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Ink Slingers Overcome: Keeping Faith with a Disability Sarah

Dating With Disability

Dating with Disability (1)

As a person with a disability, I can feel lost. Questions run through my head.

What will dating be like?

Will anyone ever love me?

What is my vocation?

Luckily The Catholic Church has always held a universal vocation:

all the faithful, whatever their condition or state – though each in his own way – are called by the Lord to that perfection of sanctity by which the Father himself is perfect. (CCC 825)

This gives me peace.

Regardless of my ability, I am called to holiness just like everyone else.

Yet I do feel this call to love another exclusively, intimately and completely.

The Catechism states

The vocation to marriage is written in the very nature of man and woman as they came from the hand of the Creator.

Disability should not exclude me or anyone from pursuing their God-given calling. While I am not married currently, I have been around long enough to confront some common misconceptions about dating and disability.

Here are five common misconceptions about dating and disability.

1. Must date other people with a disability

This began early on in my childhood.

I remember in middle school riding the bus for disabled children.

This year I rode with a young man with muscular dystrophy. Now no offense to this man, I was not attracted to him. Yet all the people on the bus insisted that we were a couple.

This was the first, but certainly not the last time I’d be paired with someone because we have similar disabilities.

I understand the appeal of having similar walks of life. Yet a lot more goes into a relationship such as communication, mutual interests, and attraction. Disability should have very little to do with it.

2. Feeling Like a burden

I’ll admit I have felt broken and inadequate.

I have often wondered why a guy would choose to someone who is, “broken” rather than another able-bodied individual. In these moments, I have felt unworthy of love.

This is the lies of the devil.

The Bible says, “I praise you for I am wonderfully made” Psalms 139:14 (RSV 2nd Catholic Edition).

You are not broken. You are not a burden to your future spouse. Both of you carry the cross together.

3. Can’t have children

One of the requirements for marriage is openness to life. As a person with a disability, society has challenged my ability to answer this call.

I remember my mom had taken me to the gynecologist. She had asked about options to regulate my period. The doctor looks at me and my mom and says, “well she’s never likely to have children anyway so we could just remove her uterus.”

As someone, who has achieved so much already, I refuse to believe motherhood would be an impossible challenge. After all, with God all things are possible.

4. Impure motives

I can tell when people feel sorry for me.

There’s a certain sweetness in their voice that gives it away.

I would never want to date or spend time with anyone, who didn’t see me as a person first. It is true that people taking advantage of people, who are disabled exist. The vast majority of interabled relationships are normal and healthy.

5. Dating disabled is boring

Two of my guy friends and I were at the beach for the 4th of July. We had passed by some jet skis. I had asked them if they had ever ridden one before. They said, “no”

At that moment, I realized that as a person, with a disability, I have had more exciting adventures than two able-bodied men. My life has definitely not been boring.

Yes, there will be something I cannot do or that may be more challenging to do.

I do think interabled relationships have unique challenges. I also believe that it can be rewarding. So if you’re disabled and feel God’s call to marriage, God will make a way.

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Ink Slingers Offering your suffering Overcome: Keeping Faith with a Disability Prayer Sarah Series

When Healing Hurts: How I Almost Lost My Faith.

Overcome: Keeping Faith with a Disability

The Beginning of Doubt

I exited the Taco Bell, oblivious to the event that would forever change my life. At the time, I was a young 13-year-old girl with Cerebral Palsy. My mom had hired a companion to work the weekends in order for me to have more independence. I was waiting for my companion to start the car when a man approached me. He said, “if you believe, Jesus Christ will save you, you will be healed.” His words shocked me. As a young Catholic, I had no idea what he meant by Jesus Christ saving me. I knew Jesus Christ.  I thought I believed in him. Yet the concept that he could save and heal me never crossed my mind. I immediately wondered if the guy was an angel since my companion never saw him. However, upon returning home I began to embrace reality. In the midst of tears, I told my mom what happened. For the first time in my life, I asked myself, why doesn’t God heal me?”

At the dinner table that night, My family went to say the blessing. I tried to take my mom and dad’s hand, but I was shaking. My mom saw that I was clearly uncomfortable. She asked, “ are you having trouble praying because of what happened today?” I nodded my head weakly. At that moment we stopped praying the blessing. Throughout high school, my family and I would continue to go through the motions of being practicing Catholics. I would reluctantly attend Mass and youth group. Somewhere along the way, my mom decided to raise my brother in a Baptist church. As an 18-year-old, my mom left me to make my own religious decisions. Still angry and confused, I entered college as an agnostic.

Tragedy Strikes

During my last year of college, I became very ill. No-one could figure out what was wrong with me. I would end up leaving the university and returning home. While home, I would be admitted to Virginia Commonwealth University Medical hospital. Even in the hospital, I could not escape the mentioning of God’s healing. One instance, in particular, affected me. I was in the hospital bed waiting to receive x-rays. A fellow patient from across the room commands my attention. He asked me if I believed in Jesus Christ. I said I thought he was a good teacher. The gentleman proceeded to tell me about the healing of the blind man in the gospels. He said that he would pray for my healing. This stands out to me because I had assumed that my physical disability made me an easy target. Yet, this man knew nothing about me and still wanted to pray for my healing. The hospital experience forced me to acknowledge a higher power. I had to rely on and trust in something beyond my own strength. While in the hospital, Regent University accepted me into their Masters in theology program.

