This month is almost over and I was going to write about a different topic. But I had something happen to me a couple days ago that I can’t stop thinking about.
Who knew that at 32 years of age, I would have to defend myself from being defined by my disability? Sadly, this last week, I was.
To be clear, the definition of a disability is a physical, mental, cognitive, or developmental condition that impairs, interferes with, or limits a person’s ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions.
For most of my life I have stood up for and in the gap for men and women that live with various disabilities. Every year during high school summer breaks, I worked as a counselor at a camp that served people with disabilities. While in college I worked for another camp in the summer of 2007 that also was for people with disabilities.
One of my closest friends is an ex-camper for one of the camps I worked at. She is really hilarious and has taught me so much about life. I have learned so much from her. And some of the most wonderful, determined and successful people I have met in my life have been people who live with a disability. I’ve learned that they have a special ‘grit’ about them. Don’t ever tell them they can’t do something and if you do, watch out for the wrath of God!
I hope it’s apparent that one of my life’s goals is to serve and show that people with disabilities are smart people with worth and feelings.
All this said, I have never seen myself as a person with a disability. My parents never raised me to think this way at all. And I’m so thankful that they never put that label on me. My husband has never seen me this way either.
Growing up, I spent a great deal of time in the hospital going from doctor appointment to doctor appointment. I spent hours and hours in physical therapy. And I always knew that God had a special plan for me and I was given a unique heart for a reason. And I never considered or labeled myself as “disabled.”
So this has caused me to think about labels and groups that people are put in.
If you will, let’s think about this for a moment. Why does our culture have a label for everyone? How about we strive to learn from people and remove the labels?
What if we just saw people for who they are instead assigning them a label? Who knowns what you might discover about a person if you choose to not label them first?
It always go back the root cause, the root issue, which is, sin. Who are you labeling with a big stroke from the paint brush? Maybe it’s people that think differently than you on political issues? Or people of a different skin color or culture? Maybe people with different religious beliefs? How about who they love? Jesus told his followers to go into the nations and spread the gospel. But isn’t that hard to do when labeling people and judging them? First we should consider looking in the mirror, removing the log from our own eye before casting judgment on others and labeling them. The Lord knows that I am certainly not innocent of this.
So let’s work on this. Who do you need to get to know personally to go beyond their ‘labels?’ Because God loves each and every one of us.
Pastor Matt Chandler said it so well, “The ease of likeness will always pull on us over the beauty of diversity.”
Do I need more friends than I do that had a different childhood than I? Yes, I do.
Do I need more friends that have different cultural backgrounds? Yes, I do.
Do I need more friends that have a different political position than I? Yes I do!
Only the Lord can change our hearts. And I want to always give people the benefit of the doubt; to believe they have good intentions.
Finally, for the person that made my stop in my tracks and question my disability; I will be praying for you. Not for judgement to fall upon you. But rather, that your heart will be moved by the Lord and you will be filled with love for the sick and the lame.
Because Jesus came for you, just like He did for me.