Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Ability in Disability

            The wisdom of Ecclesiaties says, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens; a time to be born and a time to die."  Boundaries are part of life. Every person is born with attributes which create mental and physical limitations for his or her activities.  Limitations can be viewed as either negative or positive,  Life hands us moments to depend on wisdom to change things that can be changed, and other moments to depend on grace to accept the things that cannot be changed.  Whether self-imposed, or generated by others around, each person's life story is written in great measure by how he or she responds to adverse surroundings.  Here is one person's story.

          On September 27, 1957 in Hanover PA, a healthy 8 lb. baby boy was born to teen parents.  Some time later this first born son was diagnosed as having opticatrophy, a severe deterioration of the optic nerve in both eyes.  No explanation for the cause of this disorder was available except that It was congenital.  The doctors informed the parents that the condition was not likely correctable with glasses, it would probably remain a serious limitation for life.  The boy was termed legally blind and as such would need special magnification devices to read newspaper-sized print, never be eligible for a driver's license, and participation in competitive sports would be improbable.  He would be considered disabled, and therefore, could become a burden to family, friends, or government.

          Would it have been responsible medical practice for the doctors to try to prevent the birth of this child?  By today's standards, through the use of ultrasound imaging and other medical data collection technologies, it could have been determined by the third month in his mother's womb, that this baby had some sort of

abnormality.  If indeed that were the case, would it not be more responsible for the parents to abort this child and "try again" so to speak?

          Well, I support the right to life for every human being from the moment of conception because I was that baby boy born in 1957.  My blindness was most likely caused by an injury during the birth process.  Whether it was the buildup of pressure from the long labor my mother experienced, or maybe the forceps used by the doctor, only God knows the cause.  Irregardless of whether someone can be blamed or whether an explanation can be found doesn't matter nearly as much as how I decide to respond to it.  My faith and resolve is strengthened, knowing that God has ways of making good things happen out of situations in which we feel hopelessly lost.  I can truly say that it is  God's grace (His ability) that has overcome my inabilities.

        Coping with a disability is not an easy matter.  In my case I've had to work much harder to achieve the same level of success commonly enjoyed by others.  I have no intentions of giving up or of being a burden on others for my livelihood.  Through the prime years of my life I lived in a single-income household with my income as the sole income.  Although my wife spent a number of years teaching special education in the schools, after our first child was born, she was able to devote her time to our small children at home.  I was employed as a computer programmer/analyst, having earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Millersville University. 

            First came a BA degree in German, a language which I speak fluently as a result of having studied at Marburg University in Germany my junior year.  After a 17 year career in software development, I went back to school and earned an MA in Human Service Counseling.  I was awarded the Outstanding Student in my class at Regent University. Prior to this a terminal degree was not even dreamed of, but in 2010 I finished a Doctor of Religious Studies at Trinity Theological Seminary.   My  dissertation project was the basis for a book I published in 2011 called Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart.

            In 2002 we opened a bed and breakfast business and I now remain multi-vocational.  I have been privileged to serve on various boards and committees in our community. In 2007 I became the founding President of a local affiliate of a national advocacy organization for blind and vision impaired persons. I served with the Lancaster Abilities Coalition to promote dignity, opportunity, equality, and empowerment for persons with disabilities.  Besides my education, employment, and community work, my wife and I married in 1980 and raised 4 wonderful, now adult,  children together.  Our entire family has been actively involved in church ministry over the years.  I have done much to defy the societal stereotype of a blind person, but it is God to whom I give the chief credit for these accomplishments.  If all this sounds exhausting, it is! 

          Though severe limitations are not the fate for all of us, we all face things that remind us of our human frailty.  It is our choice whether to become overwhelmed by the difficulties, or energized by the opportunities.   Perspective determines life experience.  Napoleon Hill has said, "Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle."  It is my belief that in whatever circumstances we may find ourselves, God is more than willing and big enough, not only to help us to overcome, but also to empower us to help those around us overcome as well.  

            Our shortcomings do not have to threaten our life's purposes from being accomplished.  So whether we consider ourselves enabled or disabled, rich or poor, skilled or unskilled, part of the "in" crowd or not, a victim or victor, a divine purpose exists for each of our lives.  Understanding the value the Creator places on each individual human life is essential to overcoming discouragement caused by infirmity and limitations based on bodily function.  The concept of "normal" has no place when considering human value and worth.  The value of an athlete's performance at the professional level, is not necessarily greater than a high school athlete's.  In team sports, the contribution to the team determines the value. The most gifted, well-trained athlete is not automatically the most valuable team member.  I recently heard success defined as your journey of  reaching your God-given potential in life.  Each individual person is a member of the team of the human race. 

            I pray that each person reading this will find the courage to believe that meaning and purpose is forging a way to make a difference in the world.  Each of us has a story being written with the details of our life.  The final sentence of our story cannot be written without our final breath to be taken. It's never too late to get on track.  Vision for destiny keeps us going. Both blind and deaf, Helen Keller said, “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight,  but has no vision”

            Note:   The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith)  to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: . If you get anywhere near Pennsylvania for vacation or on business, be sure to look us up for lodging at 

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry