I really struggle with this distinction. For years I repulsed at the idea of labeling my son “disabled.” It went against everything I believed about God’s sovereignty and goodness and the dignity of each individual.
My principles tell me to think in terms of “differences” not “disabilities.”
But then I run into the reality of laws. In order to receive accommodations, whether in school through an individual education plan (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) or in college or the workplace through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), one must accept the term “disabled.”
And I struggle to resolve the dissonance.
The truth is that all of these hidden issues are, in some sense of the term “disabilities.” An individual does not receive a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Tourettes or any other label unless they are markedly different in a way that is deemed of concern. Something about the individual is NOT neuro-typical. He or she is different.
I prefer to speak of this positively. God created each individual for His purpose and pleasure. Psalm 139: 14-16 says that each is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Period. No exceptions for Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, etc. While approximately 75-80% are neuro-typical, the other 20-25% are not neuro-typical — they are wired differently.
Then the rubber meets the road. The child with ADHD struggles to remember the most basic multi-step instructions. The child with Autism Spectrum Disorder struggles to establish connections and make sense of his world. The child with Bipolar deals with mood swings that make his life and the life of his family a chaotic mess. The child with learning disabilities struggles to read, write, do math, or all of these.
And I am confronted with the fact that though my principles require me to believe all these differences are from the hand of a good and loving God, the daily life of the individual and his/her family are deeply affected and frankly, at times, hard.
How do I resolve these two, seemingly conflicting realities?
This is where my relationship with God and my faith in Him and His Word is applied in daily living.
I DO believe each individual is created in the image of God, for His purposes and pleasure, and is fully loved by Him. But the fall and its consequences for our daily lives is very real. We all live with limitations and struggles as a result of the fall. Some of us just hide it better than others.
This reality should be cause for great humility. Each of us is broken by the fall corporately and our own sin personally. Each of us needs the saving grace of God in our lives. Each of us needs to live by His daily grace in our fallen world.
Perhaps those with some sort of “disability” are just more conscious of this need. Perhaps they are more aware of their brokenness and dependence on God.
The rest of us should look and learn. For this is the essence of wisdom.
Living and Learning,