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Inspiration for Today’s Devotional: “Flight to the Finish”
In this episode, Scootaloo, after being mocked by her peers, becomes obsessed with being able to fly in a routine with the Cutie Mark Crusaders to prove herself as a real pegasus. Unfortunately for her, she misses the fact that the goal of their routine wasn’t to highlight how earth ponies, unicorns, and pegasi stand out but rather how they unite in the town of Ponyville. In doing so, she missed her own contribution that she was making; focusing too much on what she couldn’t do rather than what she could.
One of the most empowering passages in the Bible is found in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him(Christ) who strengthens me.” It gives the sense that there’s nothing impossible for a Christian, no matter what the world, society, reality, or even our own limitations might say. And it’s true that God uses ordinary people to accomplish extra-ordinary things. Lastly, everyone loves hearing a resounding success story from someone who has a disability, either cognitive, mental, or physical, and overcoming it to do something unbelievable. It gives the idea, when taken a certain way, that there are no limits or restrictions if you’re a Christian.
As I said before, I have Asperger’s. As many people like myself do, I don’t like to be thought of as autistic. I am fully capable of living independently and I have been my whole life. I don’t act like any of the stereotypes shown on TV or the media. And I especially don’t like it when people suggest that I “have a disability”. I know that no person with a disability likes to be called a “disabled person”, as if that determines their identity, but for me personally even saying I have one feels like it’s negating me a little. I don’t want any special privileges or treatment, and I never have my whole life because I have never “felt” disabled. Most of all, I don’t want to feel that I am innately different from “normal” people. For me, nothing is more infuriating and depressing to get the idea in my head that I’m not “normal”…that the world is essentially filled with normal people and “I’m the freak”. And all that besides, if I’m a Christian, I shouldn’t have to worry about not being able to do anything, right? I should be able to do everything through Christ and astonish people with my ability to conquer any challenge, right? And if I don’t do that, then how much do I believe in Philippians 4:13?
This led to me to try out a number of different kinds of ministry back in my college days, not to mention my initial planned career choices. Most of them ended with subpar results or even disasters. My thought, however, was that it was all my problem. I hadn’t tried hard enough or had enough reliance on God. So I kept trying other things, but with little improvement.
One event changed my perception. After coming very close to getting a teacher’s certification, essentially one more semester, it became clear to other people in the teaching profession and eventually myself that I was not the right kind of person to be a teacher, mostly due to my extreme difficulty with interacting with a large group of students in a social setting. Keep in mind this was after a few semesters of very hard work and demanding ingenuity. At the time, it was a horrible realization and it left me devastated and depressed. It was the first time I had ever seen that my condition was restricting me from doing something. It was a mark on myself as a failure and being forced to tailor something in my life to my state of mind. What more, it might have been a failure in the eyes of God.
Yet as I thought on it more, I started to realize some things.
For example, I may have trimmed down and become a better runner in the past year or so, but I don’t think God is suddenly going to make me an Olympian no matter how high my faith. And I don’t expect him to because I was never athletic growing up or felt any pressing need to become a career athlete. As another example, I have a talent for writing but I stink at, say, sewing and clothes-making. I also know very little about business management. Now, I could get better in these areas, but if I wanted to excel in them I’d need to devote a great deal of time and energy into increasing my skills in them. I never have until now because those weren’t what was for me. They’re never what I had a special talent or skill at, or even a desire to do. This doesn’t mean I’m an overall failure just because I don’t take to these things; it just means I have some talents in some areas and not a lot of talents in others.
At my own local church, they’ve been really pushing Exodus 4:2 lately: “The LORD said to him, ‘What is that in your hand?’ He said, ‘A staff.'” In particular, they have been focusing on the first part rather than the response. For those of you who don’t know, this is where God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and commanded him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt into the Promised Land. However, Moses was fearful that they wouldn’t believe he had been sent by God, and this was God’s response. It seems a simple enough passage, but obviously God can see everything so he already knew what Moses had with him and on his person, and he didn’t need him to call it out. Yet he did so rather than tell Moses “just go and summon thunderbolts” or did something like make some big sacred object arise from the ground for him to wield. He drew attention to what Moses already possessed on hand when he was called.
The Bible has Philippians 4:13, but it also contains 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.
“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”
To me, what this means is that there are some things I can’t, or at least shouldn’t, do based on my predisposition, personality, and, dare I say it, disability. But I shouldn’t take that as something that negates me in some way compared to others; I should see that as me excelling in a different area. And it’s true; the same thing that makes me terrible in social interactions with a wide group of people also enables me to retain content knowledge almost instantly. I was always good in drama class because I could memorize lines at the drop of a hat. And I’m a good software engineer now because I quickly learn new languages and protocols through self-teaching. And since I’m also a great typist and can be eloquent in writing, not to mention also being a brony, I started this series to hopefully use that talent for furthering the Kingdom of God.
While I certainly believe it is possible to rise past personal challenges and obstacles, and that no one should ever feel “condemned” by them into a role, I also believe that sometimes they might be there to show we are better suited to other things. As one pastor wisely said, God will never shut a door in your life without opening another.
Suggested Prayer: “Lord God, thank you for the gifts of my talents and abilities, and for giving me the means to apply them to your Kingdom. Help me always to seek to improve myself, but never to let what I lack make me forget what I have. And please guide me to find the best way to use my talents for your Glory. Gratefully in Jesus’ Name, Amen.”