You know those moments where it’s one thing after another, & it’s often the stupidest, most easily avoidable things? That’s me lately. In fact, I keep visualizing that fairground stall with the things that pop up out the hole & you must try to shoot them before they sink back into the hole again. Except, this is real life. “Shooting it” is messy, the prize isn’t an adult size stuffy teddy bear, & most likely you find yourself saying: “I think I’m done, get me off this ride now.”
On Tuesday I did the stupidest thing. I put my glasses down, which slipped without me realizing from where I had put them &… I sat on them. My dad asked me if they broke because of the size of my bum, I told him no, it was because I have buns of steel. I wish my butt was made from steel, but let’s not go there.
You see, I didn’t just break my glasses. I broke my life line. I rarely talk about my hearing, but Tuesday I was confronted with quite a serious issue. I can’t hear, & now I can’t see. My sight isn’t the best, the shocked faces of those who try my glasses on tell me that. You know, just in case eyeballing my laptop keyboard didn’t give me that message. But even still, because of my hearing loss my sight has become my dominant sense. Go figure, our bodies are crazy cool. My level of dependency on my sight is insane… & without it, I don’t just struggle to see, I can’t hear.
I read an amazing quote recently from a lipreading person & I thought it was so perfect:
“There is a misconception that lipreading is just like reading a book. You look at the mouth & read. But no, it’s far, far more complicated than that. I have to queue up words in my mind, invent possibilities that fit the facial expression, body language, approximate number of syllables etc etc. Sometimes there are a couple of possibilities, & I hold both in my mind simultaneously, waiting for it to become clear. While I’m doing this, collecting possibilities & sifting through them all, I need to keep the conversation going. So I smile, nod, & say “mmm” & “yep…” as appropriate. If I don’t do that, the speaker stops, & we haven’t gotten anywhere. Sometimes though I get right to the end, & I realize that none of the possibilities work. The whole thing just doesn’t make sense. & then I have to say, “Sorry, can you go right back to the start?” & you might wonder, well why were you nodding & smiling & saying yes all along when I didn’t understand. But that’s because it’s how lipreading works. It’s not a lie. It’s the only practical way to do it. It can take a whole minute or two after the speaker finished, that it suddenly comes to me what was said. As you can imagine, this is incredibly hard work. I have an hour of lipreading in me a day, tops. After that, fatigue sets in. And if I go too far, pushing myself for maybe 3 hours, I am WIPED afterwards, & my head pounds. It can literally take me days to recover. This is way I prefer other methods of conversation….”
I WISH I wrote this. This quote is 1000000% accurate. My mum can tell you horror stories of how frustrated I would be after school each day. As an adult, the many “side effects” still exist; like how more days than not I struggle with headaches & feel overly stimulated. But every single day I fight my hearing loss & refuse to bow down to this disability. My ability to cope is a rock. But it’s a rock that’s balancing on a very fragile system of “everything must go correctly in the universe.” Take away my glasses, my rock suddenly free falls.
Ironically yesterday God talked to me a lot about His Provision. How He is strong like denim & tenderly compassionate like lace; & how He goes ahead of us to make a path possible or to soften a heart. So, when the butt snapping glasses incident happened I had a deep sense of peace. It didn’t take away the freak out & the tears but the first thing I did was point out to God who He just said He was, & that I really needed Him to show up because I was massively screwed.
What followed next was: (1) I found an old pair of glasses that are old, awful on the prescription & give me a monster headache but it’s better than nothing; (2) I went to life group later that evening & they immediately spoke encouragement over me when I told them what happened; (3) their offer to help practically was also immediate; (4) a friend from the life group arranged for me to see an optician yesterday; (5) the optician ever so graciously gave me a discounted rate for the test eye & offered to get me free trial contacts to tie me over until I get back to the UK; (6)…
You see 1-5 can be examples of the Almighty Strong Denim God. God the go getter, fighting for us, lining everything up: friends, support, practical help… But point 6 was my highlight.
My friend who organized the appointment with the optician wanted to pay the bill. He’s the kind of guy who is so quick to extravagantly bless people where finances are involved, & normally he won’t take no for an answer. This time around however, when I said no to his offer, he accepted it. It was only later as I reflected that I realized something. I don’t know why he accepted it. Was he strapped for cash? Or did he have discernment & understand the importance of letting me pay? Either way, his actions of lining up an appointment for me & allowing me to pay for myself gave me an incredible sense control in a horrible situation. Not control like pride, but control in the way of a real sense of dignity & empowerment.
You see, as humans we are all trying to reach for the same key things right? Ability being central. Ability to work, be in community, live life to the fullest… Being “disabled” is “simply” a matter of trying to reach for the same things as an able person but having to make significant adaptations to get there. We are a strong group of people; & now that I think about it, that makes us quite powerful I guess. We fight for our quality of life every single second of every single day. Most of us do it “behind the scenes”, taking ownership of our disability & the fight for quality privately on our own shoulders. We so often “just get on with it.”. We fight simply, & for no other reason than because we have a deep desire inbuilt into our human DNA, just like an able person, for connection & intimacy.
