There are times when those with chronic conditions will have a bad day or even a bad number of days. They fight against this gnawing fatigue that robs them of the joy of living. I know this because my wife, Karen, and me, deal with the daily struggle of me having two rare auto immune conditions and a rare progressive neurodegenerative disorder called oliviopontocerebellar ataxia. The condition affects mobility, at times speech and ability to swallow.If you don’t know what that is you’re not alone. My neurologist even had to look it up. It is diagnosed by a gerontologist when I am only 38! I feel out-of-place for a while in rehab with people over twice my age. The truth be told I had problems keeping up with some of the older patients:)
Every day for those with chronic conditions like B12 deficiency, parkinson’s disease, chronic fatigue, multiple chemical sensitivity, multiple sclerosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder(C.O.P.D.), cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy is a day of choices. They fight that daily battle with what their mind wants to do and what their body says it will do.
People with hidden challenges our eyes don’t always see such as those with learning disabilities and mental illness deal with false perceptions from others, that they are weak and even that they consider themselves special. Ignorance either intended or unintended speaks words of death into those with challenges. Many with developmental challenges come from a history of being abused by the very people who are in charge of their care. I know this because I have seen friends I love and care about abused both physically and emotionally
I spend a whole night convincing a dear friend of mine not to commit suicide as I sing songs to him about a God who loves him. I speak the truth of the awesome man of God that he is. He feels worthless. The verbal abuse is the worst of all. He is discarded by the system as a waste,institutionalized simply because of his advanced cerebral palsy.Those vicious attacks on the true amazing people those with challenges are wounds them more than any knife or bullet. It is a murdering of the beautiful child of God. Emotional abuse filled with its hate-filled and destructive programming takes far longer to heal than any physical attack.
If people with health, developmental and learning challenges and those with mental illness are sharp with you or not as loving and kind as usual, try not to take it personally. I know it’s really hard to love someone who says cutting things to you. In many cases they don’t mean to act this way. It is a constant challenge to love those who hurt us.
In all the stress of fighting my own chronic conditions there are times I say things to my wife, Karen, and others without thinking. The grace I am given is when the people who love me and truly know me cut me some slack. They know that if I am not being as considered in what I say it’s not intentional. Many people with brain damage have that area of their brain which controls their inhibitions affected. They have no filter to hold back what is on their mind. Many hate how this poisons their relationships with others.
I like this quote from G. K. Chesterton, who was a English writer,lay theologian, poet, philosopher, dramatist, journalist, orator, literary and art critic, biographer, and Christian apologist.
To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.
When I worked as a counsellor with The Salvation Army in correctional services, I am called every name one could be called. I experience in one instance the worst verbal abuse a seasoned correctional counsellor saw in his career. It was practical training for me as a teenager and then as a young man in what grace, love that is undeserved really means.
In a tougher journey of forgiveness my Lord called upon me to forgive a young man who threw a pillow at me, nearly knocking me down the stairs of the community residential centre (C.R.C.) I was working in. I thank God that I saw the pillow coming at me in time that I was not so startled by it. It takes a lot of love in your heart to forgive a person who is wanting to harm you.
This young man wanted to know if I would love him no matter how awful his behaviour got. He would look at me with a penetrating stare that sent a chill running through me. As he would fix his eyes upon me determined to frighten me, in my thoughts and prayers for him I felt how unloved he must have been to have grown this cold inside..
When I showed this young man love that he didn’t deserve, he changed in the way he interacted with me. I even managed to get a few smiles and laughs out of him. He still had his behavioural problems. Yet, he saw what true love was maybe for the first time in his life.
If I had given this man what he deserved, I could have made certain he received more punishment for his actions. My Lord through many teachers and mentors gave me the gift of communication, which I could have used to destroy his life. What good would have been done by getting even? None. The best gift I could give him is my forgiveness.
If Christ forgave those responsible for mocking, insulting, beating and then crucifying Him, then we should do all we can God helping us to forgive those who have offended us. I know it’s tough. I could have chosen to never forgive my schizo affective father for beating me more times than I would care to remember of telling me I was lazy, stupid, a disappointment and would always be a failure. God would not allow me to stay in that prison of hate. I thank my Lord that He did not allow me to carry out the vow I made at age 11 that I would kill my father.
I paint for you this scene from my life. I am five. I see my mother hanging from the awning of our bathroom door. I cry out, “Mom! Mom! Please don’t die! ” I feel helpless. I think it is my job to protect her. I feel like a failure. The tears come and they keep coming. Dad in a lucid moment cuts Mom down with a knife.
The stress of the constant physical and emotional abuse of my father causes my mother total blindness for several months. The last straw is when I discover my mother in the corner of our basement storage room. Dad dragged my mother down the unfinished stairs. Some of the splinters could be seen on her legs. A poison of hate went through me. I determined I would find a way to kill him.
My plan is to get my father so livid that he will come at me. I will take a knife and plunge it into his chest, giving it an upper thrust and twist it like I had seen in so many TV programs and movies.
God answers the prayer I make at age five under the willow tree by our home My mother, brother and me escape when my father is out driving taxi.
I was well into my thirties before I started on my journey of forgiving my father. After over three years of professional counselling I am much further along in that journey of forgiveness.
Let us all be more patient, loving and forgiving with one another. We all are people in process. We are God’s masterpiece in the making. Your life and the lives of those you touch with your patience, love, acceptance and understanding will be better for showing your heart that forgives.