This eye-opening guest post is from Jason Ayres - a children's Bible teacher in Sydney, Australia. Jason suffers from cerebral palsy - a disorder that affects brain and nervous system functions. Using his own disability as context, Jason provides a very different perspective on a well-known Biblical story - one that touched my heart and I'm sure will touch yours as well. And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
“Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” John 5:5-6
Are you familiar with the account of the disabled man, troubled by illness for 38 years? He’s the guy sitting by a pool of water near the Sheep's Gate in Jerusalem – a story written about in John 5.
Now, I was born with a mild brain injury. It’s called Cerebral Palsy and it has affected my mobility, my vision, and some other 'wiring problems' inside me for over 38 years now. So I can relate to this man very well.
And I'm not exaggerating when I say that if Jesus had walked up to me and asked, "Do you want to be made well?", as He did with the man in the story, I'd of course reply in my holiest voice, "Umm...I'm sorry...Have we met before??"
Shock. Curiosity. Hope.
I have heard many talks on this story – a few quite cruel, considering they are Christian preachers – who make the sick man out to be lazy, negative and narrow minded. To those preachers I respond:
Have you ever had long term illness or disability? It can make you quite tired. It can make you say, "I’d love for my situation to improve. I yearn for that. But I have tried so hard for so long… I'm just worn out. I don't know what else I can I do."
Here in Australia, our federal government recently began a campaign to inform the public (particularly employers) of the benefits of hiring disabled people. Their slogan is “Focus on Ability" (as opposed to focusing on DIS-ability).
That’s what Jesus did. He says to the man (and to all of us), "Stand up! Pick up your mat and walk." (John 5;8). When I read that, I don't hear an angry preacher – looking down and shouting at a lazy slob, like so many suggest. I hear the excitement building – like a coach encouraging a tired, grieving man that he's not alone in his struggles. Jesus had compassion on the man. He focused on his ability, not his disability.
Whether you are disabled or not disabled, I want to encourage you to “FOCUS ON ABILITY.” Focus on God’s ability – our strength for today and hope for tomorrow – and focus your ability, whatever it may be. Ask God to lift you up and help you see the gifts, talents and abilities He has given you.
I write this as a reminder to myself, as much as I write it to you.