Patience Beard knows what it means to be “different.” When she was six months old, Patience was diagnosed with Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency, a disease that affects bone growth. Because of this, Patience had part of her left leg amputated when she was nine months old. Although labeled as “handicapped” and “disabled,” Patience’s family refused to treat her as such. She grew up learning how to ride a bicycle, run, play, do gymnastics, and cheer. That’s right; when Patience was in the seventh grade, she joined the cheerleading squad at her school. She performed every cheer, every jump, every flip, every dance, and every stunt. Patience refused to let the pain and discomfort of having a prosthetic leg keep her from following her dreams. Today, Patience is a freshman at the University of Arkansas; she’s also on the cheerleading squad. At every game, Patience can be seen with the rest of her team cheering on the football team. Although the majority of people in Arkansas know who Patience Beard is and her story, she refuses to fade into the background. She doesn’t pretend she doesn’t have a prosthetic leg. Instead, she embraces her “disability.” In the ninth grade, Patience asked her doctors to outfit her prosthetic leg with a zebra pattern. Patience believes what her mom taught her about living with a disability, “It’s who you are. Don’t be ashamed. This is you.” 1
We all have handicaps. For some people, the handicap is physical. For some, it’s emotional. For others, it’s financial. Not all of us have been labeled “handicapped” or “disabled,” yet truthfully, we could all be labeled as such. Every person has a weakness, but few of us ever choose to be like Patience Beard, Timothy, or Epaphroditus. Unfortunately, most of the time we accept the limitations of our handicap and forget that our God is greater and stronger than any problem we will ever face.
For a long time, I chose to believe that God couldn’t use a sick, weak person like me. Because of this attitude, I didn’t allow God to show Himself mighty in my life. But over the past several years, God has reminded me that if He can create the world and bring people back from the dead, He is certainly greater than a chronic illness. Jesus said in John 14:12, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.”
My prayer for the 2012 year has been that I will see the greatness of God in my life and that He will use me however He sees fit. Although I can’t say that I’ve raised someone from the dead or healed someone from a disease, I have seen God do some remarkable things. As the year has gone on, I’ve realized an important truth – God wants to do big things in our lives. He wants us to see Him for the great and mighty God He is, but far too often, we become overwhelmed with our lives and problems and take our focus off the hugeness of God.
This doesn’t mean I’m no longer sick, because I am. This doesn’t mean I no longer have bad days
physically, because I do. This doesn’t mean my life is problem-free, because it isn’t. What it does mean is that when I’m faced with an obstacle, I no longer panic and succumb to defeat. I remember who my God is, that He loves me, and He wants to use me to help display His greatness. I have learned, like Patience Beard, to embrace my sickness and be who God created me to be.
So what about you? What is your handicap? We all have one. The question is, “Are you letting your handicap defeat you, or are you allowing God to use your handicap for His glory?”
“Brothers and sisters, look at what you were when God called you. Not many of you were wise in the way the world judges wisdom. Not many of you had great influence. Not many of you came from important families. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and He chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose what the world thinks is unimportant and what the world looks down on and thinks is nothing in order to destroy what the world thinks is important.” ~ 1 Corinthians 1:26-28 (NCV)
© September 29, 2012