Confronting Name it Claim it Theology

Regent University, while a good school, caters to Pentecostalism. Thus one learns to expect the miraculous at every turn.  I would attend events on campus and random strangers would ask to pray for me. During my time at Regent, there were two notable instances. The first occurred when I was volunteering at a homeless shelter. We had just finished our job and were in the parking lot. My friend was meeting another mutual friend for a late dinner. While in the parking lot, this mutual friend decided to pray over me. After he prayed, he insisted that I get up out of my power wheelchair and walk. His forcefulness shook me emotionally. I felt broken. He claimed that God had called him to be a prophet that would bring down heaven. He wanted to keep praying until something happened. Emotionally drained, I declined. Second, a man confronted me at a praise and worship concert. He asked if he could pray for me. I accepted and told him what I wanted for prayer. Unfortunately, he decided he would pray for me to walk instead. I interrupted him and asked if I could finish the prayer. He was shocked.  These two instances stand out in my mind. I had multiple opportunities to confront the Name It Claim it theology while at Regent University.

Coming to Terms

At this time, I attended Vineyard Church. The young adult pastor also wanted to pray for my healing. When I mentioned my struggles with healing, he said something insightful. He said that we do not pray for the results, but to increase our faith and trust in God. His advice has followed me through my reentry into the Catholic Church. Catholic theology allowed me to reclaim the notion of redemptive suffering. The notion that I can unite my suffering with Christ. In my heart, I knew that this is what I was missing. I no longer had to feel bad about my lack of healing, but rather my suffering had a purpose. Redemptive suffering needs the concept of healing otherwise it just becomes an excuse for unbelief. I desperately wanted to combine both theological principles. Luckily, The Catholic Charismatic renewal showed me the way. One must both pray for healing and offer up the situation.

Conclusion

Jesus said to pick up our cross and follow Him. He also said that His burden was easy and light. As disciples of Jesus, we are supposed to straddle both statements. For those who carry the cross of suffering and disability, this can be hard to accept. For myself, it took eight years for me to accept healing and miracles.  I rejoice in a God who loves me. God humbles and challenges me through unanswered prayers for miraculous healing. Yet despite the lack of answers, I cannot use it as an excuse to deny God’s provision. I pray that all those living with a disability can also find peace.

 

When Healing Hurts How I Almost Lost My Faith

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Ink Slingers Overcome: Keeping Faith with a Disability Sarah Series

OVERCOME: Keeping Faith with a Disability

Overcome: Keeping Faith with a Disability

While studying bioethics at Yale University, a man in a wheelchair rolled up to me. He said, “we should do lunch. You’re the first person in a wheelchair that I’ve met that has kept the faith and I want to know why?” Sadly, I was never able to eat lunch with the man. Yet his question haunted me. Why do so many people who are disabled lose their faith? How can we minister to the wider community? What unique voices and struggles do people with disabilities possess?

When a person has a disability, their faith journey may be more challenging. A person who is disabled may feel isolated, alone, and angry. I know because I have been there. I have lived with Cerebral Palsy and suffered from a spinal cord injury. I know what it is like to wait for healing that never comes. Yet I also know radical encounters occur when one unites their suffering with Christ. As Catholics, we are called to share our story. I feel God wants me to share my story as a Catholic with a disability. I want my story to serve those, who walk a similar path.

If you are a faithful Catholic person with a disability, you may experience heartbreak. You may find it difficult to hear the Gospel stories about healing. For example, the healing of the paraplegic man may make you think why can’t I have that healing in my life. A person’s sympathetic touch as they pass you in the communion line may make you angry. You just want to be treated like everyone else. If the hymn book is beyond your reach, you may not be able to sing along at Mass. You may wonder if you are resigned to singleness. You can’t imagine married life with a disability. Yet people who are disabled want to participate in religious life fully. I have learned that nothing is impossible for God. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. God has a plan and purpose for us. This plan encompasses the call to holiness. Disability should never be an excuse not to embrace this call.

A disability manifests itself in a person in a variety of different ways. Yet all people with disabilities want to be loved, welcomed and understood. The community of the faithful can help a person with a disability by being that listening ear. A disability can make a person’s faith journey complex. A person with a disability must confront uncomfortable truths about suffering. These truths are easier to bear in the midst of a loving community

Join me for this new series about faith and life with a disability. I will share some personal experiences and showcase spiritual lessons one learns when navigating life with a disability. I will address some common issues people with disabilities face and how Church Teaching protects people with disabilities.

If you are a person with a disability, I encourage you to not lose faith and hope. Remember that the grace of God is made perfect in your weakness and by God’s grace you can overcome.

In the Overcome series, you will be able to read about these subjects and more:

Going from the valley to the mountaintop
When Healing Hurts: How I Almost Lost My Faith
Spiritual Lessons My Caregivers Teach Me
Dating with a Disability
Making Room For a Disability
IVF: a Critique From a Disabled Perspective