I have been a member of many clubs in my life from Toastmasters to summer Bible clubs when I was a kid. One club I am now a part of is the “flipped club.” That’s right, those of us who have had our lives, and the lives of our loved ones, thrown in a turmoil because of an illness, injury, or some other major, life-changing event.
My membership application
What is ironic, or maybe just a little weird is, I would not consider myself a member of this club until the last few years. I was born with the disability Spina Bifida and am a full-time wheelchair user. Three years ago, however, I developed an auto-immune form of arthritis that often feels like it has the ultimate say-so in my life.
You see, the Spina Bifida may have been a “flipped” moment for my parents, but for me, it is the only reality I know. Truth be told, I would consider my life flipped if, somehow, I was miraculously healed. It would be a major change to everything I have ever known, including how I see the world. The arthritis, though, has often felt like a cruel joke that has robbed me of my who I once was.
I have always worked to stay positive, as it was what my parents taught me from an early age. In those moments of positive also came turmoil that I am learning to share with others in a way that lets them into my story and, I hope, helps them in some way.
I first met Tommy and Robyn when I started helping write this website and later signed on to help them with their blogs and social media. I have “met” the Saviers via phone and feel blessed to know the whole family.
When Tommy and I met, there seemed to be an instant connection. One might, and probably naturally so, that it is our disabilities what bond us. I respectfully disagree. Tommy and I live very different lives as our physical issues manifest themselves in very different ways.
Where we instantly bonded was how we handle our disabilities.
Anyone who spends five minutes around the two of us will quickly learn that we handle life with humor. Often morbid humor. But humor nonetheless. We crack jokes, often at our own expense. I have found that approach not only helps me keep a better attitude, but it makes people from the able-bodied world feel more at ease.
A few thoughts
I personally am not a fan of people telling me what to do, think or feel so I try to respect that in how I treat others. I do want to take a few moments and offer a few thoughts to those who might just now be finding yourself a member of the flipped club.
It is OK to grieve-God gave us emotions. We are allowed to grieve losing the life we once knew. I have found that as new situations arise, I must grieve all over again but in a new way each time. And that is OK. I am not reliving the grief God already helped heal. It is new grief as this illness exposes new hurts. Grief is also not doubting God. In fact, I would say grief is the time when God can be given the opportunity to show his glory more than any other moment.
It is OK to share-You are not a burden. I want you to repeat that out loud. I recognize the need for boundaries and know that you need to find those you feel safe sharing your deepest struggles with, but I also know the power of sharing your story. The power of letting people in. God will bring the right people to bless you and, in turn, you will bless them. I cannot tell you how many times people have told me they felt brave enough to go through their struggles because I shared mine. God brought that into place, I can assure you.
There is hope and even joy to come-No, I am not saying you will find miraculous healing. God can for sure do that, but he often finds other, more powerful ways to work in our lives. In some faith circles, having a disability that remains is seen as a lack of faith in God’s healing power. That is a false, abusive theology. I often tell people that when my family prayed for me to be healed from the Spina Bifida, God chose to not heal my body. Instead, he healed my spirit. I still struggle, I still grieve. But I hold onto the hope and joy we find in Jesus.
Life is hard, but God is good. So good.
God is good! Thanks for sharing your story and for helping Tommy and Robyn share theirs.
This is beautiful Jamie. Thank you for sharing.