a-half. If you want to pray for something, let’s start with that little miracle.”
After some searching and praying, the lesson from The Lord of the Rings returned to mind. I believe disability in this world exists because we are part of an incomplete, fallen world. But I also believe in a risen savior who came to redeem all of creation. And we actually get to take part in that redemption today. God’s redemption means that what was once broken can now be whole.
Later in my ministry, when told that I should pray for the healing of the kids I worked with, my response was, “Our goal is not physical healing; it’s to help them to play a role in the healing of this broken world—to play their specific, God-given, and beautiful role.” And guess what? Kids with disabilities are profound in their ability to heal the world. It’s one of God’s best-kept secrets.
Often the world tells us something needs fixing. And just as often—if we look through the lens of the Cross—we will not find something broken, we will discover a new Creation. Jesus tried to explain this with his descriptions of the kingdom of heaven. Gandalf faced this with his decision to trust a hobbit. You face this in your ministry when the world tells you that you need thousands of people in your congregation. It is important for us to continually remember that the world does not make the rules. We are where we are supposed to be. In the light of the kingdom, let’s use our gifting to go out and partner with our Father in the ultimate healing the world, a world that desperately needs relief. And let’s sing about our great and glorious God, for all of his complex glory and holy beauty.
Jeremy Armstrong is the managing editor of Worship Leader magazine.