This week three of my friends and I met in a park for a picnic. An hour later, a spouse showed up unexpectedly with a camera wanting to take a picture of us. We all erupted in spontaneous protest. “No, don’t take a picture!” “My hair’s too poofy!” “My pants are too big!” “I’m wearing a T-Shirt!” In the end, after some coaxing, we all gave in and posed for the camera. Our collective reaction to the photo shoot reminded me of how fixated humanity seems to be on physical appearance—I included. I love dressing up, especially for church, I love finding just that right pair of shoes to top off an outfit, and I’ll never pass up the opportunity to add a little bling to my wardrobe when I know it will earn me a compliment. It’s often, however, that I’ll look in the mirror admiring that my make-up is “perfect,” and be reminded that I am not.

Living with a physical disability has changed how I view myself and other people. When I meet someone for the first time, I’m hoping they’ll like me. I’m also hoping that they will have the courage and the patience to see my exterior, but also to look even further, deep into the heart of who I am. In turn, I often find myself spurred onto a similar treasure hunt. Knowing all too well that truly “seeing” a person takes more than a first impression, I try to dig deep, uncovering what beauty lies beneath the skin. This is not an easy task; it takes time, patience, and repeated interaction.

When the person has a disability, this task can become more challenging, but at the same time even more compelling. Physical disability, I’ve found, is often perceived in sharp and unexpected contrast to what people expect a body to look like, but even initial shock or a subtle startle can provide the extra motivation necessary to enter into a deeper realm, one that carefully peers into the human soul.

I recently came across an intriguing quote from Joni Eareckson Tada. Joni is a quadriplegic and head’s up an international ministry to people with disabilities.

“Most churches have difficulty in ministering to the handicapped simply because of some basic fears and lack of awareness. As we move past these attitudinal barriers and misunderstanding, we’ll discover the joy of caring for someone simply based on the preciousness of their souls, not on their physical attractiveness and intellectual capabilities or social position.”

This week… Challenge yourself.

When you meet someone new, whether they have a disability or not, take a moment to look beyond their exterior, past the things you don’t understand or find yourself afraid of to discover the beauty within; seize the opportunity to behold “the preciousness of their souls.”

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