Every now and then I like to read through the gospels again.
It usually starts with me thinking I’m only going to read one and invariably I end up reading all of them. The book of Matthew was the first book of the Bible that I ever read in it’s entirety and it’s still my favorite. But as I was continuing to read through the others recently, a few verses stood out to me in a way that they never had before (which of course is an amazing feeling and one of the many reasons I read daily).
Verses 1-2 of John chapter 9 say,
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?” (NLT)
The first thought that popped into my head was “Man, peoples’ attitudes haven’t changed much in 2000 years have they?”
Now I feel the need to amend that thought here immediately: I have met many people since I’ve become sick that have been respectful, loving, caring, and above all else just treat me like they would any other person, and I love them with all my heart. Because in a world where you look different from almost everyone, it is literally a life-saver to have people who love you no matter what.
Unfortunately as we all know, the world at large isn’t usually so understanding. Looking noticeably different from everyone else is something that I struggle with on a daily basis. Sometimes it’s the worst part of my day. I just don’t get to be like everyone else anymore, no matter how much I might want to.
I don’t get to turn off my health problems.
When I was just using a cane it wasn’t really that bad. Yes, I’d get irritated when people would stare at me when I was walking around but at least I could hide it when I was sitting. These days when you see me out in public (which isn’t all that often anymore), I’m probably in a wheelchair. I love my scooter, but in a lot of situations the wheelchair is just more functional.
I don’t get to blend in anymore. When I’m out shopping, I’m not a 33-year-old guy who’s buying beef jerky, salsa and a can of ravioli that’s on sale but will likely never get eaten; I’m Wheelchair Guy (buying those same things of course).
And I’ll be the first one to admit, I suck at being Wheelchair Guy.
I’m not comfortable with it at all, on any level really. Add to that the fact that my arms don’t work like they’re supposed to anymore, so I’m just not able to push the chair very well and I‘m probably in a lot of pain trying to do it.
The point of all of this is that I’m very aware of any slights (real and occasionally imagined) that are thrown my way because of the health problems that I have.
When I read that verse, it stuck a chord with me in a way that it hadn’t before. I’ve had people speak to me about my disability in a way that suggested that there was something fundamentally wrong with me. In a way that quite frankly, felt dehumanizing. I felt like I no longer count on the same level that everyone else does because my body doesn’t operate as well as most of the population.
And it happens more often than I ever would have thought.
I’ve learned that there are right and wrong ways to deal with this kind of thing. Considering the source is usually a pretty good first step. Before I actually became a person with a disability, I’d never really had much experience being around someone who had one and I get the impression that most people haven’t either.
Really, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be mad at someone for not knowing something that they probably haven’t had a chance to learn. So when the disciples asked Jesus this question, I don’t imagine that it was out of malice but possibly just out of inexperience.
They probably just really wanted to know.
Verse 3 says,
“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.”
I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that means and it wouldn’t surprise me if I never truly understand.
But if I had to guess I would say that it means that God loves every single one of us, regardless of where we start out at.
God will take care of every single one of us, and in some cases it’s more noticeable than it is in others, and that’s good because we need to see the work that God does around us every day.
My situation is different from the blind man in the story in many ways, but the main one that matters at the moment is that he was born with his disability and mine showed up after I turned 30.
But if God allows me to get a wheelchair or a scooter at the exact time that I need one despite the fact that I don’t have the money for it or whatever the case may be, then the power of God can be seen in my situation too.
My arms are burning with pain as I write this column, and for my own good I need to wrap it up soon. But I truly believe that God is giving me the desire and ability to write it even though I know there’s a very good chance that I will be in so much pain tomorrow from doing it that I’ll likely wish I wouldn’t have.
God is showing His power through me.
I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant because–believe me–I feel like I’m the least qualified or worthy person to say something like that.
What I’m really trying to say is this: I’ve been called an inspiration by people for simply trying to do whatever it is I have to do to just keep living a halfway normal life. The strange thing about not being “normal” anymore is that when I actually do manage to do “normal” things, it’s considered inspirational to others.
I’m okay with that, because to me the word “inspirational” really just means that the power of God is being seen in me.
God is giving me the ability to do things in spite of the fact that they are much harder than they used to be. God is giving me the ability to keep going, no matter how rocky, winding and foggy the road might be.
That’s the power of God. I feel blessed that occasionally people might see it in me.
So I encourage everyone to let their light shine. I know it’s not easy to do and often we don’t really know how to do it. I believe, though, that if we truly strive to follow God and love others, that no matter what we end up doing it will truly be “inspirational.” When the power of God can be seen in your family, friends, someone you’ve never even met or–once in a great while–maybe even in yourself, how can that be anything less than an inspiration?