Every day we face separation, isolation & exclusion in every area of our lives. And maybe that’s why it’s so powerful when someone comes along side us individually & communicates: I see you. Remember what I once quoted? “Intimacy: Into Me You See.” So yes, whilst we can fight & do what we need to do, we also understand how precious being connected is. I don’t know if I can describe what it does to our souls. There is LIFE. You bring someone life, real tangible life when you communicate they are seen & not alone. It’s easy to do the obvious surface level seeing but the deeper seeing is a whole different ball game. It can be a friend reminding another friend to not cover their mouth with their hand when they speak to me, or it can be the honor of a wish to let me pay the bill.
This is the tender compassion of God. Lace. I, the LORD your GOD will provide for ALL your needs. Both Denim & Lace. He meets us in the practical, & He meets us in the heart stuff. He doesn’t just care, He sees. Me, Akila Knight, a speck on planet earth, who is currently trying to ass crunch her way through life is Seen.
It’s been very interesting to watch my life group lately. The deeper into community we get, the more each of us are open and vulnerable with each other. It seems to me that we are all figuring out this thing called “identity”.
A community of people doing rugby matches, movies, meals, drinks, hikes, holidays, dancing and so much more together has been the catalysis for leading each of us individually to a safe place of togetherness, realness and authenticity. I don’t know why or how it happened. I have an idea but I think God is doing something far more special than what I can see or understand at my human surface level.
“I’m not sure someone will like what they see if they got to really know me.” “I’m not sure there is someone out there for me.” “I don’t know how to react if someone says they like me.” These are just some of the many things I or others have said in the past couple weeks. These ponderings are and grappling is just the tip of the deeper questions, the deeper needs, the deeper exploring that is happening in our hearts.
I personally have been saying a lot that I need to figure out who God is and who I am in God before I can embrace my true identity. That being said I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed lately with the enormity of my own deeper questions and my own deeper exploring. But the more I think about it… the more I wonder if it comes down to one ultimate question: “Do I have value?” Every question I have about my identity and my identity in God can, I think, be rooted back to this very question. Packaged differently, but still the same question: “Am I of value?” “Do I have value?” “What value do I bring?”
I’ve always said “I just want to do life with others and empower them to be greater versions of who they already are.” This can be done in so many ways but it seems the way I’m wired is for the framework of vulnerability. I love asking questions that make people think. I love understanding how and why someone behaves the way they do. But it can feel incredibly exposing. I do realise that. I also think a lot of people run from vulnerability because feeling like parts of them are being exposed is freaking scary. There’s little control once things are exposed about how someone sees you, or what they think about you. We don’t want anything to rock our fragile sense of value.
So why be vulnerable? Why let parts of your inner being be exposed? I guess it all comes down to growth. Growing in your true identity, growing in truth, growing in freedom, growing in love, growing in grace, growing in understanding value… “Above all love God and love others…” You can only truly love others if you understand what love is. In all its glory. In this case starting with, and maybe even ending with, Love is vulnerability.
BUT, I can’t encourage others to be vulnerable if I don’t do vulnerability myself. In fact, asking someone to be vulnerable always means the person asking needs to be vulnerable first.
Last weekend I nearly didn’t go to church. I wanted to turn my phone off, hide in my bed for the day and not see anyone. I felt tired of being exposed. I felt tired of being vulnerable. I felt tired of showing parts of myself I’d rather hide. I felt tired of bringing to light the fears and lies in my life. I felt tired of the vulnerability hangovers where I’m left thinking “Oh God, what do people think of me, how could anyone want to choose to hang out with me after this.”
I wonder if it looks like it comes easily to me because I do speak about my own areas of vulnerability a lot; and if that’s true that people view it like that, then I wonder if sometimes people forget that for me, just like it is for them, it’s a choice. I only make this choice because at age the age of 14 years old God told me, “Akila I made you for people.” My belief in my calling, in breaking power and in people’s greater identity outweighs my fear of judgement and condemnation; but it really truly comes at the personal price of deep vulnerability and exposure for Satan to attack my value and identity.
As Roosevelt wrote in his speech, “… The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…” Yes I want to hide. Yes I want to stop revealing my heart and mind to others… But to do that means I’m not being faithful to how I am created, to how God wants to use me, and actually it just gives Satan territory in the arena.
The really beautiful thing is, vulnerability isn’t a one man show. Being vulnerable calls others out to be vulnerable. Every time someone choses to be vulnerable to me or in my presence, it paves a way for me to be vulnerable. If Love is vulnerability, and God calls us to Love one another, then I wonder if the act of vulnerability is a community thing. Something that all of us need to be faithful to.
If I’m right on that, then vulnerability needs trust in its community environmental factors. I can only be vulnerable with others because I know I can trust them. Trust is intimate and as one of our pastor’s said, “Intimacy is defined as – Into Me You See.”
We all know treasures are found in dark places so why do we run from vulnerability? Why do we think vulnerability is going to lead to something negative? Why do we associate vulnerability with destroying value? Why don’t we really understand that, if we want and choose, our vulnerability leads to intimacy; which develops trust and growth, and subsequently actually leads to the deep treasures of our true value.
The truth is our value is there, our choice is being willing to find it. Don’t run. Don’t hide. Get into the arena, and together with your community, take back the ground Satan is claiming on your identity and value.