Running from how God made me
I wanted to be great
by Robert Ward with Mary May Larmoyeux
I didn't like to look at myself in a mirror when I was a boy because I didn't like who I saw. I was bitter. I not only had learning disabilities, but also a speech impediment. When I got nervous, I talked like I had marbles in my mouth and the kids made fun of me.
It's no surprise that I only had a few friends back then. Today I understand that the kids couldn't accept me because I didn't even like myself. But instead of running away from God, like Jonah in the Bible, I ran from who I was and from how God had made me.
I always wanted to do something great in my life, and I became angry at God when I looked around at all of the people who were more intelligent than me … who could do so much more. I kept questioning God: "Why did you make me like this? Why can't I be like others?"
His answer: Silence.
Striving for self-improvement
Somehow I believed that I could change things. So, I got involved in self-improvement courses. I went to speech therapy hoping that my speech would be perfect so people could understand me better. The speech therapist said that they could help, but that I would never be able to speak perfectly. I thought, "There has got to be hope somewhere."
People would say, "You just need to be able to be happy with what you can do." And I would say, "I wish that I could do as well as you can."
I wanted to be really good at just one thing. In high school, I had been told that the only jobs that I would be able to do would be in factories as an assembler. I knew that I could do better than that - but didn't know how.
I tried to get a degree in communications, but I wasn't able to comprehend the classes. After repeating a few courses three times, I called it quits and stopped going to college. But I wouldn't give up, no matter what people told me. I listened to some motivational speakers like Zig Ziglar, and they mentioned setting goals.
Learning data entry skills
In 1998 I wanted to see if I could do something besides factory work, so I contacted the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission (RSC). I had heard that they could help those with disabilities get jobs or training for careers. After being tested by RSC, I began data entry training at Sage Skill Training (now Coleman Employment Services) in Akron, Ohio.
When I was in high school, I took a typing course and passed it doing only 16 words per minute. Despite my low typing rate, God gave me confidence that I could learn how to do data entry. I refused to believe the lies of the enemy that said, "A person with disabilities is not capable of becoming great." Instead, I turned to Jesus Who said in Luke 18:27, "What is impossible with men is possible with God."
I successfully completed my training in 1999, and I was hired by Sage Computer Services as a data entry technician. Things were looking much brighter for my future.
The Purpose Driven Life
A few years ago my church went through Rick Warren's book, The Purpose-Driven Life, and God spoke to me through Isaiah 45:9. It says:
"Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, 'What are you making?' Does your work say, 'He has no hands?'"
I realized that when I didn't accept how God had made me, then I was rejecting His sovereignty in my life. And I understood that most of my life had been spent doing just that. I had tried so hard to run away from who I am because I just didn't want to accept it. But God kept showing me things about Himself and the special way that He had created me.
I kept saying, "Why do You keep bringing me to these Scriptures? I know you are trying to say something to me. But what's going on in the midst of this?"
And God seemed to say, "Robert, I made you for a purpose. You don't always see the purpose that I made you. Just trust me. Don't fight against Me, and you'll see what I'm doing in your life."
Encouraging data entry students
Today, I'm doing data entry work at Coleman Data Solutions (formerly Sage Computer Services) where training programs are provided for people who have learning disabilities. I had the privilege of speaking to some of the data entry students there, and I think that they identified with me - that I gave them courage.
Having been a data entry student myself, I told the students about the skills they will need in the workplace and reminded them that they will improve at their own pace. Because most of them will work with others who are better and faster keyers than they are, I encouraged them not to become intimidated by this.
I tried to help them understand that they are in training to learn the skills they need to get hired-not to be the best keyer … and that doing work with an attitude of excellence and pride is what counts. And I let them know that they could ask me for help.
I used an "I can relate to you" approach when I spoke to the students. It went like this: "I sat where you sit now. I have taken some training that you are now taking. I completed the training that you are taking now. I am now doing data entry work."
I hope that they think, "If Robert can do it, so can I."
Learning to be a speaker
I wanted to work on my speaking skills, and 4 years ago God led me to Toastmasters through CLASServices Inc. He started bringing people across my path.
Last year God opened up a ministry for me in my church as a guest speaker for a Sunday school class of people with disabilities. I can relate to those with disabilities because I know their challenges, their fears, and what they go through every day. I understand their struggles with self-esteem and self-acceptance because I've gone through those very things myself.
I really like Psalm 139, and have rephrased it for those with disabilities. My paraphrase is called "Our Heavenly Father's Heart to Those Who Are Made Imperfect":
O Lord thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou know my down sitting and my uprising, Thou understands my thoughts afar off.
Father God sees how each child of His is made either imperfect or perfect and the days that each one will live here on earth are in His book of remembrance.
From birth to death, He writes down each struggle and challenge in his or her life.
The struggles of one with a speech impairment … when others have a hard time grasping his words … to someone who is blind and struggles with getting a seeing eye dog or a cane … to whatever the disabilities are - nothing escapes His notice.
When others take for granted what they have, and don't recognize those who are not as they are, Our Heavenly Father sees. Yes, He sees what man doesn't see - which are the days that are fashioned for the each person.
The days that are fashioned for me to live.
Looking in a mirror today
God has used me to not only encourage the special students at Coleman Data Solutions, but also those in the Sunday school class at church. These students listen to me-not because I speak perfectly, but because we really connect with shared experiences.
Psalm 149:2 says, "Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King." I am so grateful for all that God has done for me. He keeps opening doors for me. Learning to do my best and be my best at what I do has brought me pride and contentment. I now know that I can only do what I am able to do, and I don't compare myself to others.
I accept myself when I look in a mirror today, even though I may not like all that I see. I finally understand that God made me for a purpose and that when I accomplish His purpose for me, then I accomplish something great.
© 2007 by Robert Ward and Mary May Larmoyeux. All rights reserved.
Robert Ward is a data entry technician and speaker at Sage Skill Training, a branch of Sage Computer Services in Akron, Ohio. He is a member of Toastmasters, and a positive disability speaker and writer.
Mary May Larmoyeux is a graduate of Louisiana State University, a CLASServices speaker, and a writer for FamilyLife (a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ). She is the author of Help for Busy Moms and the co-author of There's No Place Like Home and FamilyLife's Resurrection Eggs® Activity Book.
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