Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Free, Lifelong Access

When we were in the Badlands, I was given a free lifetime access pass to all the national parks in the country. When the realization hit me, I literally started hyperventilating and sobbing. Hannah and Brie laughed for about 30 seconds and then started trying to calm me down, "Breathe, girl, just breathe!" It was kind of a weird, out-of-character natural reaction for me to have, and as I reflected on it today, I tried to figure out what made it such a big deal, to elicit such emotion.

It all happened so fast - the lady in the booth at the entrance of the park asked me if my disability was permanent, and I said yes. She handed Hannah a paper and told her I needed to sign it, or have Hannah sign it for me. With a nod of permission from me, Hannah scribbled both of our names down and handed it back. In exchange, the lady gave her a little plastic card, face down, and told her to sign it as well. Why do we sign things without knowing what they are? After a second double-signature, the woman declared what it was, and told us to "have a nice trip." Hannah flipped the card over to show me the front: 

We quickly flipped it over again and read the fine print under which she had just signed both of our names in permanent blue ink: "Lifetime Pass for U.S. Citizen or permanent resident, medically determined to have a permanent disability that severely limits one or more major life activities." And it was free. My brain wanted to try to calculate how much a regular pass would have been for one year, much less a lifetime, but I could do nothing but stare at the card shaking in my hands. 

Two things about this... 

1) I got this pass because of my disability. Every day I live with my disability, and deal with the reality of its limitations. Outwardly, I try to emphasize all that I can do. But here's a secret: not an hour goes by when I don't have to mentally consider what I cannot do. I can't reach the cabinets for a snack, I can't lay down on my bed for a spontaneous nap, I can't open the door when I have visitors, and I can't make them a cup of tea; I can't pick up the pen I just dropped on the floor, or turn on the light when it gets too dark, or clean up the messes my clumsy hands cause. I can't get into just anyone's house, or take just any sidewalk, or check out just any privately run shop or business, or ride in just anyone's car that I want. My creative mind works hard constantly to compensate for these things, but frankly it gets exhausting. The Disability Act has done a lot of good to provide access to a lot of places, but the truth is there are still many places in Fort Wayne, the US, and the world that are off limits. And even the term "disabled" declares inability and limit. So when 59 of the most beautiful and wild places in our country suddenly become accessible and open to me, without cost or limit... yes, now you can go!... you might as well hand me the world on a silver platter. 

2) It was a gift that I didn't deserve, and I didn't even ask for or seek because I didn't know it was possible. First, I had to speak a fact that is hard for me to admit even to myself: that my disability is permanent (at least in this world).  But when I said it, I didn't find doors slammed in my face - I found them flung open wide to new adventures and deeper life. And it felt a lot like the grace of God. It is so hard to bring myself to admit that I am weak and sinful, prideful and selfish and desperate, such a mess. I feel like, if I become too vulnerable or I surrender too much, I'll lose everything. But the more I realize and confess my need for him in every area of my life, the sweeter and more powerful his grace becomes. He fills the emptiness of my soul with his own love and peace, and He upholds me in all my weakness with the strength of his joy and hope. The access pass He gives me is not just a free ticket into heaven - it is so much more... it is an open door to enter a lifelong-and-then-eternity-long adventure of walking, running, and soaring with him, stepping in His shadow, hearing His heartbeat, seeing the world the way He sees it... And all the endless beautiful and wild places of his heart suddenly become accessible and open to me, without cost or limit - yes, now you can go! 

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