Relating From The Heart (Ros' Blog)

Relating From The Heart (Ros' Blog)


I recently had the privilege of joining a zoom conversation between a young woman and her father who are not currently able to meet up because of lockdown rules. There might seem to be nothing unusual about such a conversation, but what struck me was that this interaction was between a non-verbal woman with a very profound intellectual disability and a man of great intellect with a PhD in mathematics. The distance between their cognitive abilities could not be wider. And the interaction between them was both fascinating and heart-warming to observe.

As she turned to the computer screen and caught sight of her father, her whole face lit up in a broad smile, and I observed a look of delight on his face in response. It occurred to me how vast is the gulf, intellectually and in every other conceivable way, between us and God, and yet how great the mutual delight when we come to Him in worship.

And yet, as with the scene I was sitting and watching, maybe the gulf is not so great. This man is her father – she exists by his will, and there is a deep bond of love between them. And is this not also true of us with God? He has created us in His own image, and he has created us for relationship with him. This young woman’s disabilities are no barrier to relationship with her father; his love for her is not diminished by them, any more than God’s love for us is diminished by the disparity between His abilities and ours.

Something else struck me about the encounter, too. This young woman, non-verbal, helpless in many ways and needing almost everything done for her, revealed in her smile an immense capacity for relationship and for love. And I thought about how so many people with profound intellectual disabilities are denied the opportunity to express that, especially once their parents are no longer alive. The deep relationships which they form are with their paid carers. And as soon as the carer leaves and gets another job, the relationship is immediately terminated, often for reasons beyond the person’s comprehension, and each time it happens it leaves another wound in his or her spirit.

Maybe most church members don’t think very often about forming a deep friendship with someone whose cognitive ability is very limited. But I can think of one couple, a teacher and a lawyer, who have made a point of doing exactly that in their own church. This couple not only give a great gift of friendship to people whose main friends would otherwise be paid carers, but they also receive an enriching relationship of love and care into their own lives as a result.

I have written it many times before, but I think it bears repeating. Friendships are not brain to brain but heart to heart and spirit to spirit. An intellectual disparity is insignificant when the heart is engaged in loving. Here is a beautiful and much needed role that churches can fill, befriending those whose only friends are paid to care for them, and being a rock of stability in their lives when those paid carers move on. The world looks on them as the least, but in the Kingdom of God they are the greatest. And as Jesus said, “Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it to Me.” What steps could you take to building this kind of friendship with someone who needs it?

Photo by Artem Podrez from Pexels