Independence

This is a big one for me. As a blind person, independence is something you strive for. As a Christian, independence tends to be viewed as prideful because ‘We all need each other’. As a Christian blind person? Help! How do we get a balance?

I wrote about this subject before, and then I came across a quote in the handbook I use to support people recently diagnosed with sight loss. Torch Trust is a Christian organisation that works with blind and partially-sighted people. I think their aim is exactly right: Independence in activity and interdependence in relationships.

When someone’s said to me in the past: “You’re very independent”, I’ve replied that I’m God-dependent because I know there’s so much I wouldn’t have done without Him. Before I was a Christian, I wasn’t comfortable using my cane. At nineteen, when I left the house, I would always be with someone. Now I’ve lived in two flats on my own; I’ve taken myself as far south as London and as far north as Scotland on the train … Some might say I would have done that anyway as I matured, but even if I had overcome the self-consciousness, I probably wouldn’t have done it quite the same way. I would have regularly got angry or impatient when I couldn’t control outcomes; I might have treated staff who met me at stations as people there to serve me, rather than as people I could relate to. God has an amazing way of taking our focus off our own needs and putting it onto the people we’re with.

If you want to be competent, choosing to rely on God shouldn’t take that away from you. I read about a little boy trying to type. His mum had the power to tell him where the keys were, but she didn’t because she knew he had to learn. I believe God’s like that too. He wants us to learn how to navigate life, but don’t just take my word for it. Look at Jesus and His disciples. Jesus was asleep and they woke Him in a panic. He said: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” then He calmed the storm (Matthew 8:26). Later, there was another storm. This time, they were in the boat without Jesus. He came walking towards them on the water, and the Bible says: “He was about to pass by them” (Mark 6:48). I believe His desire was that they would have learnt from Him, and stilled the storm themselves. Independence in activity; interdependence in relationships.

For the rest of this series click here, or you can find other blogs on the Write31Days site

Isolation

I really like being with people, but I also like to have some quiet time in order to process what’s gone on. Being amongst people from different backgrounds who don’t understand where you’re coming from and don’t necessarily say things the same way you would – it can be hard, and if I’ve had one of those difficult days, I like to come home, flop onto the sofa and get into a book that’s going to lift my mood. Sometimes I get far more encouragement and strength from reading a book by someone in my situation than I do from people who’ve never experienced it.

The problem comes when my four walls become my safety net. I’m tempted sometimes just to be around family and close friends, and not to bother with anybody else. After all, no one can upset me if I’m not there, but here’s a Bible-verse that really hit me earlier in the year: “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire” (Proverbs 18:1). So it’s saying isolation is selfish? I always thought of it as unselfish. If I’m feeling fragile, I won’t go, they won’t upset me, I won’t fly off the handle and everybody wins … but that’s not what the Bible says. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2).

Brian May (my hero as a teenager) said once: “If you’re hardened off, you’re not living,” and he’s right. I have to let people see the real me – not just me when I’ve got it all together. “The fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is … self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Fruit needs a chance to grow. If I choose to be with people and let the growth happen, surely that can only be a good thing.

Have you ever been tempted to isolate yourself? If you’re unable to leave the house, what ways have you found to connect and grow?

More Dignity

If it’s true that you should write what you’re passionate about, then I’ll write about this quote someone shared on Facebook. “God designed my disability to make me not independent, but interdependent.” This seems to me just plain wrong.

Can you imagine Jesus Himself visiting someone who’s paralysed from the neck down? They ask why they’ve got their disability and He says: “Aha! Well! You see, it was to make you interdependent. Now you need this person to clean you up when you’ve been to the toilet; to hold a glass of water to your lips; to feed you … I designed it specially so you’d have a need for other people.” What a cruel, horrible thing to say. If that were true, I wouldn’t want anything to do with a God like that; I really wouldn’t.

Happily, I can’t find that callous God anywhere in the Bible. I’ll just use a few examples; I could be here a long time otherwise. First, in Mark 9, a father brings his son to Jesus, saying: “He has an evil spirit in him that stops him from talking” (V17). Jesus’ response? “He ordered the evil spirit, saying, ‘You spirit that makes people unable to hear or speak, I command you to come out of this boy and never enter him again’” (V25). Was it God who made the boy unable to speak? No! It was a spirit that Jesus made sure to cast out of him.

In John 9, Jesus’ disciples wonder why a man was born blind. He tells them: “This man was born blind so that God’s power could be shown in him” (V3). If anyone asked me why I was blind (which no one ever has), that would be my reason: So that God’s power can be shown in me. In the case of the man in John 9, Jesus healed him. I realise that doesn’t always happen this side of heaven, and it hasn’t yet happened to me, but Jesus did teach His disciples to pray to God: “Your kingdom come … on earth as it is in heaven”.

I’ve told someone before that I’m not independent; I’m God-dependent, but that’s as true for me as it is for anyone, whether they have what you might call a disability or not. If you believe Paul’s words that “In Him we live and move and have our being”, then you’ll agree that we couldn’t move one limb without God’s help; we wouldn’t even exist.

I don’t think God designed disabilities to force us to rely on others. I believe that in every area of our life, God wants us to acknowledge Him. I know it’s not healthy to completely cut ourselves off from others, but I don’t think doing what we can independently should be frowned upon; I think it should be encouraged. I wrote a post last year about some of the ways I could give as well as receive. Perhaps it seemed to some like I was boasting, but I genuinely wrote it with a grateful heart to God for the things I was able to do. What kind of a country would we be if people constantly relied on others, never making important decisions or learning to do anything for themselves? I’m glad the Britain I live in gives me more dignity than that.