I remember reading a book when I was a kid called “Spinabilities.” It was a book for children like myself, who were born with Spina Bifida. The book showcased all of the things people with Spina Bifida could do as opposed to the things they couldn’t. It was encouraging to know that people with Spina Bifida could live fairly normal lives.
While this was a nice book, I have learned from experience that there is a key to living up to one’s full ‘spinability’ and that is perspective and an ability to see opportunities.
It’s incredibly easy to get down when you have a physical struggle. I don’t always have the right perspective about it myself. I get frustrated, mad and upset. Anyone with a normal spectrum of emotions would.
A young man who felt just this way, frustrated and upset approached me today. “How do you do it?” he asked me. “How do you wear shorts when you have leg braces?” He went on to tell me how he has a similar condition and wears leg braces, but never wears shorts because he feels ashamed to. He told me about how he was struggling with fitting in at his high school because he couldn’t keep up with the other kids and often felt embarrassed about his condition. It was like I was listening to myself from 10 years ago talk.
I’m not going to share the whole conversation here because I don’t want to take away from its sacredness, but suffice it to say that I was able to empathize and encourage him.
It was a grace-filled conversation that without the right perspective I may have easily missed. The experience even further molded my own perspective on living with a disability. You see, I’ve always had a little bit of frustration about wearing shorts. Every year when spring begins I dread the looks I am going to get, but by the end of summer I don’t even notice them anymore and often it’s too hot for me to care. I know that when next spring comes I am going to remember this opportunity and dread wearing shorts a little less.
Jesus tells us that if we are going to follow him that we have to pick up our crosses, that if are willing to lose our lives then we will find them. Sometimes my cross is a desire to fit in, to keep up and be “normal”, but when I give it up for a proper perspective I find opportunities. That young man would have never thought to talk to me had I only been concerned with saving face and fitting in. He would have never connected with me and would have continued to live in shame. I don’t know that he’s going to wear shorts from now on, but I’m sure knowing that there is one person out there who does, instilled a little more confidence in him.
What opportunity might you have if you lived for something bigger than yourself and surrendered your cross?