Tag Archives: suffering

An IDEAL Evening

ideal pic

The IDEAL Chef Winning Team Celebrates on Stage!

The IDEAL program is easily one of the most delightful discoveries we have made in our brief time at Lipscomb University. IDEAL stands for Igniting the Dream of Education and Access at Lipscomb, which as the website describes, is a program “uniquely designed for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities” who want to receive the full college experience—classes, cafeteria, residence halls, events—alongside traditional students. We noticed this right away when we arrived on campus, and it was love at first sight.

I recently met with Misty and Andrea who lead the charge and, having been properly smitten with their good work, made it clear that I wanted to be invited to anything going on. You don’t have to ask them twice, so last Friday evening my wife and I happily attended the IDEAL Summer Academy Showcase and Dinner. The Summer Academy is a week-long residential summer camp experience for prospective IDEAL students, and the Friday night event was a dinner competition (prepared by the campers) and a show (prepared and performed by the campers). My goodness, it was awesome.

When we left, we both noticed that we had headaches from smiling so much. True story. It was an evening of indescribable joy.

Stanley Hauerwas is a provocative theologian who has written on a wide range of topics, including medical ethics, and I remember his essay on suffering in which he turned a spotlight on those with developmental disabilities and argued that such people threaten the rest of us “because they expose our own fear of weakness and dependence on others.”  He wrote, “[T]hey do not try to hide their needs. They are not self-sufficient, they are not self-possessed, they are in need. Even more, they do not evidence the proper shame for being so. They simply assume that they are what they are and they need to provide no justification for being such. It is almost as if they have been given a natural grace to be free from the regret most of us feel for our neediness.”

Perhaps that glimpse of liberation is why we smiled so much that it hurt last Friday evening. It appears to be an IDEAL way to live.

Stronger Backs


As a lifelong baseball fan, the story of Dave Dravecky is firmly imprinted in my memory. It is hard to forget an all-star pitcher whose cancer led to the amputation of his pitching arm.

Dravecky was (and is) an outspoken Christian who speaks and writes openly about his experiences. In one of his books, he wrote the following about members of his faith tradition:

“In America, Christians pray for the burden of suffering to be lifted from their backs. In the rest of the world, Christians pray for stronger backs so they can bear their suffering.”

Although I question the validity of such a broad statement, I believe the allusion to a worldview that sees suffering as optional is worth contemplation. Because it isn’t optional.

The premise of this entire blog is that hope is possible regardless of circumstances. If I am not careful, “starting to look up” may sound like what happens once suffering leaves the building, and while I cannot blame anyone for wishing suffering would go away, research is pretty solid on the ubiquitous nature of suffering in this life we share.

Therefore, my personal goal is to develop the strength of character so that suffering will not win the war. It is that strength, i.e., a stronger back, that transforms any situation so that things begin to look up.