Faith and Disability, My Story
by Rev. Justin Hancock
I have a complex relationship between my faith as a follower of Christ and my identity as a disabled person. It took me several years to understand that my disability was not some sort of awkward and ungainly addition to my life, and therefore something I had to set nervously next to my faith in Christ. Rather, my identity as a disabled person is a prism through which the light of my faith is given nuance, beauty, and fullness. I grew up in about the most typical way someone could who grew up in the 1990s. I was blessed to have two loving parents and two brothers that I got along reasonably well with, including a twin brother who was integral in making sure I had the most normal social life possible for someone who has Cerebral Palsy. My parents always ensured that we were in church almost every weekend, and they knew it was important for us, even before they knew how important it was for themselves. I had youth ministers who nurtured my gifts for teaching and leadership, and many of them are still friends and mentors to this day. Growing up in west Texas, I was most often presented with an image of disability as something to be overcome or left behind. I was never told that anything was wrong with me at any point, at least not by anybody I respected deeply, but up even up until the last seven to ten years I still wrestled with the image of my soul as a complete creation, and my body as some sort of lesser, disabled reflection. Beginning when I was in seminary, I read the works of Julian of Norwich, and I heard God say through her that all creation is God’s good creation. These words began to make me understand my disability as not a disability at all, but rather as a diverse embodiment that demonstrates God’s creative impulse and tendency toward diversity in creation. I sincerely hope that it is this vision of creation that is the inspiration for not only the Julian Way, but is the calling on my life as a whole.