Week 2, Day 6 – Change

The assignments for today were:

  1. Write about a time when change happened faster than what you were ready for. How did it feel? Remember another time when you were on a pleasant plateau, your life stable and happy, and change came. What do you know about change? Welcoming change?
  2. What if change were the norm and status quo the exception? What would mothers teach their kids? Use streaming to explore this.
  3. Write how you can best help change begin in friendship, work, creativity and your health.

Oh yes, I remember that day. It was October 15, 2006. I had just come back from Los Angeles, California. I was nervous walking into the church that day for a number of reasons. It was the second time we had worshipped in this new space and the bishop was coming for the first of three weekends to observe me. So I drove up to the church, grabbed my rolling bag, which still held all my robes and stoles and walked into the church. As I opened the door of my office, this pain shot down my right leg and it was followed by numbness and this state of shock. I remember that day as if it was yesterday. It was the day that my life changed with an opening of the door. It was just a door. I barely made it through that door. My right leg felt like it was a dead weight that I was dragging around. I remember trying to stay calm, nobody else was there, and I didn’t know what to do. I could barely stand and all I could think of is that I needed to stay calm so I could lead worship. Then the bishop and his entourage arrived and one of the women who was a deacon candidate at the time. Was I ok. What did I want to do? All I knew was that I needed to stay calm and lead worship. That was what got me through. Nobody in the church really knew what had just happened. Nobody knew until afterwards when I told my wife I needed someone to drive my car home. I could not drive. I remember calling my doctor and she said were you incontinent – no. awesome. Make an appointment to come see me. That was the last day I drove. Welcome to the world of disabilities. How do you prepare for that moment when you literally lose all the feeling in a limb? When you lose your ability to drive? To go safely up and down stairs? And the insurance company would not pay for the ankle foot orthotic until I fell in front of thousands of people because I tripped over my foot which I could not feel. I remember calling my doctor, telling her what happened, and that no, I had not been incontinent. Great, she said. Now they will pay for your ankle foot orthotic. This whole time felt somewhat surreal. It was a change I was not prepared for. Four years later, I have come to adjust to all the changes in my body. I have learned how to grieve that which I have lost and celebrate new found abilities I did not know I had. In some respects, this change has been one of the greatest blessings in my life. I have learned so much about myself, more then I might have ever known and it has allowed me to speak publicly about the lives and rights of people with disabilities. It took me some time to learn how to do things, like get my shoes on, but over time, I have learned that I am far more resourceful then I ever would have imagined. Losing the feeling in my right leg helped me to realize how connected to the Creator I am. I came to realize that the Creator is my brace in the midst of my wholeness and my brokenness. 

One of the things that got me through the change was my attitude. I knew early on that my newly acquired disability did not define me. Another was the love of those in my life. My wife especially. I cannot even imagine what I would have done with out her, especially in those early days. How many times did she patiently watch me as I got so mad at myself for not being able to get my shoes on? Calm down she would say, let’s work this through. She would make these suggestions and they would work. She never let me give up on anything. Did you try was her favorite question? If I had tried and could not do it, then she would help, but first I had to try it on my own. There were those who tried to bring me down. Perhaps the words that hurt me the most were “how are you going to do ministry all crippled up?” I remember staring at the words on that text message and wanting to scream “F#@$” I probably did. I was asked the same thing about my teaching. what got me through the next few years of ministry and still in my teaching was my willingness to move through my fears, to move through my fears of what others might think about me as a person with a disability and to remember that this too was a gift from the Creator and was going to help me be a more loving and compassionate person.