“You weren’t an accident. You weren’t mass produced. You aren’t an assembly-line product. You were deliberately planned, specifically gifted, and lovingly positioned on the Earth by the Master Craftsman.”
– Max Lucado
What does it mean to be human? What is my purpose on earth? Why do I hit the alarm each morning, shower, and go about my day? What makes me a person?
These are big questions everyone asks themselves and inquire of others to answer. I know I certainly have.
We live our lives as living examples of the answers we come to believe. Is being a human about how we look? Is it about our minds? Are our bodies what makes us human?
Our culture has through many narratives tried to answer these questions: Sci-Fi films, Zombie films, classical literature, children’s books, etc. Our narratives have too many answers to sift through to come to a final answer.
Are we just to pick an answer or come up with our own?
What about me? A 29 year old disabled man who cannot run or walk without a limp, wears leg braces, cannot play sports, possibly cannot have biological children, and who cannot even do the simplest things a normal human should be able to do. What is the answer for me? What makes me human?
Looking Down from the Bell Tower
In the story The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo is hidden away from the world due to his deformity. His deformity became something to be feared, to be mocked, and to be crown at the Feast of Fools. His dream was to be out there, out from Notre Dame, and living among the people of Paris.
In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Dr. Victor Frankenstein creates a human made from the parts of corpses. Yet, when the Creature (yes, that is what he is called) is in the world, all he faces is torment, mocking, and displacement. When he confronts the doctor, not even his own creator wants him.
Those who have a broken body know that these stories (and many others) accurately paint reality. We look down from our bell towers wishing to be out there among the others. We feel like sometimes our own creator does not want us.
Our broken bodies. Our culture shows us that if you fit a certain standard of body image, then you are considered human. Where does a broken body fit its jigsawed shape into our culture’s mold?
Rejected by Our Primordial Slime
In the scientific teaching of Evolution, each human came from some sort of primordial slime, and over time evolved into the humans we see now. Evolution is supposed to be developing the best, and continuing to that advanced state. The survival of the fittest brings out the best.
So if I’m not the fittest, am I meant to die out? In order to make sure we continue the best of the human race, should we follow the ways Hitler? Should we kill off those who are weak and only contaminate our humanity? In the Holocaust, the Jews were not the first to be executed. The disabled laid the paving stones for the methodology of the worst crime against humanity in history.
Those with broken bodies have been rejected by Evolution. We are not the fittest or the strongest. Our culture’s narratives and stories give many answers that we may choose from to answer what it means to be human. But, is rejection from our own primordial slime the only option for being born with or by an accident having a broken body?
If Evolution is fact, then those with a broken body are those who should be cast aside without purpose, without place, and without being considered a true human.
The Forgotten Answer
Since our culture rejects those with a broken body, and pretty much our primordial slime does as well, then should not all those with a broken body end it? It is logical. But, that line of thinking is missing a piece. It has not considered a forgotten answer.
In the library of answers to the question of “what makes a human?” sits an old book hidden between the other volumes. If you aren’t looking carefully at each book, this one is easy to miss.
On the first page it says, “In the beginning God…”
It does not start with “You are special,” “You have been given a gift,” or even “Look at yourself in the mirror.” Instead this book starts with someone else. This person is credited with forming you (Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139:13). He is known by his character: holy, loving, all-powerful, all-knowing, and compassionate (there are a lot more).
This forgotten answer begins with a forgotten person: God.
The Reason for Creation
We may be thinking, “So it is God’s fault for giving me or this person a broken body. No wonder people do not want to have anything to do with him.” I get it. It’s a logical conclusion. But, it is a logical conclusion from the wrong perspective.
When we see broken bodies from our perspective, we miss what God sees. In Genesis 1:26-28, God does not just create man, and “poof” man exists. Instead, God creates man with a place and a purpose in mind. He places man on earth for a purpose (Genesis 2:15). He writes out each day for each individual for a reason (Psalm 139:16). Yet, we are not pawns in a game of chess, or marionettes in a puppet show. We are like a character specifically drawn up by an author who weaves our stories together to reveal the ultimate story of redemption founded on Jesus Christ.
God, our Creator, makes each of our bodies for a purpose. He makes brokenness to be used.
Abraham considered his body (more specifically his sperm) dead, and thought he would never have a son (Hebrews 11:12). Yet, God used the many tears of brokenness when all around Abraham and Sarah people were having children. God brought about a child of promise. Their broken bodies paved the way for a miracle.
Hannah (I Samuel 1) could not bear children. She cried many tears that streamed down her broken body. Yet, even when called out as drunk by the priest, God used the brokenness of a womb to bring another miracle child. This child, Samuel, would be considered one of the greatest men in the Old Testament.
Mephibosheth (a man never healed by God) was crippled from an accident. He was an outcast on two accounts. First, he was crippled and would be displaced from society. Second, he was the grandson of King Saul. When David took over the throne, it was David’s right to kill anyone in the line of Saul. Yet again, God stepped in. David welcomed Mephibosheth into his palace and treated him as one of the family. God uses this man’s life as an example of God’s grace towards us (II Samuel 9; Romans 8:15-17).
In John 9, a man born blind is used to prove the divinity of Jesus. A woman, in Mark 5:25-34, could not stop the bleeding from her menstrual cycle. Her body was broken for 12 years. Yet, Jesus showed that God will use broken bodies to show people their need of Jesus.
A broken body is created to be used. God uses brokenness to points other to himself, and to the love and compassion of the Savior of the world.
Living from Heaven’s Eyes
It is easy to brush this off, and say God is sick for using brokenness for his own glory. But, what is the other choice? Does trying every day to come up with a purpose for your broken body seem like a cycle you want to continue in?
Yet, what about being a part of God’s story? What about not knowing how he is going to use your brokenness, but having the certain hope that he will?
If you notice, one verse has not been mentioned in this post. Other verses in that chapter have been, but not that specific verse. See, when I have struggled with what makes me human with having a broken body, most people quote it. Honestly, hearing that verse over and over as the answer feels like a cop out.
“Yeah, you can praise God for your body because of (fill in the blank). I doubt you would be praising God if you were in my situation.” My own thoughts betray my view of what it means to be human. We get so caught up in the snare of thinking that our humanness is found in our bodies and their physical abilities. If that is the case, then I am no better than a zombie. It clearly means that if I do not have a normal body, then I do not have a place or a purpose for my life. These thoughts put me at the center of my woes, and no more than the weakest of the species that should be wiped out.
Yet, the only way we can properly live out Psalm 139:14 is living from heaven’s eyes. We are not in a bell tower. We are not a creature displaced. We are created by God. We have been given a place. We have been given a purpose, and God has given some a broken body to fulfill that purpose in our place. It might mean we are never able to have children, or have bathroom needs, or walk with a limp, or be wheelchair bound, or suffer from chronic pain, or deal with things no one will understands. But, it is when we are certain of the hope of God using us in his story of redemption we can cry out Psalm 139:14. It is not a verse of grit your teeth and believe it. It is a verse in awe of the truth that God has formed us perfectly for the days he has planned for us written in his story (Psalm 139:13-16).
When we snicker, or laugh, or make fun of someone’s broken body, we are taking our culture’s narratives and forcing them to live as Quasimodo or Frankenstein’s Creature. We take away their God given story. We are telling them that because their body is broken, it is better to be used as a joke or even not exist at all. We have then traded the worship of the Creator for the worship of the creature.
What does it mean to be human?
It means to be one formed by God, placed for a purpose that is written out in God’s book that is to be lived out in the body given to us.