Why Am I Here?
When I was born twenty-five years ago, everyone thought I was
normal. It took me longer to learn how to crawl, but my mother
assumed it was just due to ordinary developmental differences
between babies. But when I was eight months old, the doctors
diagnosed me as having cerebral palsy. They said I might not ever be
able to walk or talk, or feed or clothe myself.
A friend of my parents suggested they put me in a special home
and not have to deal with me. The suggestion shocked them, for the
thought had never crossed their minds; just because I happened to
have cerebral palsy didn't mean they loved me any less. In their eyes,
I wasn't a piece of faulty machinery to be left in some human scrap
heap -- I was their baby boy.
A friend of my parents suggested they put me in a special home and not have to deal with me. The suggestion shocked them, for the thought had never crossed their minds; just because I happened to have cerebral palsy didn't mean they loved me any less. In their eyes, I wasn't a piece of faulty machinery to be left in some human scrap heap -- I was their baby boy.
It wasn't until I was three that I began to walk. I was able to speak, too, but not very clearly. At that early age I began going to Holladay Center, a school in Portland, Oregon for the physically handicapped.
In physical therapy I learned how to go up and down stairs with and without a rail, and how to pick myself up off the floor without any props to help me. In occupational therapy I learned how to dress myself, how to get more food in me than on the table and floor, how to hold a pencil and how to type. And in speech therapy I learned how to better control my breathing and how to pronounce my S's, C's and T's.
I was "mainstreamed" into the public school system in the fifth grade. Looking back, one thing that really bothers me about the education I received in the public schools is that it lacked any real sense of human value. In the sixth grade we studied "values clarification:" A boat is sinking with six people aboard, There is a lifeboat that can hold three people. Which three people do you let into the boat? Which three would be more "valuable" or "useful" to society if they survived? I always hated the lifeboat idea, mainly because I would probably be one of the first to be sent overboard.
In junior high I learned about sex and condoms, that if you don't play around right, you might get caught. I also learned that we are all just products of evolutionary chance.
But during my sophomore year of high school, I began questioning the meaning of life, not just my own, but all life. What are we all here for? Is all we can do to just try to get rich and be loved, then pass on? I figured that my handicap exempted me from both of these possibilities. What could life hold for me? According to what I learned in school, the only reason for living was a resolute self-will. I was tired of the fight; I had no self-will left.
God. Where was He? The simple prayers of my youth made little sense to me anymore. Science had answers for everything, or so I thought. I didn't believe in Santa Claus any more, why did I have to believe in God? I became frustrated with my life, seeing little meaning in it. I was crying out to God, with my spirit if not with my mouth.
That summer I was fortunate enough to get into the Youth Conservation Corps, a federal government program for youths aged 15 to 18. We did odd jobs for the Forest Service, such as clearing brush from campgrounds and building barbed wire fences on range lands. I met and became good friends with (in my very unbiased opinion) the prettiest girl in the camp. She listened to me as I described all that I had been through, She really cared about me as a person, After nine years, she still does. It's not a romantic relationship that we have; it's something much deeper, something spiritual.
A year after that camp, my friend began her journey with Jesus. She was very athletic and the valedictorian in her high school class. So accomplished, beautiful and popular, I didn't know why she needed God -- but I did know that, if He was real, I needed Him even more than she. I began searching.
A cousin of mine from California was up visiting. ... I remember he asked me how much of all the knowledge in the universe, even just the world, that man had accumulated. I was bright enough to know that though man has accumulated a vast amount of data on the happenings in this world, it is a minuscule percentage of everything there is to know. He asked simply, "Doesn't that leave room for God?"
As I began reading the Scriptures, I came to realize that man is not just another beast roaming the earth, relatives to the ape, as the public schools had led me to believe. Man is the supreme creation of God,
I asked the youth pastor at the nearby church many questions pertaining to the Scriptures, One of the big questions I had was still "Why?" This time I was not asking the question out of despair. It was a question of why, with all our evil ways, does God put up with us? God would have plenty of good reason to do away with the entire human race if He had the mind to. Rather, He chose to love us and redeem us. Why?
What the youth pastor's exact answer was I don't remember, but it was something to the effect that "God made us for His good pleasure." A simple answer, yet profound. Scripture says; "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness' ... " (Genesis 1:26). God chose to create man. He chooses to love and redeem us because He wants to. God does just what He wants; nobody tells God what to do!
When I realized that my value as a person was not tied up in measuring up to the standards of others, but rather in doing God's will for me, I felt like a new person. No more was I just a crippled human being, I was a child of God with a purpose. That excited me.
Unfortunately, society has lost that sense of divine purpose for man. Many people love only themselves and are living only for the pleasures they can get out of this world. Others are concerned about preserving certain parts of God's marvelous creation, but when it comes to saving man himself, the centerpiece of God's creation, they cringe.
Human life is now treated as merely a disposable commodity. If a woman conceives and she doesn't want a baby, she can just abort the "fetus" without troubling about doing away with a human life created by God. Physically handicapped babies, mentally retarded babies, babies that nobody wants -- if they are no more than the mechanical by-products of human sex, why should we allow for a lifetime of suffering when we can end life even as it begins?
Sure, I suffer. Would I still be human if I didn't? Some days it's hard for me to get up. Yes, it has turned out that I can walk, clothe myself and feed myself. I have my own car and can get around quite well. I have a college degree and a fancy portfolio of articles to show people. But still, to many kids I am just another "retarded" guy to laugh at. To many adults, I am somebody to talk down to or to ignore altogether. To potential employers, I am too much of a risk.
But all of us suffer at certain times in our life. ... It's just part of the human reality that we need to accept as part of God's plan for us, as a way of coming to know Him, and His own sufferings, better. ...
The real value of human life comes from God. In the words of St.Paul: "The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands ... since He gives to all life and breath and all things." (Acts 17:24-25).
Reprinted and slightly abridged from: All About Issues, March 1990, published by American Life League, P. O. Box 1350, Stafford, VA 22554.
Editor's Note: Back in the 1930s in Germany, when the extreme left wingers (the
National Socialists) took over the first persons they began killing were the "useless
eaters" (!!!!!!------******); i.e. the physically handicapped and the mentally retarded.