I was born two months premature and later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. I have a visual impairment and I use a power wheelchair because I cannot walk. My awareness that my survival was very unlikely due to health complications when I was very young, helped me to understand that God protected my life for a purpose. Still, there was a significant portion of my life that I desired to be “normal.” I mistakenly believed that the best way to fulfil God’s plan for my life was to minimize my challenges as much as possible. I sought opportunities and employment as distant from disability as possible: Working for sports camp, planning to be an elementary school teacher and many other things.
While serving as a Short-Term Missionary at a Joni and Friends Family Retreat, I began learning that God has equipped all people uniquely to accomplish different wonderful purposes that He has ordained for our lives.
I wheeled over to two brothers to introduce myself and one said, “Hi, this is my brother Caleb; He’s 11. I’m Jaron and I’m seven.”
Caleb has many medical diagnoses. He does not use words to communicate, and many limitations are apparent. Had I been introduced to the boys in a different way, I may have focused on Caleb’s limitations, but Jaron clearly had respect for his older brother.
He didn’t seem to me to think that Caleb’s challenges or limitations were worth focusing on. Instead, he emphasized their relationship.
Since Jaron did not focus on his older brother’s challenges or limitations, he caused me to wonder, why should I?
My view that we are all uniquely equipped was also influenced by the late Canadian accessibility advocate Judith Snow who said, “God did not create people with disabilities and people without disabilities, He created some people who are good at some things and other people who are good at other things. Humanity created the categories of disabled and nondisabled and these distinctions are rather arbitrary, if not wrong.”
Judith Snow’s perspective helped me to relinquish the idea that I was created more deficient than anyone else. We all need Jesus, and we all need one another. If everyone could do the same things as anyone else, we wouldn’t really need each other. It is precisely our different skills and abilities that allow us to serve one another in meaningful ways.
It is certainly helpful to focus on what we can do rather than what we cannot do but God’s encouragement to the apostle Paul was “my grace is sufficient for you: for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Therefore, as Christians I think we are called not only to focus on the gifts He has blessed us with but the so-called weaknesses He has blessed us with as well. I think life is better when we recognize where we need God’s grace and, the support of the community that He puts around us; so that we welcome them into our lives and, allow them to bless us, particularly if their strengths correspond to what we are not good at or gifted in.