Every time I go to a church-leadership conference, I come away questioning my pastoral manhood. That happened this past week, as I listened to some of the best and brightest preachers at an excellent conference in Atlanta.
When I hear powerful messages with near-perfect delivery flow through almost flawless-looking human beings, part of me comes away inspired and part of me comes away deflated. “I could never preach like that. I don’t have that 'cool' factor that churches are really looking for these days. I don’t have that great of a delivery. Why would anybody want to listen to me?”
And then I re-read a section in David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyon’s excellent book, Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme. Kinnaman tells the story of his son, Cade, being born with Down syndrome. Through Cade’s delayed mental and physical development, Kinnaman and his wife began to experience joy and beauty in God’s upside-down kingdom.
Cade became their teacher showing them how gentleness can interrupt self-consumed souls. Although he is considered “disabled,” Cade demonstrates uncanny gifts and abilities in sensing people’s temperaments and connecting with those who otherwise would have remained unconnected.
Kinnaman draws the conclusion: “This is the upside-down way of Jesus that makes a world in which disability is a grace. The gift of Cade saved my life” (150).
In reading Kinnaman’s insights, I was reminded that success in God’s Kingdom is not measured by what’s seen on the surface but by what’s developed in the heart. Some of our greatest teachers come to us in vessels of hidden grace. When we look past the façade, we see truth cloaked in humility, beauty wrapped in the ordinary and love seeping through the crevices of brokenness.
In those moments when you feel inadequate, small, or insignificant in the shadow of what the world calls great, remember that you follow the One whose shadow of grace covers all who are willing to step into its shade. Jesus casts the shadow of grace, who “had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:2b-3, ESV).
Let’s all be grateful for the grace of disability, and let’s step into the shadow of Jesus’ grace.