Seeking Displays of God’s Glory in Disabilities

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If I had to pick a favorite miracle, I would pick the one found in John 9. When approached by a man born blind, the disciples asked Jesus whose sin was to blame, the man or his parents. Jesus responded that neither the parents' nor the man’s personal sin was the cause, but that the blindness happened so that the glory of God might be displayed in the man’s life. Jesus was not denying the existence of sin and brokenness in the world that caused the blindness to occur, but instead was pointing out that the important question was not what caused the blindness. Rather, he was pointing to how God can use it for his redemptive purpose. Jesus was essentially saying that instead of focusing on sin, we should focus on God’s glory; instead of finding something to blame, we should rejoice in the opportunity to see God’s glory displayed in a special way. It is obvious that sin has impacted our world in regards to disabilities. But what is often less obvious is the power of God working through such disabilities.

I lost my hearing gradually between ages four and twelve; I lost all of it in my left ear and only had 25 percent remaining my right ear. Growing up, there were times when I hated it. I wanted to be "normal," like my friends. I especially wanted them to stop picking on me because I was different. Ultimately, I wanted to be accepted by those outside of my family. I realized over time that not everyone had the same attitudes as the people who teased me, and there were those who accepted me fully, including my hearing loss.

As I reflect on my hearing loss and the experience of growing up with it, I see how God used it for His purposes in equipping me to fulfill His call to mission service overseas.

He used it to develop skills of cross-cultural communication. Growing up in an environment in which sound was vital for everyday activities, I lived in two worlds: the hearing world and the deaf world. I had to constantly move back and forth and had to learn how to teach people in the hearing world how best to communicate with me so that I could understand (e.g. facing me so that I could read lips). This prepared me for working overseas which demands constant cross-cultural communication, and the experience of constantly adjusting was a great asset.

God also uses my hearing loss to minister to others. When I went to Malawi for four months with CRWRC, my host mother asked me to visit a disability group. She was amazed that someone with a disability could get a college education, travel overseas, and even get a good job. She wanted the people in the disability group to see that. In this way, God used me to encourage them in their efforts to contribute to their community despite their disability. This has been a recurring experience in my work and travel overseas. While I don’t want my hearing loss to define me, the first comment many people make is that they are surprised and encouraged that someone with a disability could achieve both college and masters degrees.

While cochlear implants in 2005 and 2007 have improved my hearing dramatically, I still face challenges. But I hope that God will allow me to minister to other people through my disability and to encourage others in recognizing that people with disabilities can contribute to their communities, especially our church communities. I hope my testimony encourages people to be open to the power of God to work through disabilities.

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Nathanial, a name that in Hebrew means- God has given!  Strikingly enough, while he has...so have you as an encourager!

If I have the story correct, when Helen Keller was asked if she had a choice in the matter- and had the opportunity to decide, which would she have given up, sight or hearing? She replied she would give up sight rather than hearing- because sight only separates us from "things," while hearing separates us from people.  Actually the loss of any sense has its consequences that only the individual who is experiencing it really understands.  So given the chance for rebuttal, she may have said neither because both complement each other so well- by design of our wonderful creator!

However, disabilities are real; they close doors, produce pain- physical and mental.

As a bilateral, post-lingual Cochlear Implant recipient, I too know the fear, the anticipation, and the reality of hearing loss.  Yet, it is in that loss I find gain.

While the world has been turned upside down in my life, I seek opportunities to be a blessing in other ways.  Has much changed, well yes...I am dependent on my wife and others to be my "ears" in many situations.  However, all that was given to me and not taken away is still there most abundantly; and by creativity I seek to share those blessings with kindness, gentleness, and love.

The Lord, like any commander in the field, sends out scouts- or point soldiers to help provide an easier journey for those that follow.

While the analogy may be a stretch or even simplistic, Nathan- you are such a person.  By your testimony, others will be able to find a blessing in this wonderful creation that was "gifted" to us- quiet as it may be. 

Thank you for your comments and words of encouragement. I believe that you, too, are also one of those "point soldiers." So I encourage you to continue to pave an easier path for those who follow. Perhaps this is true for you too, but I have my moments when the challenge is overwhelming. But God is faithful, now and always. Remain steadfast in Him!

You do have Helen Keller's story right; I like to share that same quote too.

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Great post Than.  Some really good thoughts there.  A good challenge for all us to think about how God has used and is using challenges in our lives that we would rather not have to deal with.