Sometimes we find them as greeters at Walmart, others times we see them being pushed through the park in wheel chairs, while many more are seldom seen except in the confines of their homes or at a “special needs” care facility. Some face constant pain and frustration while others are the happiest individuals you will ever meet. Although they have things in common, they are each unique and have varied needs. Each of these dear people have a specific handicap that helps define who they are and makes them unique…
We see someone who isn’t considered “normal” and label them as having “special needs.” Although they do have special needs, I often wonder who is “normal” and who isn’t…after all, WHO determines what is “normal”? We label people by the physical handicaps that are obvious to us, without ever taking time to see who they really are.
When was the last time that you stopped to talk to someone who had an obvious handicap? Do you take the time to get to know the “special needs” person who may attend your church or live in your neighborhood? Do you have the tendency, like so many people, to overlook or even avoid these individuals because you just don’t know how to relate to them? What about their caregivers? Do you look for ways to assist them because of the extra load they carry, or do you simply feel sorry for them and keep on enjoying the “perfect” and “normal” family God has blessed you with?
I remember when I first realized that my firstborn baby was considered to have “special needs.” I felt the “blow” deep within the pit of my stomach, even though I wouldn’t have traded my sweet and beautiful little boy for any other “normal” or “perfect” baby in the world. I wanted everyone to see how special my baby boy was; I wanted them to think that he was “perfect,” just like he was to me. Although Austin’s health issues were often not as obvious as some other people’s physical limitations, for most of his life he needed our extra time and attention. However, I would choose each and every tear we shed, each sleepless night, and each worry we faced, all over again, and choose Austin as my son. Although I often struggled with wishing that God would have blessed him with a healthy body, I now realize that if He would have, I wouldn’t have been given the incredible gift of WHO Austin was.
As Austin continued to grow and adjust to his limitations, I was amazed at the faith, grace, and strength that he possessed. His daily attitude and outlook on life put mine to shame. After all the many health issues and struggles he faced, I found myself struggling with the questions of, “Why, God?”.
Although I wasn’t the one having to go through all the painful procedures, I struggled with accepting it, while Austin never complained about his limitations. He wasn’t able to keep up with his friends who were considered “normal,” but he enjoyed his sixteen years of life more than anyone I know. (His book, “I’m a Winner Either Way,” gives a glimpse of the tools available to give you a “winner” perspective while facing limitations and losses in life.)
Let’s go back to my earlier question…Who determines what is “normal”? If we are looking at the world’s standard of “normal,” we will find that most of us don’t measure up. Few of us compare to Hollywood’s “perfect” guidelines, and this is typically what the world uses as a measuring stick. However, God sees differently than we do, and He is the ONLY ONE that should determine our self worth and whether we are truly handicapped. It is imperative that we recognize the forms of spiritual “handicaps” that are far worse than any physical ones we may have.
Over the years, I have found myself handicapped with fear; it threatened to take away my joy and paralyze me. Although God has given me much victory in this area, I still need to be reminded to continue to trust God more fully. I will never forget the afternoon when Austin was preparing to go to the operating room for his second heart transplant. One nurse made the comment, “We ALWAYS have to pre-medicate our patients for a big procedure like this…Everyone always has a lot of fear and anxiety, but I can see that Austin doesn’t need any medication. He has a peace that WE cannot give him.” (I remember jokingly telling the nurse that maybe she should give it to ME instead, since I wasn’t as calm as he was!)
I am painfully aware that I still live with many handicaps. I, daily, find myself struggling to speak the words of blessing to my family like I desire. When God looks deep into my heart and sees the “diseases” that are there, I wonder how “disfigured” I must look to Him. I am ashamed of my limitations and all the “special needs” that I wrestle with. Why am I still confined to living in a “crippled” body when God has given me everything I need to be complete and whole in Him?
When I struggle to accept the difficulties and trials that God allows into my life, I am being controlled by a prideful and controlling spirit. When I become consumed with perfectionism and my plans, I allow fear to control me. When I speak negatively to my family, I am plagued with the “disease” of cursing rather than speaking a blessing to them.
Most of the mentally handicapped people, that I know, aren’t affected or controlled by measuring up to other’s standards. They are secure and happy with who they are and find enjoyment in the little blessings of life. They are not too busy to “stop and smell the roses” along the way. Normally, you won’t find them driven with the need to achieve. Simple pleasures like a warm hug or an affectionate smile can be a great treasure to a “special needs” person. We can learn a great deal by attempting to live life better equipped and uninhibited like many of these dear ones.
Now let me ask you…What is your handicap? Notice I didn’t ask if you have a handicap…Yes, it’s true! Unfortunately we ALL have at least one, but, frankly, to have only ONE would be awesome. Some of our handicaps are more noticeable and affect us in a greater way than those that are a bit more subtle. Some of them don’t interfere with our lives on a daily basis while others threaten to destroy the relationships we have, because of the severity of the handicap.
When God sees you, do you appear “normal” to His standards or are you very disfigured and handicapped? Are you paralyzed by fear or controlled by a critical spirit? Does your “sharp” tongue or your complaining attitude “cripple” you from being completely free in Christ? Have you allowed Jesus to set you free, or are you still struggling with all your “handicaps”? Don’t allow your “defining moments” in life to paralyze you. Instead, use them as stepping stones of faith! How severe is your “handicap”? Does God see you in need of a wheel chair, or are you so horribly “disfigured” that you should be receiving twenty-four hour care at a “special needs” facility while receiving “life support”? What are your spiritual “handicaps”?
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)