Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ignoring the Ignorant

I have been using my wheelchair out in public since April 2013, which is two months time. You would think I would have gotten "over" the ignorance of so many that can't see past my ability to walk yet use a chair...they think they have a right to judge, even though they clearly can't see the chronic pain I battle day in and day out. I tell you truthfully that people come unhinged with shock when I stand up out of my wheelchair to grab an item off the top shelf at a store. Yes, it's funny in hindsight, but quite frustrating when I see the numbers of ignorant (and rude) gawking people within such a short time span.

Please understand that my chair gives me so much freedom and a quality of life like I've never had since my chronic pain condition began. But I'm going to be very open and honest with you. I've been feeling bogged down by the frustration I explained above. There is a staggeringly high percentage of society that has no clue that it is possible for someone to use a wheelchair for any other reason than paraplegia, and it's very frustrating...especially when you are the one affected. I am gradually learning to ignore the ignorant, but it's taking time. I wish it were like a light switch, where I could have instant results. But life is about learning, and that takes time, experience, and awareness.

I've said this many times on my blog, in person, and/or on Facebook - God is in control of it all, and He has a divine purpose for this "season" of life. I have already seen God teach me to "stand strong" and how to radically trust Him (I'm always learning about completely surrendered trust in the Lord) through this experience.

I have also seen God use my situation at VBS (Vacation Bible School). I had to call on God to give me the courage to take my wheelchair into church for the first time (keep in mind I go to a church with approximately 400 members). I knew I needed it to get through the day, but I was afraid of the attention it would undeniably attract, as well as the endless questions followed by my response. I even cried about it the night before VBS, asking God over and over for courage and help in trusting Him. Many of you may remember my post on Facebook asking for prayers to be bold and courageous and to trust Him...this is why. And our big theme for this year's VBS, you may ask?...."STAND STRONG!" How appropriate! I reminded myself daily how I needed to always stand strong, and how I was continuously learning to stand strong in tough situations. That completely surrendered trust finally came, thanks to God giving me that strength to trust Him & the many prayers that came my way. And daily, I prayed that I would "Stand Strong" in Him, and not allow the wheelchair to be a distraction for what we were all there to accomplish.

My week at VBS would not have been possible without my chair. In addition to God's continual lesson in my life in terms of trust, God allowed me to share my situation with my crew members (the seven members of my 5th grade VBS team), as well as the entire 5th grade group (around 50 kids). My crew members were the most receptive people I've encountered thus far as to my disability (even among adults). I explained that I was able to walk and stand like they were, but I couldn't walk as far or stand as long. They simply wanted their turn to pop a wheelie. ;)

And God's blessings continued - I learned after the week had finished that one of my crew members has a dad that is a paraplegic, and the relative that brought him watched him throughout the week as she worked with us at VBS. She said she'd seen him open up only to a few people like he did to me since his dad's accident. He was eager to push me up the hills, hold the doors, etc. I really like to do things on my own as if I was walking, but you can't resist the help of these sweet & accepting 5th graders. Bottom line - the wheelchair helped "break the ice" with this young man. Out of 500 kids in VBS, I was placed with this child. We tend to underestimate the miracles God can do on a smaller level (me included), and I felt like the week of VBS might have been a breakthrough for both me and this precious young boy. It's times like this where God gently nudges me with the reminder that our trials in life are usually a part of a bigger & much more glorious picture (if we are children of the King).

It's also times like this that I am in awe of how my Savior knows my spirit and knows when I need His gentle hand to lift my head.

Isaiah 41:10 - Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand.

So as down as I may get about society's lack of disability education, I have to remember to ignore the ignorant and continually praise my Savior for teaching and standing by me every step of the way. More than that, I praise Him over and over for the uplifting miracles I see Him perform in this story of life using a difficult situation and season of life, yet working it out for His glory and His good. And for that, it's all worth it.

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Mental Illness and the Church