Moving from Passive Victim to Active Seeker

Curiosity has its own reason for existing. Albert Einstein.

I’ve been thinking a bit (an unusual and dangerous development) about the notion of overcoming adversity. As a paraplegic, I’m often asked questions like: How did you deal with it? How did you get past it? What helped you move forward?

When I recall twenty-one years of adjusting to life in a wheelchair, first impressions include frustration, anger, and isolation. Each challenge seems to elicit a sense of impossibility and hopelessness, and my initial reaction is capitulation. It’s as though I’m programmed to greet difficult circumstances with: I’ll never be able to …

I can’t sometimes lingers for moments, sometimes for years. But as I analyze how I surmounted insurmountable obstacles, a consistent theme emerges. After I tired of I can’t, I discovered an innate curiosity that prompted surprising creativity. And I think that creative urge is part of how I was created in God’s image. He’s inherently creative.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1: 1-3)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1: 1-5)

The first thing God tells us about Himself is that He created, and John echoes that creative element in his initial description of Jesus. I think that understanding this central aspect of God’s character explains how we can approach obstacles in a more positive, productive manner.

After my accident I wasted several years mired in depression and hopelessness, until a counselor encouraged me to begin a journal. As I expressed my feelings and thoughts, I encountered an unexpected sense of peace and curiosity. Rather than simply venting, I began probing and exploring, searching for patterns and insights. And gradually I moved from passive victim to active seeker. I discovered that I enjoyed writing, and an exciting new career path appeared.

I’ve published more than two dozen magazine articles and a book. I’ve cranked a hand cycle more than ten thousand miles. I’ve spoken to large and small audiences about overcoming adversity. I’ve successfully taught middle school mathematics.

Each of these was delayed and nearly prevented by I can’t. Each accomplishment proceeded when I stopped focusing on impossibility and allowed myself to creatively seek new approaches.

As a follower of Jesus, I want to do life God’s way. When I encounter a challenge, I want to tap the power and joy of creativity that’s part of my identity in Christ.

What’s an obstacle you face that might look different if you approached it with curiosity and creativity?