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The God Squad: God sees our imperfections differently

June 21, 2013|By Rabbi Marc Gellman

Q: I have a congenital neuromuscular disease called Charcot-Marie-Tooth, which has led to a lot of abuse in my life — including my own father telling me to "pick up your God-damned feet, stupid!" My mom was big into faith healers and took me to a few to help my "odd walk," but to no avail. What I got from this was a hatred of God and the church because, as far as they were concerned, I didn't have enough faith. I didn't believe hard enough. I wasn't good enough.

Once, in high school, two girls came up to me. I was quite psyched until one said, "We've noticed how you walk. If you come to Brother Ben's revival, you can be healed!" Imagine my letdown. Here I was thinking they liked me, but they were just collecting gimps for the floorshow. I left quickly before I said or did something I would've regretted.

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I felt the same way about other disabled people. I believed God didn't like them, either, because if He did, He'd heal them. I've since gotten sober and developed a sounder faith. I realize God is not Santa Claus, but to this day I don't feel welcome in any church. Sometimes, even today, when my legs are giving me grief, it's like they're reciting that old message: "See, God really doesn't like you." How can I get past this? — L., via godsquadquestion@aol.com

A: I would have chosen your heartfelt letter for the column this week in any case, but I was drawn to it even more strongly because I have a friend with Charcot-Marie-Tooth syndrome. She is brave and hopeful, but I also know of her intense private struggles.

Let me begin by reminding you that all people are made in the image of God, not just "perfect" people. I've often felt that God created this biblical belief to give hope to people who struggle with physical or mental infirmities. The pretty and powerful don't need to be reminded that God loves them. They walk through life with a socially supported confirmation of their specialness. No, the belief that even your recalcitrant feet bear the image of God is meant for you, dear friend.

So as not to leave this matter in doubt, remember why God chose Moses. Moses wasn't a slave, so he couldn't relate to the lives of the people he was charged by God to emancipate. He wasn't a charismatic preacher, so he couldn't mobilize the masses with his words. Moses had a physical deformity, possibly a cleft palate.

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