My Disability Is Not A Motivation: And Why Ability Matters Less Than Availability

August 12, 2014 — 12 Comments

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I don’t tell many people, but English was not my first language.  About 99% of the time, you wouldn’t be able to tell: but sometimes it slips, and my insecurity spills out sideways.

I’ve had stage fright since sixth grade.  To this day I still get light-headed when I speak in public.  I also had a lisp and a stutter, both which occasionally seep out too.  For two years of my childhood, I breathed through a machine for an hour each day, in order to open up my undeveloped lungs.  I had asthma and chronic bronchitis.  I’m legally blind.  I’ve had hemorrhoids since I was nine.  I permanently damaged my lower left back when I was fifteen.  I’ve struggled with depression, including a suicide attempt in 2004.  I’m allergic to a lot of stuff: dairy, pollen, bugs, dust, and every single fruit (so I can’t eat pineapple pizza or most ice creams).  I have scars from all my hive break-outs over the years.  I have flat feet.  I’ve never ran over a mile in my life, because I physically cannot.  And I know there are millions of others who are afflicted with so much worse.

I was able to get my black belt by eleven years old but only because my dad pushed me so hard (it also helped that he’s a ninth degree black belt and owned several dojos).  I can max 275 lbs. on the benchpress and part of my job as a pastor is to speak in public several times per week.  But all of that was an uphill battle, and still is.  None of this comes natural or easy or inherent to my stature.

Yet I tell you this NOT because I’m some kind of victorious story and not to brag or to say “You can do it too!”  My disability is not a motivation for some grand story of redemption.  It’s not a cute romantic made-for-TV montage.  Because, in fact, life is way harder than that.  There are many times I wanted to give up because of my physical limitations, or I let that be an excuse to stay home and wallow in self-victimizing pity.

I could be the positive blogger who says “No matter what! —” but really that would be a lie.  Knowing that I will never be fully healthy is psychologically taxing, and some days I grit my teeth and barely get through the day.

Would it be easier if God had made me differently?  Of course.  I have no illusions about “God held me back for a reason” because much of our brokenness points to the reality that nothing is as it’s meant to be, and nothing is in its true form.  I can’t sugarcoat that with pep-talk which denies the difficulty of our circumstances.  I don’t want to be a cheap grinning poster boy for a pseudo-inspirational sales pitch.

The one thing I know is that either way, whether we sit down or move forward, life is pain. 

If I choose to stay home, it will hurt.

If I choose to chase my hopes, it will hurt.

If I choose to feel sorry for myself, it will hurt.

If I choose to stand, clench my fists, grit my teeth, and grab my dreams: it will hurt.

My physical disability is only half the story: because we’re all saddled with the same anxiety, second-guessing, existential panic, and self-doubt.  Our brokenness runs deep, and we all work from pain.  And it’ll hurt anyway.

So I can’t sit down for long.  I do what I can.  I am not merely the sum of my abilities nor accomplishments nor weaknesses.  I am wherever I’m available, to pursue the passions set before me, now.  God help me, God willing, I’m here, to climb this mountain.

— J.S.


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12 responses to My Disability Is Not A Motivation: And Why Ability Matters Less Than Availability

  1. 

    Thanks for being real. I can relate to you because of your perspective. I am sure other people can as well. Thank God for His grace that helps us in our weaknesses!

  2. 

    I never knew this. Makes me more proud of you!

    Working on a message right now in which much of this would help. OK to quote you for that?

  3. 

    Thank you for writing this. I’m still in the process of learning how not to feel sorry for myself. I have the tendency to cry and wallow sometimes but reading from you make me pick myself up again. Thank you Mr Park.

    • 

      I’m still learning it too. Here’s a wonderful quote I’d like to share:
      “You must ask for God’s help. Even when you have done so, it may seem to you for a long time that no help, or less help than you need, is being given. Never mind. After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again. Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself but just this power of always trying again.”
      – C.S. Lewis

      • 

        Reminds me of one of my favorite C.S. Lewis quotes: “I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?”

  4. 

    “I have no illusions about ‘God held me back for a reason’ because much of our brokenness points to the reality that nothing is as it’s meant to be, and nothing is in its true form.” YES! When I realized this truth, that this isn’t what God meant, it completely changed the way I pray and the way I relate to God. Instead of blaming Him, we can mourn together. This isn’t what you meant God. Help us. Redeem us. Restore us. Shape us through the fire.

    • 

      Yes. The Lord’s Prayer does say, “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” That seems to imply that God is working with the mess to bring Heaven to us, however He can, in our un-ideal situation. Perhaps that sounds blasphemous, but I can’t get on board with saying everything is all “meant to be.”

    • 

      Yes! So true and well stated. Thanks Suzanne, thanks J.S.!

  5. 

    Thanks for this. I am surrounded by many people who believe God controls everything, and so God can never be thwarted. But if you believe that then God caused the Eden sin, and I refuse to accept that! Sin is in the world, and we suffer because of it (ours AND others). And God doesn’t make everything “better” (contrary to the heresy of those who teach God won’t let the faithful be poor or sick). People broke the world. But love holds on to people with one hand, God with the other, and we weep with those who weep and laugh with those who laugh. We have too many Job’s friends who blame the victim, torture the broken, and feast on the flesh of the struggling. I have said to you before if believers were more honest, as you model, our companionship would be more solid and our witness more brilliant. I do not consider it a cliche when I affirm that we work with what we have, not with what we don’t have.
    Peace

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