What Cerebral Palsy Teaches Me About God’s Grace

Until recently, having Cerebral Palsy was little more than a nuisance to me. It always rather shocked me to hear people refer to me as having a severe case. Although I obviously knew that I can’t walk, use my hands or speak clearly, I focused on all my abilities and accomplishments to such a degree that I saw little distinction between myself and others. School and church friends pretty much included me in all their activities, allowing me to feel as if I had a sizeable amount of control in my life. Looking back, I’m forced to acknowledge that I developed quite a sense of pride in my apparent normalcy.

Lately, circumstances have changed my perception of my control. Possibly due to the current health and economic mayhem overtaking the world right now, I’m having trouble getting a weekend Personal Care Attendant, and my weekday PCA often has legitimate reasons for having to call out. The Lord always provides help at least once a day, but sometimes it means I can only get up to use the bathroom. Snowstorms especially confine me to bed, leaving me feeling helpless and vulnerable,

That vulnerability makes me wonder why I struggle so much with the sin of pride.

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Understandable Assumptions Don’t Mean Correct Understanding

My friend pointed to the girl across the room, acting as if I’d never noticed the severity of the girl’s Cerebral Palsy. My friend balked at the announcement that the girl would be baptized that evening, but not because she suspected the girl hadn’t really placed her faith in Christ. On the contrary, my friend knew that baptism signifies repentance from sin, and consequently wondered why we wanted to baptize her. She whispered critically, “Why does someone like her need to be baptized? How could someone that disabled possibly sin?”

I sort of understood my friend’s perspective. Like me, the girl was a quadriplegic, but she didn’t have the ability to type with a mouthstick or headstick. Like me, she had an extreme speech impediment, but I was really the only one who could decipher her grunts and facial expressions well enough to translate for her (thankfully my speech was clear enough for me to do so). Outwardly, the girl appeared to have few desires beyond skipping her peanut butter sandwiches in favor of dessert. How could someone that disabled possibly be considered a sinner?

I knew better. Having grown up with her at the school for disabled children, I knew quite well of her strong will and intense desire to have the social advantages that I enjoyed. Sadly, her learning disability prevented her from being mainstreamed part-time into regular school, and her unintelligible speech kept her from meaningful friendships — even with other disabled kids. Yet she definitely knew what she wanted, and she had no problem expressing her frustration in violent outbursts.

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