You will never believe what I recently did. I read a passage of Scripture in front of several hundred students at Taylor University, a near-by Christian college. I love public speaking, and speaking in front of hundreds doesn’t phase me. However, this was different. I wasn’t speaking my own words, which meant I couldn’t minimize my speech impairment. As a person with a communication disorder, I have learned the tricks to aid me in being an effective speaker. I use short sentences. I avoid certain words. I repeat myself when I think my audience isn’t following me. I have an interpreter on stand by to help me.
I couldn’t do any of these things because I was reading other people’s words. I couldn’t even talk with my hands because I had to read the words by looking closely on my phone in order to compensate for my poor eye sight. I had thought about memorizing the Scripture, so that I could talk with my hands. However, the last time I tried doing that, I butchered the Scripture as I was doing the reading at my own church. I didn’t have anyone interpret because what would the point of me reading in the first place be? Instead, I decided to have the words projected in back of me. I just read, knowing that I would not be able to mask my slurred, muttered speech. I felt naked. I knew the college students would feel uncomfortable having someone like me read the Bible with no introduction of any kind.
However, I wanted the college students to feel uncomfortable. It was the reason I agreed to give that morning’s Scripture reading. Dr. Andrew Draper (www.atdraper.wordpress.com), my pastor and a professor at Taylor University, was planning on discussing how God view people with disabilities. He asked Andrea Mann, a mother of three children with disabilities, and me to be involved. I was very excited to do what I could.
Before Dr. Draper gave his talk, I wanted the young men and women to be aware of how they themselves view people with disabilities. I wanted them to hear and see me because there was no question God had a different path for me than for most of them. Did they see me as an object of inspiration? Did they pity me or find me repulsive? Or, did they just see a fellow human being who was just reading Mark 2: 1-6, part of that day’s bible reading? For God to truly challenge us through His Word, I believe it is good for us to know what exactly is in our hearts.
In essence, Andrew Draper asked if the value of a human being is determined by his or her capabilities. The answer is no. He makes the case that people with or without disabilities are valuable because God determines it to be so.This theology falls in line with what I know about God. When I read the gospels, it strikes me how respectful Jesus was towards people with disabilities. He touched them, talked to them, and treated them as regular human beings. I didn’t see Him giving them extra pity or extra criticism. He also didn’t elevate people with disabilities. As an 21st century American with a disability, this is both refreshing and healing.
Check out the video of Dr. Andrew Draper’s sermon, and of course, my reading of God’s Word! Let me know what you think, ok?
How do you tend to view people with disabilities? I encourage you to be honest.
Throughout my childhood and teenage years.I thought people with cognitive disabilities were beneath me. I was so embarrassed being with them on the school bus during my elementary school years. I felt relief when we dropped off those people at their own school, and I was dropped off at the “normal” school. I hated to be around them because I didn’t want people to believe I was one of “them”.
It is not easy to admit to this former prejudice of mine. It is so dark and ugly. Who was I to put that kind of judgment on anyone? Through the grace of God, God gave me the courage to see what was in my heart. Because of my physical disability, I felt insecure in who I was. Even as a small girl of seven, I knew people saw me differently- and not in a good way. I didn’t like that at all. Soon, I figured out that people valued my intelligent. So, I began to believe that my value came from being seen as intelligent. No wonder I didn’t want to be mistaken for a person with a cognitive disability! If you took away my intelligence, you would take away my value because I didn’t have anything else of value to offer the world.
Today, I don’t care if people mistakenly think I am mentally delayed because what does it mattered? The value of people doesn’t increase with how smart we are. This means the 25 year old with the mind of an infant is just as important as a nuclear physicist. Our capabilities and value are two different issues in the eyes of God. Thank you, Jesus.
If we want to change how we view others, we must own how we truly view others who are different. God is not about playing games. He is about Truth. God can give freedom from prejudices when we don’t hold back.
Keep being brave.