Reaching Beyond Barriers

I identified with a man I’d met at Joni & Friend’s Camp when I read his post about his little girl with cerebral palsy. He explained that when he took his daughter to the park, there was a park ranger doing a demonstration for the children, and she walked right by his daughter in a wheelchair and addressed all of the other children instead. A few days later, he wrote about another situation that occurred at his church’s Vacation Bible School. Those in charge of the closing celebration did not make accommodations for his daughter to join her friends on stage, so she was again excluded from the fun.

 

It is easy for me to get on my high horse after reading about those situations and think, ‘Oh, that is totally wrong!” Then I remember how I react to seeing a homeless person on the street; I struggle to look the person in the eye. There is a woman over at the Starbucks near my house, and she wears bright clothes and looks really bizzare.  People cross her path all of the time, and yet when I think about it, I’ve only had one or two conversations with her myself. What makes us do that?  If I truly believe that everyone is valuable, then that changes everything and everyone. If it is fear that stops me from looking a homeless person in the eye, or talking with the woman outside of Starbucks, then I’d better remember that each of us has been created in the image of God.

 

As a woman with cerebral palsy, I could have led a much different life if I would have believed that life was too hard and chosen to see it that way.  It would have been easy for me to go along with what people thought about me. Instead, I discovered that God had a much different purpose for my life. If I believe what people assume about me, then I am going to limit myself and go around with a chip on my shoulder.

 

The other day, my friend and I went into a re-sale shop and we had an incredible conversation with the owner who really saw the treasure in me. Rather than assuming what many people think when they see a handicapped person, this guy saw me through the eyes of Christ. He said to me, “There is not an ounce of self-pity or sorrow in you, is there?” No matter what people think, it is important to hold onto the truth found in 2 Corinthians 4:7“…We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves.”

 

Whenever I start to dwell on how people treated me, or when I marginalize anyone, I have to stop and remember that each of us are valuable treasures in these earthen vessels.

Grappling with Grace

One morning in church, a friend of mine told the congregation, “The Lord healed my knee, so now I can ride my bike.”  Like a volcano letting off plumes of smoke before an eruption, my heart screamed, “What about me, God?”  It seemed ridiculous.  I couldn’t cook because of my hands, and she was worried about not riding her bike.

At the end of the service when my pastor invited people to come up for prayer, I felt as though I was inside God’s pressure cooker.  Reaching out for prayer seemed extremely difficult that day.  Normally, I didn’t think twice about my limitations.  Whenever I was confronted with something I couldn’t accomplish, I figured out a solution.  But for the past two days, I’d been an angry mess.  I knew my attitude was wrong but I couldn’t help it.  I’ve always been the one to encourage others and I was ashamed about how upset I felt.  I was embarrassed and I was tempted just to go home.  Yet, I knew that if I didn’t ask for help I’d explode.

I thought I had made peace with God about my disability, so when it came up, I was angry with myself and thought, “Not this again.” When the same issues came up the next day it seemed too much for me to deal with.  God had arranged another circumstance because He wanted to bring me to a deeper measure of healing, but waited to surrender to Him. My effort to change my attitude had gotten me very upset and blocked me from feeling God’s love.

When my pastor was finished praying with people who had gone forward and started to walk toward the door of the sanctuary, I asked a friend to get Pastor James.  When he came over to me he asked, “What’s going on?”

I struggled to figure out how to explain the amount of pain and turmoil I felt.  God met me when I humbled myself and said, “My life gets so frustrating sometimes.”  My tension started to evaporate as the words escaped from my lips.  My confession took my breath away and I wondered what reaction it would bring.

As Pastor James smiled and said “Well, I imagine it does,” I knew God was there to meet me.  As we prayed together, I confessed my frustration.  I sensed Him filling me with peace.

Anger is just one of the steps in the grief process, but hiding it hasn’t helped. That is why I was in the pressure cooker. I had the choice of whether to hide or to press on through.

In several ways my spirit operates much like my body does. I know how my body is supposed to function but can’t.  It’s difficult for me to walk safely because of spasticity. When I concentrate on the way I walk, I have more stability.  After I fall, I pay attention but after a while I forget to be careful. I gave my heart to the Lord many years ago, and know if I pray and read the Word daily my relationship with Him is strengthened.  When I neglect my relationship with Him I have trouble letting Him be in control.  Like the Apostle Paul, I struggle when I see the wide gap between what I want to do and what I actually do.  When I attempt to earn His love by acting a certain way I make matters worse.  It’s through surrendering my ideas and efforts that I receive God’s grace.

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15