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It’s the Heart That Counts

You’ve probably heard the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover.” Due to our human nature, we tend to look at outward appearance instead of focusing on what is on the inside, which is what really matters. Just like a book’s cover, people may look different and have things that they deal with that are outside of what we consider normal. Even when people are different, we must look at them as being part of the body of Christ. We must not stare at or avoid them because they are different from us. We should include them because they, too, have feelings. A disability is not what defines a person; rather, it is their heart that really counts. 

The body of Christ is made up of many different members: big and small, sick and healthy, weak and strong. They all are necessary, no matter how different they may be. God uses all our differences to benefit the body of Christ. The diversity of the body is so important that without one person, the body would not be complete. This truth is found in Romans 12:4–5, “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”  

We can learn things from special needs members in the church. These members of our community have a particular place in my heart. This is especially because of my experiences with my sister, Annie. Annie was born three months early and suffered a severe brain bleed, leading to her many health struggles. She helped me to realize the importance of what is in the heart, not outward appearances. Growing up with Annie shaped me to be who I am today. 

Annie had such a love for Jesus Christ, which was evident in the way that she went through her life on this earth. Situations like hers would normally weigh a person down, but it didn’t for Annie. This is because of the hope that she had for heaven, as we read in Revelation 21:4, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Her faith was strong in every trial. Each time she went into surgery, she would always say that she knew that Jesus was with her and would protect her. She knew that whatever happened was God’s will (Rom. 8:28). She let her light shine even though she had many disabilities. Annie did everything for the glory of God. Just because she seemed different outwardly, I would say that her love for Jesus in her heart was stronger than mine could ever be. 

Annie’s limitations in understanding Scripture did not make her less of a Christian. The Bible speaks of needing childlike faith (Mark 9:36–37). Annie had this! She may not have understood the ins and outs of every doctrine and Scriptural truth, but she knew and believed with all her heart that she loved Jesus, that Jesus loved her, and that she would go to see Jesus and live with him forever. This confidence helped her push through the difficulties that others would crumble under. People with disabilities can most certainly know Jesus Christ is their savior, and we must not doubt the work of the Spirit in their hearts. 

Because of her faith, Annie was ready to go home to heaven to live with Jesus and saints of all ages. On November 18, 2014, her wish was finally granted. Her body was too weak and couldn’t go on. Her organs began to fail one by one, and it was time to say goodbye to the one I couldn’t imagine my life without. It’s hard going on without her, but the time I spent with Annie, and what God taught me through her, is very important to me. 

God had all of this planned out in his eternal counsel. He determined that Annie would be born prematurely and have the struggles that she experienced. She was fearfully and wonderfully made, one of God’s masterpieces (Ps. 139:14). God created special needs members for the good of the church. In John 1:3 we read, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” He providentially decided that he would take Annie home to heaven at the age of 21, on November 18, 2014. 

God knew that the family to whom he gave Annie would be the perfect fit for her, and that she would be the perfect fit for us! In 2 Samuel 9, there is a story that shows the importance of special needs members in the body of Christ. The story’s background is David’s asking whether any members of Saul’s family remained, and then finding that Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth who was still alive. After the battle in which Saul and Jonathan were killed, the boy’s nurse fled with him. She ended up dropping and ultimately crippling him. David, despite this boy’s disabilities, brought Mephibosheth to his table. Verse 13 reads, “So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king’s table; and was lame on both his feet.” David went out of his way to show a man with disabilities his importance in the kingdom. No matter our troubles, Christ makes us to dwell with him in his house. 

Being Annie’s sister was such a blessing. People often look at special needs children as a burden. They would stare at us in stores and question how we were able to get through the challenge of her special needs. But the difficulties a special needs family member brings don’t take away from the blessing they are to caregivers (Ps. 127:3). Annie taught me the importance of going day by day and finding the good in every situation. She taught me the importance of not being bitter in my own struggles and to find joy in every moment. 

This is my sister Annie’s legacy: she reminds people that there are so many things that we can learn from every member of the body of Christ. I encourage you to take the opportunity to spend time with special needs members of your community. They may teach you a lesson that will change your life for the better, just like Annie did for me. Remember, all of God’s children are special. Being different isn’t a bad thing. Don’t stare at or avoid special needs children because they are different from you. Include them because they, too, have feelings. A disability is not what defines a person, rather it is their heart that really counts. Remember, “Never judge a book by its cover.” Take the time to read those books. You will be glad you did! 

 

Kierra is a senior at Covenant Christian High School in Walker, MI. She attends Byron Center Protestant Reformed Church with her family.