by Stephen Taylor
Most of my life has been lived outside of a faith community because I have spent most of my life trying to “fit” in. For years, I understood God to be a divine being who wanted nothing to do with me. I was the odd one, the redhead step child who was ignored, unacknowledged, or even worse, invisible to others. At the age of 12, I had an interaction with a member of the clergy that was devastating to me. This person informed me that I was “not worthy of the kingdom of God.” Apparently, my uniqueness excluded me from being part of a faith community. Because of this interaction, I was determined to do all that I could to “hide” from God by doing anything that would displease God.
I am a person with a disability—a severe to profound hearing loss, which means I must wear hearing aids to be able to hear others. My parents recognized that something was wrong when I was two years old. After consulting multiple doctors, my parents made two decisions that would have a profound impact on my life: enrolling me in the Atlanta Speech School and granting Ellen Rhoades permission to be my mentor as I navigated my elementary years as a child with a hearing impairment. Later, I was enrolled in mainstream schools. Often, I was the only person with a disability in my class, but I did not feel different—until my interaction with the clergy member.
After spending nearly three decades running from God, my life was a train wreck. This led me to contemplate committing suicide. At that moment, I allowed myself to hear the voice of God, and I realized I had been listening to the wrong voice. For years, all I wanted to do was be part of a community, any community, but in reality, I was invisible to most. A faith community should have been the one place I felt welcomed and included, but it was the one place that rejected me.
Today, I recognize my disability as a blessing. I have the ability to mute people out at my convenience! In reality, I am a member of the most marginalized community in the world, and it is a community that desires access to the world, in particular, to faith communities. One day, the world will see people as human beings with gifts to share, rather than judge people based on their abilities.
Blessings to all,