Our guest blogger today is Haydon Spenceley. He is 28, a musician, a son, brother, fiancee, Church of England ordinand, wheelchair user and a strong writer about himself in the third person. Really though more than all those things he is a son of God who’s trying to learn to trust and not figure things out.
He writes for us on the abuse he has recently faced due to his use of a wheelchair.
The other day, as I was paying for my shopping in a well known supermarket, a lady pushed past and called me a “stupid spastic”. I think. I say I think that’s what happened because, although I heard the phrase being used, I had no idea that it was directed towards me, until later on. It seems that perhaps I got in her way. Perhaps I just wasn’t supposed to be breathing the same air as her. When I realised, a lot of things happened at once. I was shocked, surprised, disappointed, hurt, and even a little bit amused.
One of the first reactions which came to mind when I did realise, was to wonder how the lovely lady could possibly know me so well having never spoken to me before, or met me, to my knowledge. You see, I am indeed a stupid spastic. Stupidity is, of course, a relative and subjective term, but I have to say that I have, on many an occasion in the past, both recent and distant, behaved in such a way as to be deemed “stupid”. I’ve made a lot of bad decisions in my time. I expect you have too. Even further than this, I am, too, a spastic, given my condition, Spastic Diplegia (a type of Cerebral Palsy). I must admit that I am impressed as to the diagnostic skills of my verbal assailant, who must have analysed my physical abilities and posture very swiftly in order to render such an accurate diagnosis. Of course, I had no time to applaud her obvious medical skill, but I hope to meet her again, so that I can suggest an immediate change of career path.
After my initial defence mechanism of humour died down (see sample above) I quickly got to be quite sad. First of all, I don’t like getting in people’s way. I am self-conscious about such things. Second of all, I really don’t like being called a spastic, however accurate it might be. It seems to me that no-one ever means it in the medical sense and that, instead, it’s a kind of cheap points scoring, one-up-manship, where the point is to once again draw to my attention that I am not as good as other people, even though I know that I am.
You’ll be pleased to know this isn’t a bleating peace. I’m getting to the good bit. As the evening wore on, my mind turned to Jesus (aren’t I holy) and the story at the end of Mark chapter 3. Here, Jesus’ family have decided that he’s lost the plot and come to “take charge of him”. Upon doing so, they’re met with some of Jesus’s best parabolic wordplay. Who would seriously have known what He was talking about at the time? “Who are my mother and my brothers? he asked. Well actually, they were standing outside, as well as being well known in the area, so it should have been obvious. The point perhaps, was that they had failed to understand who Jesus was, and what He was about. Whilst not rejecting His family, He also wanted to make it clear that He was about His Father’s business, and wanted to surround Himself with those who would share in the work with Him.
Proverbs 12:18 talks about the responsibility that goes with speaking words over people and in to their lives.
“Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
Even though, in the story in Mark 3, no words of the family are recorded, it is possible to see that what was spoken towards Jesus that day by His family were indeed akin to sword thrusts. It was the same for me on Saturday, as I fairly quickly had to return once again, to the question of identity, and whether I see myself as more than something stuck to the bottom of the shoe of society. I know many people go through much, much worse on a far more regular, even many times daily basis than I do, but it was a jarring, difficult experience.
Over the last few days, I’ve been challenged in two regards:
1. Jesus went through much worse than anything I ever do as He was misunderstood, insulted, unloved and denigrated by those that He loved. He stands with people who are marginalised, even if they are only marginalised for a fleeting moment, and continually lavishes grace, love and peace upon us, that we might truly see that we are who we are because of who He is, and that it is who He is that is crucial.
2. He lavishes all this upon us so that we might be people who are wise, and have wise tongues, or wise ways of communicating. We are to be people of love, charity, kindness, mercy and forgiveness, whatever people do or say to us. This doesn’t mean we always have to be nice. The Church should get righteously angry in its stand for justice for all people that the kingdom might come. It does mean, though, that we need to think about the words we use, the labels and values that we give people. Most of all, we need to remember, at all times if possible, that we are beloved children of God, made to be loved by Him and to love others. So is everybody we meet. So, even as we season our words with salt, and agitate for justice as salt and light in the world, we should know others, and know ourselves, as children of God. That way no words or labels that others place on us can truly hurt us again, and nor should we be guilty of doing likewise.