Reading for Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: 1 Samuel 17:1-58
Peace be with you!
People outside the disabled world have two general views of people who live with disabilities: 1) they possibly cannot live a perceived “normal life,” and 2) they are so inspiring (but thank God I’m not them!). People with disabilities fight this double-edged sword daily.
In the David and Goliath story, the teenage David fights two similar perceptions. In this instance, David’s disability is his age and not his not yet mature adult body (1 Samuel 17:15, 33). Saul saw David as a young boy who had little experience outside of tending his father’s sheep.
The first view creates the notion anyone who has disability is lacking the ability to live a perceived normal life. Saul and the other soldiers felt that David should not be allowed to be on the battlefield, even to check on his three brothers for his father, because of his inexperience and age (1 Samuel 17:33). Like David, people believe I am not strong enough to be independent; they assume this because I use an electric wheelchair to get around and have a speech impairment. They feel I should not be able to own and live in my house alone, be alone under any circumstance—let alone travel with a personal caregiver (gasp). They doubt my ability to have and care for my three dogs, manage an aging parent’s personal affairs, and anything else the average adult tends to and enjoys doing daily.
The second view creates the notion people with disabilities are so incredibly noble for attempting to live a perceived normal life, despite their limitations. If living and the basic needs of shelter, food and water, and companionship were a mere choice, then yes, people with disabilities would be inspirations. But living is a requirement to exist in the world, and if you are able and willing, then managing your needs is just a fact of life. For example, many people upon meeting me (especially at the gym) call me an inspiration. The fact of the matter is I am compulsive about working out, because I need to keep up my strength in order to transfer independently. When I skip my workouts, I fall more while going to the bathroom or taking a shower. Plus, working out helps my self-esteem. For me, working out is a basic need—physically and psychosocially. Anyone has the choice to live their life to the fullest—why cannot people with disabilities make that decision for themselves?
Just as I do not have a choice to live and tend to my needs, David saw no choice but to fight against Goliath, even without armor. David rebukes Saul’s claims of him being just a boy by stating he has fought off lions and bears when they would take a lamb, even if it meant killing the lion or bear (1 Samuel 17:33-36a). When Saul saw David had made up his mind, he dressed him in his armor (1 Samuel 17:38-39a). However, David could not move in the armor, so he took it off and took his staff and five stones with his slingshot (1 Samuel 17:39b-40). Goliath mocked David being small and having no armor, except for the five stones and slingshot, and said he would feed him to the bird and wild animals (1 Samuel 17:41-44).
But David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s and he will give you into our hand” (1 Samuel 17:45-47 NRSV).
Despite being smaller and inexperienced, David found strength in the LORD who he believed would help him kill Goliath. So when Goliath came closer, David took a stone, slung it, and flung it into his forehead knocking him down and allowing David to kill him (1 Samuel 17:48-50). David prevailed over Goliath making him a hero to the Israelites; his people would not become captives to the Philistines because of his bravery.
However, King Saul and the Israelites missed the true reason why he prevailed over Goliath: David prayed to the LORD and did what he commanded. David fought the Philistine for the LORD and the Israelites, his people. He did it to keep his people safe.
In the same way, people who have disabilities strive to be a productive members of society. People with disabilities may do things differently or need more time and space. This does not make them inspirational or deprive of the ability to have their own lives; it just means they are willing to go against the grains and listen to their own hearts. God calls people with disabilities to his work in the world just like anyone else.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for sending David to fight against Goliath. Help us to be brave like David and lead us to fight your battles in the world. Raise us up when we fall and give us new life. Thank you for calling us to be your people. Amen.
© 2014 Picture taken by Joy McManaman