Being Seen as Different

By:  Steven Cockerill, Student + 2015 Crossroads Summer Camp Staff

From the outside, it would be easy to look at my life and say it is a good one.

I grew up in a great home and I’ve gone to church my whole life. I’d never go just because my parents encouraged me to, I’ve always loved the community. My dad worked hard to become a doctor and to give my brothers and I a better life than he had. But that’s where the cookie-cutter “doctor’s kid” life stops.

See, I’m a twin, and my brother David and I were born almost eleven weeks early. My mom was in the hospital for 50 days before she gave birth to us. David and I were tiny, sick babies. He weighed in at 2lbs 14oz and I was 3lbs 3oz. I was in the NICU for a long time after birth and it was hard on my parents. They named us Burt and Ernie because they weren’t sure if we were going to make it.

But thankfully, we did. David has no lasting effects, but due to some complications following birth I developed minor Cerebral Palsy (CP). Having CP changed the direction of my life forever.

The doctors told my parents that I may not walk, especially not without the assistance of a cane. But I proved them wrong.

The CP mainly affects my left side. For my entire life I have walked up on my toes, and it has always been very obvious to others that something was ‘off.’ My walking gate is not normal, but I didn’t know that until I started to grow up. People would constantly ask me, “Hey, are you limping?” or, “What’s up with your leg?” I really began to take notice around middle school (don’t we all miss middle school?). Often times I was honest with those that had questions. I would shortly answer, “No, I’m not limping, I was just born with it.”

People walking toward me would look down at my feet instead of looking me in the eyes. I used to ask my mom why they wouldn’t look at me face to face, but she didn’t really know how to respond, and I didn’t know how to feel. I never wanted to open up and tell that people I had CP because I didn’t want to be seen as different.

I hate shots - here’s why. CP makes the muscles in my left leg very tight. To help loosen those muscles patients with CP are given Botox (no, not the kind you get in your face). I dreaded Botox days. I knew I’d get out of school early and get a treat afterward, but it was those hours in between that were some of the hardest of my life. I remember the waiting room. I remember the smell and the tacky underwater themed wallpaper. I remember seeing the other patients that were much worse off than me. I recall asking my mom, “Are they here to get shots too?” “Yes,” she would reply as she gripped my sweaty palm.

The waiting was the worst part. The agony of knowing what was in front of me, but knowing I had to wait until they called my name. I would think about Jesus and how he got anxious too. He got so anxious that he sweated blood, and even asked for a different way out. For He, like me, knew what was in front of him.

I would ask my mom, “Isn’t there another way, can’t we fix this without having to get all the shots?” “No, honey,” she would reply. She would hold my hand as the shots started. She would tell me stories from her childhood, often ones of my crazy uncle. It’s hard to describe what those few minutes were like. The doctor would inject up to 45 shots up and down my leg as I laid in silence.

I really hated having CP. I hated getting shots, and I hated being seen as different. I used to pray and pray for God to take it away. Paul prayed for God to take away his thorn in the flesh, and God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, and my power is made perfect in weakness.” After reading and understanding that passage, I knew my CP was not going to be taken away. I was finally okay with that.

I’ve always wanted the easy way out, to be comfortable and to fit in. I don’t know why CP had to happen to me. But God doesn’t tell me to trust in myself and what I think is best for me. He tells me to trust Him, because the story He can tell through me is much greater than one I could ever imagine. As my great friend and mentor Wayne Patterson said, “The only place to grow is outside of your comfort zone.”

As I read through the Bible, I’ve found it encouraging that God uses people who struggle too. Moses didn’t speak well, David killed a man and lied about it, and Peter deserted and denied Jesus. I’m broken too. Sometimes the world around me seems like its caving in, but God wants you and  me to have faith in him in the midst of it all. He’s saying, “I know the shots hurt, I was hurt too. But will you trust me anyway?"

About the author: Steven Cockerill is a junior at Liberty University Online with a focus in Christian Ministries. When he's not in school or working at the local coffee shop, he's interning with middle and high school students at his church, Trinity Church of Virginia Beach. Steven has a long-standing relationship with Clayton King Ministries as a 5x camper and 2x staffer at Crossroads Summer Camp. Some of his favorite hobbies include photography, coffee, kayaking, and ultimate frisbee. To see some of Steven's art, follow him on IG @Steven_Cockerill.