Reading Chantal’s post last week got me thinking about disability pride and my experiences. Unlike Chantal I have not been disabled my entire life so disability pride, or disability confidence, is something that I’ve had to learn more recently. It has been difficult because so much of my disability is tied to illness. My health is unpredictable and ever-changing which means I often feel as though I’m failing at life.
All summer at my church we do a fun activity together each week after the service. Last Sunday someone organized a painting activity where we each got a canvas with a Bible verse on it. As I walked around the room looking for the right verse I saw one that said “strength made perfect in weakness” and I knew immediately that was for me. So much of my daily activities are defined by my muscle weakness. The full verse says:
But he said to me “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
The verse resonated with me because this is what I do when I tell stories about my illness. Whenever I talk about my moments of weakness, often the highlight of the story is how someone else stepped in and supported me in that moment. Just like Christ’s power is made perfect in our weakness, my physical weakness gives an opportunity to show the power of relationships.
My daughter provides physical support as I walk up hills and emotional support as I navigate the difficult moments. My husband protects me as my advocate and ally. Coworkers have filled in the gaps when we’ve been in inaccessible spaces. Friends graciously give me rides when I can’t drive and adjust our social plans so I can participate.
I also have a deep appreciation for the way I’ve been able to lean on the disability community. In the early days of my illness I turned to online spaces where disabled people came together and I found a vast and vibrant community; a rich network of lives supporting one another with information, encouragement, and practical help.
I have been adjacent to the disability community my entire life, through friendships and through my work in developmental services. Crossing the threshold of being disabled myself has been such a privilege and a joy because it has transformed the way I can connect with people. Even if our diagnoses are wildly different, and our bodily experiences seem to have little in common, there’s still a deep understanding of what it is to live in a way that doesn’t always fit the systems of our world. There’s a shared experience of life that I struggle to put into words, but that I treasure.
So I am proud of my disability because it has given opportunity to emphasize and reinforce the relationships in my life. I am proud not of my body for what it does or does not do, but I am proud of the life I have in the community that surrounds me. My disabled body has given me the opportunity to recognize that.
I had a pastor who used to say that God uses miracles as plan B, but his plan A is people. The verse on the canvas I painted at church says that God’s power will be made perfect in weakness. I see that lived out every day by the people God has placed around me.