For as far back as I can recall, I enjoyed the company of those with physical disabilities, chronic illness and learning disabilities. My mother was a positive influence on appreciating others with differences of this sort and often connected me and my siblings with those who suffered. In part, that may be the reason why I was the kid who volunteered to play ball with a bell in it with a blind girl rather than join in with others during my gym class. My hand would raise up rapidly at the opportunity of volunteering my notes and help during school with the learning disabled girl whom no one paid attention to and the ESL students in college who needed further interpretation of lectures and texts due to special challenges. I love how they were strategically placed in my life for my own learning and unforeseen preparation.
It was not for my glory, as time and time again, these individuals gave back to me a greater gift than what I ever had to offer them. Frankly they made some of the best friends and still do. One was thrilled to find she could teach me to roller skate and do it much better than me. Another shared the warmth of her small university apartment when I felt alone on campus and when the bay tunnel bridge closed leaving me no way back home. I found friends this way, shared joys and struggles and was always the one blessed. Little did I know then that I was just beginning to have my own struggles.
We do not have to share the same difficulty to share the kinship and unity offered as ones that deal with challenges whether physical, mental, or otherwise. So many of the emotions of accepting and coping can be similar if not the exact trial and so support and connection can come as a quick gift.
"Off the Beaten Path" reminds me of this different journey, the one that is so often thrust upon so many. It is a reminder to me that I am not alone as well as the alternate usage of the word "beaten" to not beat myself up about my chronic illnesses. They are not my own doing but part of being fully human and living authentically and in some minute way even experiencing a fraction of what Christ did. This is a reminder to me to not make myself my own victim, but to move further to a place where my illness is not all that I am. On the flip side of this, it is a reminder to not allow others to victimize me in this and in that I mean to subject me to blame or all sorts of formulas on how to be healed or worse yet state reasons that I am not healed. We have all had well intentioned, unknowledgeable people or doctors in our lives label us with mistaken diagnosis’ or thoughts as to what the causal factors just may be. Self esteem can take it’s toll with illness alone, without taking on further fallacies. Lingering looks or harsh words from those in parking lots when using a handicapped placard can sting. It’s easy to think of a quick remark when hurt and ones illness is invisible. However through the years I've figured out it is better yet to share a smile and pray that they are prepared for such a time as this if it occurs to them. That’s also when a long look back at some of my contacts through the years makes me feel blessed to know fellow sojourners.
They are loyal people with a certain gift of empathy and sensitivity that have been forced off the fast lane of life. I fall short in expressing my full emotions in this, so much so that it so reminds me of my study of linguistics and learning that words are symbols for things, feeling, and concepts. By attempting to put into words, I limit myself some what on how humbled and honored I feel to know others in this journey who understand without sharing all words. I don’t have to constantly struggle to explain myself and make the abstract concrete with them. It’s already understood. Many have been good reminders to me of the fact that I do not need to seek validation, but accept further and lay it down with The One whom knows me best.
God’s love toward us as humans despite our thorns in the flesh is so cleansing and healing in this battle. The Light constantly illuminates to me that all people have equal worth and all human life is sacred. That place of not always understanding or having all the answers can then become a place where faith accelerates as is that not where faith enters in, that place that involves what we cannot see and some mystery? Seems to me that’s a big part of what faith is all about.
Resting in the Light then can mean more of a gentle striving to listen within the stillness in nonlinear ways rather than expecting a constant exchange. Above all just knowing that the Light is within and a deep sense of Spirit and Truth can be discovered and experienced for us personally. This helps me as it gives me full permission to listen individually for insight rather than focus on the opinions others whom lovingly seem to be experiencing their own answers to my health struggles for me. I can lean on these struggles as part of my Inner Teacher rather than constantly and frantically seek the healing that so many feel should occur. It’s not that I do not believe in healing, but I often believe healing may occur in another area and what is meant to be is quite purposeful and permanent for reasons that remain unseen. I can’t pretend I know the answers, but this is not giving up.
It seems I have effortlessly been given the gift of some people as mentors and even healers. Along with the Light within, these individuals in the past two years displayed to me how to blend illness, faith and lack of answers into a walk that I can embrace more fully. I needed examples as the pain and tears at times clouded my way and still can on some days. I also began to take notice again of the musician Ginny Owens, who speaks with such clarity in her song "If You Want Me To." She strikes that chord in me literally as every day for me involves vocabulary such as "survival" and "relinquishment". Obviously in her state of blindness she came to a place where as she says in "Free" that she is "free to stop bearing gifts as burdens." She sings so gracefully about that and tends to remind me on my darker days that there are still gifts within. I can then accept a bit better and be free in the Spirit to stop my denial, control worry and just remember to go on to live, dance, love and forgive others who do not share the same understanding of the situation I am in. I can relate and even rejoice in the idea of releasing ones self of all those chains as her lyrics exclaim! Above all, I am free to trust that God loves us more that I could ever put into words. Here's Ginny.....she sings it better than I can say it.
If You Want Me To