Devotional August 2nd: Children of a Lesser God
I was thinking about my time at Gallaudet University this past week. I spent the Fall of 1994 and the Spring of 1995 at Gallaudet University, the university for the Deaf (this is a capital “D”, because it is referring to the Deaf culture) in Washington D.C. It was an experience, not all of it something that I long to repeat. But I learned a lot about a subculture of the United States and their values and what is important to them. However, I also grew spiritually there. The Deaf people I met there had a love/hate relationship with God.
If you are familiar with the movie and play, Children of a Lesser God, you will know what I mean. Though the movie did not dwell on it very deeply, the play dealt with the spiritual aspect more. Quite literally they considered themselves children of a lesser God because they felt that the church rejected them and excluded them because of its inability to communicate with them. They also felt the church looked down on them because of their disability. This actually speaks to the Deaf culture perception that deafness is NOT a disability but a difference like male vs. female, white vs. black or tall vs. short, and to them, hearing vs. Deaf. For many people it is a radical mindset but one that is held and celebrated in the Deaf community. It has led to controversies such as the Deaf President Now movement, the debate over cochlear implants, and in the extreme, the idea that deaf children belong with Deaf parents! Some of their more radical ideas brought me in direct conflict with some other students and professors, but most of the time I just shook my head and kept my opinions to myself.
However, there was one aspect of their culture I found to be spiritually encouraging. That was their idea of acceptance. They believe that if you are hearing or deaf you need to accept it as the way God made you. They also carried this into the realm of gay vs. straight.
If you are gay, then you are gay and there is nothing that can or should be done about it.
I remember when I was there, down on the mall it was the time for the big, “No Sex before Marriage” marches, promise rings, and the such. And I remember being in the cafeteria and talking to another graduate student about the marches. She said that it was fine if it really was your belief, but what about their physical needs? How are twenty-somethings going to wait for sex until marriage? That got me thinking. I thought a lot about all the times that I had had to say, “no” to MY physical needs for sake of doing the “right thing”. So I went to Father Mike. Father Mike was another graduate student studying clinical counseling. He was hearing too, hearing students can be admitted to the graduate programs as I was a graduate student too in Educational Technology. I wanted his opinion because he was in a suite with three other guys, one of whom was a friend but was a homosexual Lothario. Plus, I just have a lot of respect for guys who can say, “no” to sex.
Anyway he told me, “Walt, just because I am a priest does not mean I am not a man. You need to accept your feelings and share your feelings with the Lord. You need to lay them out to Him. Give Him the responsibility of helping you through them.” This was revolutionary for me. I was shocked that Father Mike did not condemn me for telling him. But I did not realize that the Lord cared about my feelings that way. Oftentimes I had felt alone in trying to deal with situations I was not meant to handle by myself. I did not realize that God wanted to help me! So often we think that we have to push ourselves to cross the finish line, when in fact, He is not just waiting at the finish line, He is there with a rope, pulling us in. He wants TO BE our strength. That was something that I could accept and hear and that I strive to remember even 21 years later. I just wish that those Deaf people who thought themselves children of a lesser god could accept that help too.
What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise, and endless worship will be our sweet portion there
.(Scriven and Converse)