Contracting a debilitating disease was one of the best things that happened to me.
Hard, frustrating, agonizing and challenging in every way, yes. My family was stretched, my kids had fill-in caregivers when I could not function, and my world became increasingly limited. I had to give up most of my part-time jobs because of my declining physical abilities.
One role, however, was flexible to my debilitating health: my work with CLC (Christian Learning Center) Network. CLC Network equips congregations and schools to glorify God through purposeful, innovative inclusion of persons with varied abilities. My abilities certainly varied, for years. But the ways God has used Lyme disease in my life is something I would not give up for any price. I blog about it and am often asked to share my story. Recently, Voyage Pictures collaborated with CLC Network to create “One Body”— a short video highlighting my story. More than this, though, the video helps to tell God’s greater story of which I have gotten a glimpse in-the-flesh.
I have found that many people write about or share their stories as a part of their healing process. It can also help people get beyond their situation in the hopes that their story will help someone else. I share these hopes, but I also found with Lyme in particular that sharing accurate, personal and helpful information is necessary because it is often overlooked. The disease is spreading at epidemic proportions, largely unbeknownst to the public. Even those who are infected with it may not be aware that this is what they are experiencing!
As I began participating in groups with other “Lymees,” I found another trend in the sharing of stories – a crusade to be heard. Lyme became their “cause.” And that’s when I realized I already have a cause, one which this disease simply brought into sharper focus for me: proclaiming God’s Kingdom on earth. The Church includes people of all levels of ability, health and faith. We are One Body – the Body of Christ.
Romans 12:5-6 tells us,
“in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”
And that is the epiphany of it all: that each member of Christ’s Body has gifts. We all must fulfill God’s call to praise Him at any stage in life, in any state or level of ability. My colleagues at CLC Network know this fully and are passionate about equipping communities to be places of belonging, where everybody brings gifts according to the grace given them, to worship in community.
I share my story, then, not because I need to be heard, but because people still haven’t noticed how hard it is for some bodies to be in a church building, or participate in corporate worship services or activities. Or they have noticed, but don’t know what to do about it. Or they simply need further encouragement and hope for the journey. “One Body” is for everybody.
Tory White, church services coordinator at CLC Network, has been involved in education and ministry for over twenty years. Tory has written curriculum for her church’s children’s ministry, as well as for Friendship Ministries’ adult inclusive Bible study, TOGETHER. She has edited several books, including CLC Network’s latest publication, Accessible Gospel, Inclusive Worship. Tory brings her experience in homeschooling, a degree in education, a decade of supporting inclusion at Zeeland Christian School, and victory over a debilitating chronic illness to serve families and churches in their efforts to include individuals of all abilities with excellence.
“Being a part of the CLC Network Church Division is like being enveloped by God’s grace itself. I was welcomed into it, having worked at Zeeland Christian School for long enough to fall in love with inclusion (and the kids!), and having the pleasure of being colleagues with Barb Newman in ministry for several years aside from that. How could I not want to share God’s blessing with other churches and communities? I do, and so I love the work of CLC Network’s Church Division!”