I'm starting to feel a bit better... At least I've finally got a bit of perspective about the 1986 testing, even if I don't have an answer. School starts for C next week, so I will only be working some evenings and weekends. I'm still a bit uncertain about the scheduling, but I'm going to take advantage of the usable time I have and try to harness it and be faithful with it. This is an answer to a prayer, and I need to handle it wisely.
I've been digging in the old journal entries again. I hear all that groaning from the peanut gallery! Yes, I'm going to trot them out and start analyzing them here. I could send everybody over to Diaryland--and of course, you can go if you want to--but it's more fun to quote and comment here. Browsing over there the other night, I realized how much I have neglected my spiritual life this year and how much I miss that part of me! I think I said that the other day--or maybe that was just in a conversation. In any case, it's time for that part of me to wake up and be alive.
One of my passions for a long time has been disability ministry. read2781 asked if I had ever thought about going into counseling as a profession. I've actually thought strongly about going into pastoral counseling and, most specifically, about doing something to raise up disability ministry in the Anderson Church of God. Even in my spiritually neglected state, I have been aware that God has been preparing me for just something like this. For one thing, I live with disabilities. For another thing, I live in poverty. Both of those things matter. Yes, there are rich families affected by disability; but most are poor families, and they need the most assistance and the most practical help from the body of Christ. It is for them that we are instructed to put works to our faith, not to show impartiality.
I wrote a bit about this concept last year on July 25 after speaking at a conference in El Paso, TX.
I grew up in Houston, Texas, and there were many programs and activities for blind children during the summer and on weekends. My parents often drove 20 or 30 miles to take me to these activities, and often they picked up other children whose parents would not drive or in some cases didn't even own cars.
Many of the children had additional disabilities, and often the parents were very uneducated and didn't know much about blindness except that their children needed caregiving.
When I was a teenager, I began speaking at parent meetings, and this was the first time I had much opportunity to meet many parents. My own parents rarely took useful information away from the meetings because so many of the other parents had young children or children with severe physical and cognitive disabilities. The remaining parents were so poor that the physical state of poverty kept their children from achieving or participating in community activities as I did.
These memories came flooding back to me as I interacted with one of the parents at the conference. Her baby is not quite two years old, but she is active and the family has high expectations for her. Teresa looks at blind adults and thinks, "What can I do to enable Cianna to succeed like that." Most other families look at blind adults and think, "Where can I send my child so he can learn to be like that." When the parents shared their stories at dinner, I heard a very common theme: "I moved here from Juarez to get help for my child." Often the theme was followed up by another theme: "Sending my child to Austin (600 miles away) is the best thing I've ever done." I felt like I was looking at a room full of people shrouded in darkness with one flickering light. I wanted to nurture that flickering light, but I also wanted to go to the darkness and say to those families, "You have the ability to change your child's life right here in El Paso!"
Jesus and his disciples once encountered a man who had been born blind, and the disciples started grappling with the question of why he had been born blind. Jesus answered them, "It was so that the work of God could be made manifest in him." We tend to move on to the next portion and key in on the fact that the man was healed. "God, just heal me, and I'll be all right and have plenty of faith." Sometimes He does this, but sometimes He doesn't. "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope. Not only in me, but also in others.
My blindness is not just a physical limitation. It has caused me to experience poverty, and that experience of poverty has helped me to understand people who live in poverty and also to act in ways that they can relate to. Have you ever spoken to a millionaire and had him say he can understand your financial troubles? Would you believe him? I wouldn't. I am even intimidated by people who live a "middle class" lifestyle. If I want to minister to people who are poor, it helps for me to have experienced poverty. It changes the way I relate to them. It enables me to make them comfortable and give them hope right where they are.
This is the model that Jesus gave us. He came into the world as one of us, grew up just as we did, experienced all of the normal pains of childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. He learned to relate to "the locals" in ways that were meaningful and appropriate to their needs. He knew his status as equal with God, but he did not hold on to it or use it as leverage or as a way to influence the people. (Phil. 2:5-8 and Heb. 2:16-17)
We are each given a great commission, and Jesus is our model. How dare I go to someone and spend my time there thinking about my comfy hotel room or my home back in America? How powerful it is when I become one of them! And I don't have to shed my weaknesses to approach people of status. "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." (1 Tim 4:12) How about, "Don't let anyone despise you because you are poor..." Do you know that God has chosen the weak things of the world to challenge the strong? (1 Cor 1:27-29)
My weaknesses point to areas of my life where God wants to clothe me with His strength and power! What are my weaknesses? I must put on my shoes, experience the freedom of truth in those areas, and I must go!
I wrote about sin the other day... I've been very upset about my sin lately... There are days when I am fully aware of the grace and mercy of God, and I accept it and live in it; and there are days when I feel condemned by things other people have said to me because they know about what I have done. Shame is all this is. There are also days when I feel shame about my disabilities. If this seems silly, maybe it is. I didn't ask for my disabilities... Like the man in John 9, they aren't things I have because of my sin or my parents' sins... They are just things I live with, and maybe the purpose is so that God can manifest His work in me, whatever that work may be. For some people and some disabilities it is healing--this happened to me with my respiratory illness. It hasn't happened with my other disabilities, and I don't know why. I do know that my responsibility is to be wise and take care of my body and use the life I am given in ways that glorify God. I haven't always done that in the past. That's something I can't change, but I can change the rest of my life. That's the only way I can live free from the shame that I feel--and sometimes I just have to act opposite to what my emotions tell me--that's what's called walking by faith and not by sight. It's not always easy; but no one said it would be easy.