Living with a Disability
By Sherri Vaught
This weekend I met a man with the best of intentions trying to help me. He saw my canes and wanted to know if I was recovering from an injury or if it was permanent. When I told him it was permanent, he went on to ask if he could pray for me because the only way God could use me was if I was healed and then His name would be glorified. I told the man that God has been using me through my disability to share with others how great God is, and how He provides for all things. The man, sadly, did not believe me.
I am used to being approached and asked if people can pray for me. Sometimes the things that are said are so hilarious I have to stop myself from laughing. Other times, my heart breaks at the thought that people, just like this man, are missing how beautiful relying on God every day can be. I am not saying it is an easy life—but I have a God who has my back every day. A God Whom I ask for strength to get through each day and He provides. My walking disability has made my relationship with God painfully real, honest, and vulnerable. It has given me the opportunity to be dependent on the love of the Father.
I wrote the following passage when I was struggling to figure out God’s plan for my life. My hope is that you will read it and know that no matter what breaks you have in your life, or what cracks pull you down, that…
you realize that you have a God who sees you,
- a God who has your back,
- a God who is stronger than your weaknesses,
- a God who has promised never to leave you,
- and a Savior who has felt your pain.
…It is my view, that God uses our weaknesses to show His strength. I have this vision of a pot. This pot has been broken and glued together again. There are visible cracks; there are even a few small missing pieces. Within this pot is a little candle. When that candle is lit, light and beauty come pouring out of these breaks, imperfections, and cracks—they are now windows for Christ to shine through. My body is not perfect; I have breaks and imperfections that some days consume me. If I am disciplined and glue the pieces together again, God then has the ability to turn my brokenness into healing peace. My former weakness is not seen as brokenness to the world, but Christ’s work within me. My disability will no longer be a disadvantage, but a witnessing tool to the God who held me up when I was too weak to stand. To the Lord who whispered love songs to my heart when I needed a reminder of His plan. To my Jesus who walked beside me with every step, no matter how long it took to get there. To the sweet Spirit who abundantly lavished peace upon me. And to my brothers and sisters who did and didn’t understand. But mostly to me, a little lamb, who tries desperately to put these pieces of pottery back together, because there is a hope in my heart that someday the world will see the light through the cracks…
I still don’t know what God’s purpose is for me, other than being a light as I persevere through the trials and hard times…but if I can reflect Christ’s work within me as I press on…I AM ALL IN.
How to Treat People with Special Needs
Not everyone has experience interacting with someone who has a disability. Here are a few observations that hopefully serve as a helpful guide for interacting with individuals disabilities:
- Don’t stare. As if someone’s life is not hard enough, let’s not add to their insecurities too!
- Don’t assume he or she can’t do anything. Just because she is in a wheelchair doesn’t mean she can’t pass out bulletins or sing in the choir at church. Just because someone has a disability, that’s not who they are, but rather just a part of their story.
- There is no pity needed. So smile and carry on.
- Be kind and compassionate, but let them be independent. I know this is hard and it’s a fine line to walk, but basically it means: Be thoughtful, but don’t overdo it.
- Recognize that many individuals with special needs can do many of the same things “normal” people can. It just might take longer and it may look a little differently.
- Don’t judge the individual, their parents, and/or caretakers. You don’t know what they face. Who cares if they wear a baseball cap in church! Maybe getting them dressed, fed, and in the car was a big enough struggle for the day.
- Don’t underestimate what you can learn from these strong individuals. Some of the greatest lessons I have learned have come from exceptional people as they have pressed on despite their circumstances.
- Do interact with individuals with disabilities and their families. I am sure they can talk about the weather, too.
- Offer to babysit for a night so Mom and Dad can get a break and spend some time together. Marriages that have a child with a disability have a much higher percentage for divorce.
- It’s okay to ask. You are not the first person, nor will you be the last to inquire why someone is in a wheelchair or why someone will repeat words over and over again. Just ask kindly.