Sunday, June 01, 2008

Just Different

I have a friend who has made many choices that define her life. She and her husband have a home-based business and they have two children. These are both decisions they made together. While she and her husband were dating, he had a fall - an ordinary fall for reasons that weren't so ordinary. One thing lead to another, and he was diagnosed with MS.

She said, "This sounds strange but we really thought we could beat MS". My friend shared that they did many alternative health treatments - vitamin regimes, acupuncture, and massage, to name a few. They did everything in the hopes to slow down the progress of his illness. Later in our conversation she said, "It is really fortunate that his MS has stayed mainly in his legs."

I felt guilty when she said that. It really shone light on my shaded perspective. For the past year I'v known them I had thought how unfortunate he's in a wheelchair. Chastened gently, I held a new respect for my friend's perspective.

My friend and her husband made another choice when they had children. They chose to tell them their Daddy has 'tricky legs' - that his legs are 'just different'. My friend explained, "We don't want MS to define him." Her children are aged 7 and 5 and they understand Dad's legs are 'just different'.

My son went to the library with them this week. He was curious about all the knobs around the steering wheel of their van. My friend explained that the children's Daddy drives differently and uses his hands, not his feet. Joshua thought that was really neat. Joshua will probably learn to accept people of various differences easily because it was presented that way.

My friend said that because of MS, their lives were "just different". She said, "Our difference is seen right away because of the wheelchair." She acknowledged that, "Because of MS, we have had to make choices right up front. How we're going to live, define ourselves. Others' differences are more hidden but really we're all different."

She also talked about society not making it easy to be different. There was a silence. She didn't need to say any more.

I "got it" I really got it.

My brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was 18. His delusions, hallucinations, and the world he sometimes lives in, is not a world understood or accepted by others. His world is just different.

I worked for Christian Horizons for 10 years, supporting people with mental challenges. These people too have been misunderstood and rejected by others. Their lives are just different.

Each one of us have been made in the image of Christ. Each one of us is uniquely beautiful. I want to see beauty in everyone - the beauty of Christ Himself. I want to stop feeling pity when I see a handicap. I want to be compassionate, empathetic, and supportive but no more pity. Pity comes from pride - believing that I have it better. The truth is, I don't. People don't easily see my handicaps but God does.

I have learned to see MS as an obstacle that sometimes creates roadblocks in lives. Obstacles can be overcome. MS doesn't define lives. We define lives by perspective.

I went to my daughter's violin recital on Saturday afternoon. There were many solo pieces being played - some well and others are still 'works in progress'. One violinist is particularly special to me. When he comes up to play, I always pray he'll shine. At every recital he always shines. He's a talented musician with an incredible ear for music. He's good, I mean really good.

He struggles with autism though and I fear for him. I don't want others' to laugh. I fear he may be mocked. When he pauses before he announces his piece, I hold my breath. When he begins playing, I breathe a sigh of relief. When he talks to others, I stay close-by, smiling- willing others to receive him with respect.

At this recital, I did him a favour. I did me a favour. I just enjoyed the music. I still prayed for him when he did the 'introduction of his song" I still clapped just as loudly at the end. I still felt the incredible surge of pride for him when he played with excellence. This time though I knew he and I were cut from the same cloth. I knew we were equals, each struggling in various ways. I knew he and I were just different.

I had some quiet time for reflection. I remembered my friend saying that 10 years ago they thought they were going to beat MS. We left that statement wide open. Neither of us pursued it.

I wonder if she knows they have beaten MS. It doesn't define them. He is a man, a husband, a father, a business owner. He cares for, protects, and provides for his wife. He's an active, loving daddy. He works diligently each day. His creativity defines his abilities and skill.

I wonder if there will come a day when there is acceptance in this world for people that are just different.

We are reminded to, "Let love of the brethren continue." Hebrews 13:1 NASV

"The one who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him." 1 John 2:10 NASV

7 comments:

Maddy said...

I don't know when that day might come, but I believe we're getting closer.
BEst wishes

Angcat said...

That's poignantly said Joyful!
I hope we live in that world one day
soon too.
It's all about a heart's attitude isn't it. That's what makes us either victims or overcomers in all our different circumstances, be they visible obstacles or invisible that only the bearer knows about.

We recently had a speaker at church who talked about her life with Bipolar. She was funny and encouraging and then very serious as she talked about her struggles.
She has built a figurative monument to her struggle and gives thanks to God for allowing this in her life as she wouldn't be where she is in relation to Him or in ministry to others without it.

It's all perspective.
Blessings to you my friend.

Belinda said...

Dear Joyful,
I enjoyed every word. I think it's the best you've ever written.

I hope many people read it and think deeply about difference.

Thanks for your reflection on what is called disability and your struggle to embrace differences from level ground. I loved it!

Anonymous said...

Ellen I loved this post. I loved the heart from which it was written.

I hope many people read this because it is the kind of writing that causes people to think and challenges us to change our perspective.

Lori Lei

Night Owl said...

Wow, Joyful Fox, that was just what I needed! It's so wonderfully written. The post really stood out for me.
Especially "we really thought we could beat MS". My sister has a genetic disorder, but she was just recently diagnosed with it (she's 12 now). Before that, she was diagnosed as profoundly deaf (which is incorrect). And my parents constantly denied that, which was hard. My parents also brought her to all kinds of alternative health treatments. I think they still think they can beat this. But me, I've sort of lost hope in that. I guess it's difficult to always be disappointed when something doesn't work. But I certainly admire that hope and the faith that something will work.
Also, "Pity comes from pride" shone extra bright for me. That is a marvelous way of putting it - thank you for sharing that. I will do my best to remember it. It's a bit embarrassing to admit, but when I was younger, I used to compete with my sister for pity. I don't think I actually wanted to be pitied (I certainly don't now!), but I didn't want to be different before.
I used to feel guilty about being a musician when we don't know how much my sister can hear or appreciate music. It's a bit selfish, I suppose. But isn't guilt another form of pity? I definitely don't want to pity her or feel guilty. Maybe I'm just different too? I'm not sure if I got that right, but if it is right, I'd feel so much better about it.
Thanks for the amazing post!
Love, Night Owl

Joyful Fox said...

Thank you all for such kind words. May we be faithful to Him who has created each of us so uniquely.

Perspective is very powerful.

Rebekah said...

Very thought-provoking. Thanks for sharing.

Man does always look to the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.