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The Most Memorable Conference Message I've Heard

kristaI have been to a lot of conferences—probably more than I can count—which means that I have heard a lot of conference talks. Some good, some not as good; some long, some short. Many of the speakers are relatively famous in our circles—the sort of people whose books we buy and whose sermons we download and whose interviews we listen to and whose blog posts we read. I have benefited in some way from each of these talks, but I have to confess that by now I have forgotten most of them. And yet one in particular keeps sticking around and rattling in my heart and brain. It was given last year by 25-year-old Krista Horning. Lea and I used to go to the same church as Krista and her family. They started attending Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis the same year we did, in 1998. She was 11 years old; we were 22 years old and in our first year of marriage.

Krista almost died moments after she was born. She has Aspert Syndrome—a rare genetic disorder that causes abnormal growth in her skull, hands, and feet. Her challenges are many. She has no elbows, which means she can’t do one of the things she would love most: hold a little baby in her arms. She can’t shower on her own. It is difficult for her to make quick decisions. She has courageously endured over 60 surgeries—beginning when she was four months old and a surgeon cut open her head to rearrange her skull. As you can imagine, it is difficult to be out in public when people point or stare or ask, “What’s wrong with your face?”

But Krista is a trophy of God’s grace. She reflects the image of her Heavenly Father—and she reflects it more fully than the Beautiful People of the World. First Peter 3:4 exhorts women not to be concerned about external beauty but to “let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.” Krista has cultivated biblical beauty.

In this talk, Krista began by explaining that some people ask her how she lives with disability:

For me, disability is the deep hurt and shame that says I’m not accepted. Disability says ugly things to me. It tells me I'm alone. I'm different. I’m worthless. I’m weak. It tells me my life is hopeless. Disability lies to me and sometimes it’s easy to listen and believe.

Whereas disability says ugly things, Krista discovered that God always tells the truth, and his word says beautiful things. Then, for the next 10 minutes or so, she simply recited 13 things that God tells her in his word. After each brief summary statement, she recited the entire Scripture verse or passage from memory:

1. God tells me he is in control of everything, even my disability (Exodus 4:11).
2. God tells me I’m not alone (Isaiah 43:1–3).
3. God tells me he will always help me (Psalm 121).
4. God tells me he has called me for his purpose (Romans 8:28).
5. God tells me nothing in this world is better than knowing him (Philippians 3:8–11,14; 1 Samuel 16:7).
6. God tells me he gave his only Son for my sins (Isaiah 53:3–5).
7. God tells me he has a good plan for my life (Jeremiah 29:11).
8. God tells me he is changing me to be more like him (2 Corinthians 3:18).
9. God tells me nothing can separate me from his love (Romans 8:38–39).
10. God tells me his grace is enough (2 Corinthians 12:9–10).
11. God tells me I have hope (Romans 5:3–4, 8).
12. God tells me he is good (Psalm 34).
13. God tells me that this life is short, but I'll live forever with him (2 Corinthians 4:7, 16–18).

When she was finished, Krista said:

Disability still says ugly things to me. Disability is a part of this broken sin filled world. But God has so many beautiful things to say. And so I’m filled with hope. God’s words grow louder and louder in my life. . . . I need to listen to his words. I want to listen to his words. God’s words change everything. God’s beautiful words have changed my life. And that is how I live with disability.

So simple. Yet so powerful. It might be helpful to watch the whole video—with a friend, a spouse, and/or your kids: (See also her simple book, Just the Way I Am.) Maybe you can choose one of these statements and Scriptures to meditate upon today, letting God’s word speak into your anxieties and fears and struggles and unbelief.

As we go about our lives this week, fresh off of Sanctity of Life Sunday, let’s remember the upside-down nature of God’s kingdom. It’s a strange and beautiful kingdom where the unexpected happens. It’s a kingdom, after all, where the king was born in a dirty stable and placed in a feeding trough and who gave us life through his death. It’s a kingdom where the weak will become strong, the humble will be exalted, the poor will become rich, the broken will be healed, and the mourners will be comforted. The kingdom of this world doesn’t have time for the Krista Hornings of the world. They look on the outside, not the inside (1 Samuel 16:7). But we know that it matters less who you are than Whose you are.

May the Lord give all of us grace to look at others—and ourselves with all of our foibles and limitations—through the eyes of faith and with a heart of love. And we can only do this if we saturate ourselves in God’s true and beautiful word.

Justin Taylor