Have you ever had that person in your life who only talked to you when they wanted to complain about something? Or the person who only talks to you when they need you to do something for them? We’ve all met those kind of people. Healthy relationships are reciprocal, meaning the relationship cannot be sustained in a healthy way if one person’s needs always trump the others. I like the imagery of a see-saw here. A see-saw with two people on it takes effort from both people in order for it to function like it was designed. If one person stops giving effort then the other person is left stranded while being suspended in the air. Relationships are the same way. If one person is always wanting to take from the relationship more than they give then it most likely will lead to dysfunction and an unhealthy relationship.
But theres also another type of give and take I have encountered, and that’s perceived give and take. Here’s an example. I, being a disabled person, often have labels put on me before anyone ever says one word to me. People see my inability to walk and one of the first things that come to their mind is the ways they need to help me or, to put it another way, the things I would take from them if an attempt to be friends was made between them and myself. It’s common in relationships. We want to know what the costs of such a relationship will be in order to figure out if the relationship is worth our time or not. But the problem with that is the things we perceive as what the other person will take are sometimes things the other person won’t need from you. Our needs change over time. We go through seasons of life where we have a lot to give and seasons where we need to take a lot from others. The key is to keep the two seasons in balance. This is especially true for the person with a disability. Just because you are limited in what you can do does not mean you need to take more than you give. You have talents. You have unique things you can offer others. Find what those things are and do them. You will make a huge impact for someone I promise.
Now, let’s apply all that to ministry and disability. In my experience, as well as the experiences of several other people with disabilities I have talked to, churches generally only see the ways they (the church) should minister to people with disabilities. While I do applaud the effort churches make to help people with disabilities, that should only be half of the equation. Ministry between able bodied and people with disabilities can be an equal exchange of give and take if both sides will allow it. Which side of the see-saw are you sitting on? Think about that and how it affects your relationships.