Growing up, I never really believed the hocus pocus of ignorance even when hands were laid on me in the name of God, and when I didn’t get up to walk, I was told I did not have enough faith to be healed. I was blamed for not being able to erase my “abnormalities”. I have always known the irreversibibility of my disability and the permanence of my scars although I was encouraged to believe in “the cure” as if fixing me was the only thing that could validate my humanity.
From the minute I got polio, my mother blamed herself. She spent years in search of a cure and took me from doctor to doctor and healer to healer, all who subjected me to their own doctrine of healing–whether it was being poked with needles, undergoing corrective orthopedic surgeries or going to sleep with the image of some saint under my pillow while imploring for the miracle of walking.
My relationship with God was formed by this experience. God became a power figure to whom I was unworthy of the miracles of healing. I had witnessed time after time people abandoning their wheelchairs and other mobility aids as they walked to the stage trembling with gratitude for being healed. God had taken their imperfections away. THEY were worthy of miracles. Not me. Religious mixed messages were a constant part of my early life. On the one hand, God was love, but on the other, God was a punishing God, and my disability was the punishment for some sin committed by my ancestors.
It took me years to unlearn all the bad training I had been exposed to as a child. If there is something I have learned about God is that our spirituality, like our bodies, belongs to us only. I have also come to understand fundamental differences between religion and spirituality. Religion is about forcing a version of God upon others. Spirituality is about realizing that God is Love; Love is God and we simply are a reflection of Love. Religion labels and segregates. Spirituality heals the spirit and liberates the soul.
What my mother did not realize all those years she spent looking for miracles was that my body did not need healing, but the negative attitudes toward it did. It was the awakening of this realization what empowered me to rebel and declare ownership of my relationship with my body and my relationship with God. I became convinced that my body was made exactly the way it was meant to be. I believe this to be true for all of us with, and without, disabilities. I believe we were created to the image of the Divine, and therefore, no matter what we look like our bodies and our disabilities are never a mistake, a sin, a curse or a source of shame. Our bodies are sacred, and beautiful, and worthy of love. After all…God knows what She’s doing.