What does “Disabled Enough” Mean?
“The number of the people of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor numbered; and in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my People,” instead it shall be said to them, “You are Children of the Living God.”” HOS 1:10.
In the disability community, there are some people who were born with disabilities who feel that in some way they are “more authentic than” those people who have acquired disabilities later in life. The belief is that those with acquired disabilities have not suffered enough. The belief is that those with acquired disabilities lack a depth of understanding about what having a disability really means. The belief is that people with acquired disabilities have a shallow activism, their advocacy insincere. The belief is that their theological views are those of the able-bodied who see people with disabilities as victims rather than survivors.
Those acquiring their disabilities later in life do escape the bullying and teasing that people born with disabilities endure throughout childhood into teenaged years. However, they are often more likely to lose or become estranged from those who were once considered close family and friends who cannot accept that newly acquired disability status. People born with disabilities process their grief and anger about those disabilities in a very different way than people who acquire disabilities later in life. Those acquiring their disabilities later take an emotional crash course in grieving (which is revisited with each new symptom of progression), anger, and (hopefully) acceptance. Those born with disabilities have the “luxury” of spending their whole lives working through those things.
But in the end, whether born with a disability or after acquiring one later, we are all left with a disability; our challenges and barriers may differ, but each of us faces them. Whether born with a disability or after acquiring one later, we all endure emotional damage and depression somewhere during our journey with a disability. Whether born with a disability or after acquiring one later, those of us who find God, worship the same God.
Whether its race, ethnicity, gender orientation or ability related, no marginalized group should be subjected to discrimination within their own group. No group huddled along the margins should consider themselves to have higher value than another group because together, we are all at the margins, as numerous as the grains of sand in the desert or the grains of sand on a beach. Together, we are all Children of the Living God.
Prayer: Forgive us, O God, when people slip through our fingers like sand. Forgive us, O God, when the needs of others stick to us like mud, and all we want to do is wash it off. Forgive us, O God, when we believe others are of less value; remind us that from grains of heated sand comes glass, that glass can be colored, and that colored glass pieced together is beautiful. Help us, O God, to find a way to hold onto sand, love the messiness of mud, and see the future through stained glass – together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pastor Lynda Bigler is a past member/chair of UCC Disabilities Ministries. After graduating from Yale Seminary she became the third person with a visual impairment to be ordained into our denomination since its American beginnings in the 1600’s. Pastor Lynda received the Virginia Kreyer Award at General Synod 31. Pastor Lynda lives in Portland, OR.
What does “Disabled Enough” Mean? is one of the devotionals written in honor of Disability Awareness Month 2017.