College has been much harder than I thought it would be. As a freshman, I hit a point where I was wondering why I was at University of Florida (UF). I yelled at God for putting Cerebral Palsy (CP) in my life. I couldn’t accept my own situation, so I felt like it was impossible for me to be loved and accepted by other people. My freshman year could be summed up as a year of loneliness, anger, and fear.
Then, through a friend, I was brought into a community that wrapped themselves around me and accepted me in a way that I had never experienced before. Navigators Collegiate at UF was this life-giving community.
The heart of this community was my Navigators Bible study group. One Monday night, as my friends asked me questions, I opened up to them about my struggles and the lies I internally fight. I’d hit rock bottom the week before and had gone home for the weekend. I was filled with lies and flawed identity: I told myself almost every day that because of my CP, I was a burden to people. I told myself that in social situations, because of my CP, I’m unlikeable and undeserving.
Suddenly, I found myself in a huddle of people who broke down every wall I had built. A group that didn’t care about my crutches but cared about me. People who recognized my struggle with CP and everything that comes with that and pointed me to Jesus, even when I was mad at Him. People who showed through their actions and words that they weren’t going to leave me. The girls in my Bible study became some of the best friends I’ve ever had because of our honest relationships.
After that night of honest sharing, Bethany, my Bible study leader, approached me to meet together and go through a book addressing and moving beyond the core lies we believe about ourselves. When she first suggested this, I was terrified because I knew that meeting together for Life-to-Life™ discipleship would mean brutal honesty and no hiding places. But I was also excited because I knew I needed to change my thinking about my identity.
While meeting with Bethany, I realized how much I let CP define me. Not only was my view of myself flawed, but this also impacted my view of God and other people. Through lots of tears, time in the Word, and the most honest conversations I’ve ever had, my Navigators friends have helped me see that I am so much more than my disability and that I am a person of worth. Honesty and vulnerability are scary, but they also build deep and meaningful relationships.
Today if you ask me how I feel about having CP, I’d tell you wholeheartedly that it is one of the biggest blessings in my life; it’s 100 percent what keeps me rooted in my faith and full of hope. Because the Lord’s plan is great, and my CP isn’t forever.
But I would also tell you that without the love and acceptance of the UF Navigators family I never would have come to that truth. They love and accept me, and help me love and accept myself. They point me to the truth and help me to be someone I never thought I could be. They help me follow Jesus with my whole self.
Praise God for the community that Jordan and many other students have found in Navigators Collegiate ministry. Pray for more opportunities for Navigators to engage students with the Good News of Jesus’ unconditional love.