Pride Was My Worst Handicap
IT IS not easy to be handicapped and happy. Most persons burdened by physical impediments get depressed, at least from time to time. On such occasions they often ask themselves: “Why me?”
I was no exception. I was born with a severe physical impediment that prevents me from walking, standing up, or even using my hands. This circumstance understandably has had a marked effect on my personality. I still remember the jealousy and frustration I felt as a child when I watched other children running and jumping.
Sometimes I visited a nearby church to beg God’s help. I would earnestly repeat 20 or 30 times the prayer “Padre Nuestro” (“Our Father”) and a similar number of “Ave Marias” (“Hail Marys”), interspersing among these entreaties the heartfelt plea, “Please Lord, cure me!” I promised God so much if only he would heal me.
The Seeds of Pride
I was born in Granada, a beautiful city in southern Spain at the foot of the towering Sierra Nevada Mountains. As a young child, having a disability motivated me to develop other skills, and by the time I was seven, I was more advanced scholastically than others of my age. At that time I mixed quite normally with other children, playing with them and somehow moving around dexterously while seated on my small chair. I even learned to draw and write left-footed by gripping a pencil between my toes.
On one occasion the local newspaper published an article about me, together with photographs showing me writing with my foot. This publicity resulted in my receiving numerous awards and trips, plus the admiration of others. All of this served to foster in me a vain and conceited spirit. Pride was taking over.
Effects of Enforced Isolation
Before long I had to stop attending school. I was growing, and it became impossible for my mother to take me back and forth from our second-floor apartment. Thus, from the age of 13, I continued my education by means of a correspondence course. I found it easy to study and progressed well, but the enforced isolation affected me. Although perhaps outwardly I appeared cheerful and outgoing, I started meditating about my physical condition and its implications for the future.
In 1971, I won a scholarship to study for one year in a rehabilitation center run by Catholic nuns in Madrid. It was there that I learned to typewrite using a pen in my mouth, which has proved very useful. Of course, religion was an obligatory part of our weekly schedule. Every Sunday at 7:00 a.m. we assembled to attend Mass. Although the ritual seemed unnecessary to me, I attended faithfully, for I wanted to please the nuns who looked after me so well.
After a year in Madrid, I returned to Granada. Progressively I became more introverted, imprisoned as I was within the four walls of my home. For the most part, I spent my time reading novels and other books that I could get hold of. I also followed the trend of the time: I grew a beard and let my hair grow long. But it was not a happy period of my life.
Asking for a Sign
Often I was morose because of loneliness and a feeling of helplessness. I prayed to God, asking him for some sign that would demonstrate his existence and his concern for me.
Sure enough, God did provide a sign—but not the way I expected. It was toward the end of 1973. One of Jehovah’s Witnesses called at our door, and as my mother was out shopping, I opened the door and listened to what he had to say. At the end of the conversation, he offered me the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life. I readily accepted it, for at that time I was willing to read anything. I read the entire publication that same afternoon. Its contents really surprised me, especially in regard to two Scriptural prohibitions: the use of images in worship and the misuse of blood.—Exodus 20:4, 5; Acts 15:28, 29.
The Witness returned a week later, and while he showed me what the Bible taught, I showed him how I could light a cigarette using only my feet! He offered me a free study of the Bible for six months. I immediately accepted without realizing that this was really the sign that I had been asking for.
I quickly assimilated a knowledge of the Bible. However, it was quite another thing to make the necessary changes in my life in order to be a real disciple of Christ. My biggest problem was my personality.
“Knowledge Puffs Up”
A brief experience will illustrate my mentality. After I had studied the Bible for six months, a traveling minister of Jehovah’s Witnesses visited me and asked me how I was progressing. “I’m doing great. I’ve already memorized 500 Bible texts,” I replied with a smug smile of satisfaction. “Really, 500 Bible texts?” he repeated somewhat incredulously. “Yes, 500! Look, I have them all written down here in this notebook,” I boasted.
Intrigued, he tried me out with Proverbs 18:1. Immediately I repeated the text word for word: “One isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing; against all practical wisdom he will break forth.” He then asked me: “Are you applying this text? Do you meet regularly with your Christian brothers and sisters?” “Well, yes, I do,” I said, for brothers in the congregation had kindly made practical arrangements so that I could attend the meetings.
After another couple of questions my visitor realized that I really had memorized all those texts. At the same time, he discerned that I was paying more attention to the acquisition of Bible knowledge than to the application of such knowledge in my life. He reminded me of the text at 1 Corinthians 8:1, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” He helped me to see the need to change my personality.
In time I stopped smoking, improved my appearance, and eliminated reading material that was not upbuilding. Eighteen months after first being witnessed to, I got baptized in June 1975.
Overcoming My Pride
Nevertheless, I still had not conquered my pride. My circumstances permitted me to study three or four hours every day, and I soon accumulated a vast store of Scriptural knowledge, which I was eager to demonstrate. Witnesses in the congregation to which I belong started to come to me with their Bible questions and even personal problems. I was only too happy to use my ability to help others, but at times this too caused my vanity to be flattered.
In time my conceit became less evident. Every time I realized that I was displaying a proud spirit, I would pray to Jehovah, asking him to help me. I would especially ask for help in having the right motive: that of helping others with my knowledge rather than glorifying myself.
A Source of Real Happiness
Witnessing to everyone with whom I came in contact became a source of real happiness. Sharing with others what I had learned not only produced an inner satisfaction but forced me out of the shell into which I had retreated and enabled me to mix with others and to be of help to some of them. I was especially delighted to help an elderly man who had problems similar to mine.
I first met him when I was witnessing to a couple of men on the street. During our conversation I couldn’t help but notice a man, walking with the aid of crutches, who passed from time to time. He stopped for a few moments each time he passed, as if he wanted to listen to what we were saying. Finally, he stopped in front of me and asked: “Is it true, all this about a global Flood?” I replied in the affirmative and went on to explain its meaning for us today. In time I was able to study the Bible with him.
Despite his age and his physical problems, he made progress and applied the Bible in his life. He was baptized at the age of 80. His wife, who at first ridiculed him, was baptized at the age of 85.
Being able to aid those who have impediments or who need help in other ways makes it easier for me to forget about my difficulties. In all, I have been able to help ten different people to get to know the truth of God’s Word. This has been a real source of encouragement to me.
My Pride Has Taken a Fall
Most important, I have discovered that a physical disability does not preclude the finding of happiness in life. Getting to know the Creator has helped me to be realistic and face up to my impediments, including my pride. I try to live a normal life as far as possible. I can now provide for myself economically, which gives me great satisfaction. I enjoy serving as an elder in the local congregation, and I try to have an active share in preaching the good news of the Kingdom. (Mark 13:10) Without a doubt, being able to help others is what furnishes me my greatest happiness. At the same time, I have learned to seek Jehovah’s glory, not my own.—Luke 17:10.—As told by José Martín Pérez.
[Picture on page 15]
Preaching on the street with the help of another Witness