In reconciling his disability with his understanding of the nature of God, Quaker Greg Woods stopped questioning “what God did or did not do” when he started seeing himself as a part of the body of Christ.
Greg Woods: I remember crying when I was six or seven, asking my Mom, “Why did God do this to me? Why did God give me a speech impediment?” I really struggled with finding an answer to “why did God do this to me?”
My Spiritual Journey with Disability
My name is Greg Woods. I live in Greensboro, North Carolina, and I attend First Friends Meeting here in town.
I was born with a speech impediment and with issues with my motor control skills. I don’t necessarily know definitively what I have but my speech is affected and my eye-hand coordination is affected… much to my dismay. I always dreamed of being a baseball player. I grew up watching baseball all the time.
Quaker Gatherings as a Safe Haven
Early on, I felt that Quaker meeting was a safe haven, especially with our testimony of equality I felt that it was a safe space for me to be who I am. I didn’t always feel like that almost anywhere else in my life except for home too, but school was hard. And then when I got into high school I really loved Quaker youth gathering because I felt like I could really be who I am and not be defined by my disability.
Tackling My Relationship With God
Going through seminary, I really had to finally tackle my relationship with God. At the beginning, I was like, “Okay, maybe the easy answer to this is that God gave me a disability as a gift.” And then one of my mentors called that complete B.S. and was like, “That isn’t a gift. That is hard.” And I knew it was taking the easy way out. Am I really wrestling with God?
Reading Liberation Theology and Disability Theology
I started reading liberation theology, and out of that has come disability theology, and seeing that it’s not about what God did or did not do, but seeing myself in the body of Christ—and seeing that I am just an equal member in Christ’s body with all of my imperfections was really amazing to think about. And God is still using me and using my gifts despite my disability, and sometimes through my disability.
Recognizing the Value of Our Differences
I am still wrestling with it. I think sometimes within our equality testimony, we don’t want to talk about our differences. Everyone in the meeting is different in some way and that is good because our differences bring a different perspective of faith and how we interpret what God is calling us to do as a community. And through those lenses we create the beloved community, but before we can fully understand how those all work together, we need to understand the lenses that are in the room. If we aren’t ready to talk about the diversity of those that are gathered, we can’t fully understand the beloved community.
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.
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- In reconciling his disability with his understanding of the nature of God, Greg Woods stopped questioning “what God did or did not do” when he started seeing himself as a part of the body of Christ. Have you spent time wondering about God’s reasoning? How did you resolve that question?
- At one point, Greg explores whether his disability is a gift from God and comes to realize that is taking the easy way out. What does he mean? Can you think of an equivalent in your own life?