Six months ago a water heater exploded in my face, breaking six bones in my face and leaving me blind in one eye. I spent the first week hardly able to use my good eye because it hurt the exploded eye too much.
But God used this time to give me insight into the difference between being disabled and being unable.
After the accident I was pretty smashed, and in a real sense I had an experience of being disabled for a short period. Just days after my accident I set three lofty goals for the day: brush my teeth, wash my hair, and do a poo. With difficulty, some groaning, and a bit of help I managed to achieve what was on that list. I experienced, for the first time in my life, a profound inability to do the things I was used to.
My left eye had essentially been smashed open. Because eyes are connected and move in unison it took me weeks to be able to concentrate for more than 10 minutes with my good eye.
I was relatively useless during this time. I slept till midday, and shuffled round until I hopped back in bed. Before my accident I was a slow eater, after my accident however, I made the old Jared look like a record speed eater! This was my brief and limited experience of disability.
A new ability
During this time I noticed I had a new ability: availability. I also noticed many bodily and mentally able people often share the same disability, that is, unavailability: they do not have time.
I have often seen people overcome profound disabilities and do great things, making able people marvel. I believe there is a big difference between a person saying 'it is impossible for me to do this' and a person saying 'I can't do that because I don't have the time'. But in reality we treat these two things the same way: we agree with people, and with ourselves, when we say we are unable.
My only real impossibility now is that I can't watch 3D movies because you need two eyes to watch 3D movies—stink ay? But I can pretty much do anything else, except maybe catching small objects like pens, yes, they are quite tricky too.
There is a big difference between being disabled and being unable: one is easier to change.
An encounter with disability
The Apostle Paul was on the road to Damascus, on his way to kill Christians, when he had a life-changing experience. He saw a blinding light and heard a great voice saying: 'Saul (his name was Saul at the time) why are you persecuting me?'
The voice belonged to Jesus, and Paul realised he had been a naughty boy indeed. The whole encounter left him completely blind. He was led into the city and taken care of by a Christian—who was probably quite concerned that Paul (then Saul) was playing a trick on him, and was actually going to kill him and all his family and friends.
After a time some people came and laid their hands on Saul and what looked like scales fell from his eyes: he could see. From then on Saul changed; he called himself 'Paul' and began to serve the Lord.
Disability and un-ability
Being disabled and being unable can both have the same effect. During a time of disabilitymany people find they are no longer unable.
It took a time of disability for Paul to see that, although there was nothing wrong with his eyes, he could not see. He had 'scales'—toughened skin—over his eyes. Perhaps he did not want to see: perhaps he did not have time to see. But after a time of disability, he went from unable to able.
Dealing with our unavailability
Many of us excuse ourselves by saying we are unable to do otherwise important things. I get this, I understand what people are saying—they are usually really busy, I am usually really busy.
But it is not a person's ability that dictates what is possible, but their availability to what they deem deeply important.
Many of us need to remember we are not unable. We are just unavailable.
Ask yourself: what you have made yourself unavailable for? Are okay with that?
As for those who have a legitimate disability—consider whether this has created some sort of availability in your life. I urge you, and I mean no disrespect here, to remember that your availability may also outdo the ability of many others.
Jared Diprose is a self-employed Artisan and co-director of the Mosaic Workshop. He has a degree in Theology, and believes that words shape worlds. He is married to Sierra. You can see some of his work at www.facebook.com/jareddiprosecreative and you can check out The Mosaic Workshop at www.facebook.com/workshopmosaic
Jared Diprose's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jared-diprose.html