Friday, December 27, 2013

Stop Feeling Sorry For Me (Why I'm Thankful For My "Disability")

(Note: I should preface this with the statement that I am not anti-healing by any means. I've laid hands on people and seen God heal them in amazing ways. I'm not against that, and that's not what this is about, so please, keep that in mind as you read. Thanks.)

I want to start out by saying that I originally started this blog post with a fairly detailed history of my life, my "challenges" and the things I went through growing up. After some consideration, though, I deleted the whole thing. This post is not about me. It's about perception.

I seem to get into this conversation fairly often, as I sit in coffee shops, libraries, small groups and various other public places. It usually starts with someone noticing me reading my phone 8 inches from my face, or leaning in to look at the details of a picture on my computer screen. As it was today, it started with me flipping open my magnifying glass to read a word in order to help someone find synonyms. No matter what the original topic, I constantly encounter a phrase like this:

"Hey, I really want to pray for your eyes. I feel like God just wants to deliver you from that disability."

Really? You, having just met me not a minute ago, want to remove something that has been a part of my life since I was born? Something that you have not dealt with, or even understand?

Not the reaction you were expecting? It never is in this scenario.

I could go into detail, but I'll give you the general slough of what follows:

"That affliction is not from God."

"God wants you to be whole!"

"God doesn't want you to suffer anymore. He wants to unleash your potential."

I'll go as far as saying that I think most people don't think even for a second about the gains that come from various disabilities. They see someone who is lacking, someone who is broken, someone who is lesser. They see a problem that demands a solution. They never stop to think that maybe, just maybe, a person's disability has done some good things for them.

Want me to elaborate? Of course you do, because this doesn't make any sense. How could someone that has to bike everywhere, read with a magnifying glass, and, oh no, rely on people, be considered blessed? How can disability be anything but bad?

Perception. We see reliance and humility as a form of weakness. We see weakness as a problem, thus we try to find a solution. We want the refining without the fire. Is anyone else seeing a problem with this? Paul says that he delights in weaknesses! In fact, he boasts about them! He was even told that God's power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) In James' letter to the twelve tribes, he points out that, "Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position." (James 1:9) He also notes a few verses before that we should consider it pure joy when we face trials. Am I the only one that thinks these guys were being more literal than figurative?

All of you that see weakness as a problem, disability as loss, let me tell you a little bit about my day, and why I wouldn't trade my crappy vision for the world:

Every day, I wake up crushing what the world calls "trials". I grab my huge-text bible and magnifying glass, take pictures of menus on my phone so I can zoom in, hop on my bike and almost get hit constantly, ask for rides to far-off places, run into things in public and laugh, confuse people when my right eye doesn't want to look at them, kindly and sometimes jokingly tell people, "Sorry, no I don't" when they point and ask if I see something, wave anyways when someone honks at me and I have no idea who it is, wander around parking lots aimlessly looking for someone I was trying to meet, and practice worship music for hours because I can't sight-read a sheet. What may look like difficulty and embarrassment to you, I see as an opportunity to be humble, to find joy, and rely; both on God and on people. Whatever someone does with perfect vision, I push myself to do just as well with imperfect vision. It is a driving force that motivates me and sharpens me. I have gained more humility, more understanding, more grace, more perseverance, more motivation, more appreciation, more patience and more intimacy with God because of what you call a "disability" than any other factor in my life. People with disabilities have an inclination to overcome. We have a penchant for prevailing, no matter what kind of effort or ingenuity it takes.

I should feel sorry for you.

You who consider these things troublesome, inconvenient, humiliating and maybe outright dangerous. You who see me as someone to take pity on. You who don't understand humility. I feel sorry that you don't have the opportunity to practice what it means to be "least of these" on a daily, hourly, every-second-of-the-day basis. You are missing out on something that God has offered for a long, long time: Joy in all circumstances.

You are the one lacking. You are the one that is "disabled".

Remember that He is always working for the good of those that love him -- in all things. I don't think Christianity is meant to be a heal-all fix-all. I think it's a perception-changer. It's a hope and a joy that those that aren't participating don't understand. It's putting spiritual over physical. It's a renewal that makes you focus outward instead of inward. It's a life of paradoxes and mystery, but still somehow bathed in truth. It's an upside-down kingdom we're all invited to. It's love...but it's messy. So, for what weakness are you thankful today?