A few Sundays ago, a fellow church member, Rob Stacey, talked to our Sunday school class about judging a person based on his outward appearance. In speaking, he cited this verse of scripture: “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly” John 7:24 (NLT).
Rob told us he had been born with cerebral palsy. His gait is slow and he walks with the help of a walker. When out to eat with his wife, the waiter asked his wife what Rob would like to eat. Her response was, “I don’t know. Why don’t you ask him?” Rob’s admonition to us was don’t assume and never direct questions to someone with a disabled person until you have tried talking to the disabled person.
David Ring was born with Cerebral Palsy. His mobility is more stagger than walk and at times he is difficult to understand. Through his growing up years, Mr. Ring says he endured humiliating public ridicule. He fought through perceptions of who he was and what he could do and today has an international ministry as an evangelist and motivational speaker. The outward appearance would say he is very limited in what he has to offer and that’s why he begins his messages with “I have Cerebral Palsy–what’s your problem?”
My friend Rob reminded us that we all have purpose as long as we have breath and we need to respect that with one another rather than make broad assumptions without facts to back up the assumptions. When we find the purpose God has given us, He equips us to use what we have to serve others. David Ring says “God took my greatest liability and made it my greatest asset.” His disability is not a hindrance but a tool in furthering the gospel of Christ.
I had six incredibly blessed years working with mentally challenged men and women as a church department director. I bore the title of teacher, but it was those mentally challenged individuals who did the teaching. They were so much more than what first impression said. Margie could hardly speak and she didn’t have a normal walk. But by God’s grace and Margie’s patience, I came to understand much of her speech and how much she could comprehend–which was a lot. Dianne appeared testy and sullen, but she was a woman who loved God and was happiest when in worship service. Tim, mentally challenged and blind, loved to sing solos and give testimony to God. Another woman also named Dianne, had Down syndrome and spoke very little. But it wasn’t because she couldn’t carry on a conversation; it was simply a choice she made. She knew every book of the Bible and could readily find scripture.
When I think of those with severe disabilities, the first two people who come to mind are Nick Vujicic (without limbs) and Helen Keller (blind, deaf, mute) and they both became world changers. They are prime examples of how wrong we are to make determinations based solely on what we see or first come to know.
People can seem different for a lot of reasons. They may look different and they may behave different, but until we have looked beneath the surface as said in John 7:24, we cannot possibly know who they are or what they can do.
Learn more about David Ring at http://davidring.org