When you are labelled with anything – an illness, disability, divorce, unemployment, infertility, burnout or whatever it may be, that label can seek to define your life.
I have always said, “I may have MND but MND does not have me.” I have fought the temptation to fall into an abyss of darkness, being defined by an illness many doctors call “the beast.”
Why have I not gone there and allowed the diagnosis to define me?
Firstly, I had to discover true value and self worth is never gained fully by the things we have, what we achieve, or positions we hold.
If the world can give it, the world can take it away.
I needed to know my self worth, my value as a human being, and my security were bigger than this world and its promises.
Galatians 2:20 says that Jesus loves me and gave Himself for me. That one verse gives me a lifetime of self worth and significance that the world cannot steal.
My value is in the reality that Jesus loves me, always, and that He gave His life for me and will continue to give me His life daily.
Like me, you may have heard of sports personalities living life full and seemingly happy until a broken bone or torn muscle robs them of many more years of professional sports and they are devastated.
Putting your faith in what you do can cause you to go to a dark place when things don’t go to plan. But knowing you are not what you do means you can be happy even when the world you live in isn’t harmonious.
Secondly, I learned the value of not focusing on what I am losing, but on what I could still do, as well as the things I could never lose and what I had to gain.
I was not going to give up. Life was and is worth fighting for. I found ways to continue in my calling. I changed my perspective from the temporary to the eternal.
This is a personal decision on what you will focus on.
I have found it quite challenging to hear of the limitations people want to put on others who have disabilities. There is sadly a perception that a person with disabilities, mental or physical, can be more hassle than they are worth. I don’t believe that to be true.
The decision to concentrate on what remains when so much is taken, can feel unnatural. It would be easier to give in and stay there. So while I continue to trust God’s presence at work in my life, I am also thankful for the newly learned skills to navigate a road I hadn’t travelled before.
Thirdly, I had to ensure the cause I was living for was not self-centred but others-focussed.
Your cause in life will give meaning to your life and will determine who you become.
As a young man, I was obsessed for many years trying to become the person who I thought I needed to be. This put a lot of my own focus on me: on what I needed, what I wanted, what I thought was of value to my process of “becoming.”
The more egocentric and self-seeking I was, the less I knew about my own purpose and meaning for being. However, I’m learning more and more that life is not about me and who I do or don’t become in this world. Life is about finding someone else I can help become all they can be.
When we are busy with a cause, along the way we discover meaning and who we are. Even more than that, it has the power to create a better me and a better you.
You will find your life when you live a life for others, for a cause that you have made your own.