I became aware of my resistance when I lived in a Campus Ministry guest house after college. We offered hospitality to visiting lecturers, professors and job candidates.
One day, the director of Campus Ministry told me about a student who was taking night classes. On class nights, she slept on a cot in the Campus Ministry office because her classes ended too late to get a ride home. He wondered if she could come live in the guest house.
Her name was Margie, and I had seen her on campus. She was conspicuous because she had cerebral palsy and drove an electric scooter.
Without hesitation, I emphatically said, “NO.” He suggested I pray about it, and I told him I did not need to pray about it because I knew I could not live with someone who had a disability.
A week later, he asked if I had prayed about letting Margie come live with me. I reiterated my refusal. He again suggested I pray about it. “I don’t need to pray about it,” I said. “I know I can’t live with her.” I then added, “I know this is your house, but I can’t live with someone who has a disability. What if something happens? What if she falls?” I was desperate for him to understand my fear and anxiety.
But, he did not understand, and a few days later, Margie moved into the third floor of the house.
I was outraged. I called Campus Ministry and exploded. How dare he do this to me? How dare he do something I had not agreed to!
But, what was done was done.
That evening, I heard Margie descending the stairs. She slipped a sheet of paper under my door and then climbed back upstairs. The typed note began, “Thank you for letting me live here…” I felt myself shrink in shame. She did not know how vociferously I had resisted her moving in.
The note went on to explain that she needed my help to get ready for bed and asked me to come up around 10:30 p.m. I felt I had no choice, and so at 10:30, I climbed the stairs to the third floor.
Margie taught me how to remove her leg braces, and in her halting speech, she explained she would also sometimes need help dressing and undressing. The next morning she taught me to put her leg braces back on.
Every morning, I helped her get ready for the day, and every night I helped her get ready for bed.
That first month, I barely slept. Her room was above mine, and I remained vigilant for sounds of her falling. But, as time passed, I got used to the clunking sounds of her braces. I became accustomed to her speech patterns and soon found myself enjoying the time we spent together in our daily rituals.
Living with Margie changed my life; she put me on a path of living and working with people with disabilities. Even more fundamentally, though, living with Margie helped me be more aware of my resistance—and taught me to be more open to whatever gifts God is offering me.