If You Can’t Get a Miracle, Become One
O ne of my most popular videos on YouTube shows footage of me skateboarding, surfing, playing music, hitting a golf ball, falling down, getting up, speaking to audiences, and best of all, receiving hugs from all sorts of great people.
All in all, those are pretty ordinary activities that just about anybody can do, right? So why do you think that video has been viewed millions of times? My theory is that people are drawn to watch it because despite my physical limitations, I’m living as though I have no limits.
People often expect someone with a severe disability to be inactive, maybe even angry and withdrawn. I like to surprise them by showing that I lead a very adventurous and fulfilling existence.
Among the hundreds of comments on that video, here’s one typical remark: “Seeing a guy like this being happy makes me wonder why the hell I feel sorry for myself sometimes . . . or feel that I’m not attractive enough, or funny enough, or WHATEVER. How can I even think thoughts like that when this guy is living without limbs and still being HAPPY!?”
I’m often asked that very question: “Nick, how can you be so happy?” You may be dealing with your own challenges, so I’ll give you the quick answer up front:
I found happiness when I realized that as imperfect as I may be, I am the perfect Nick Vujicic. I am God’s creation, designed according to His plan for me. That’s not to say that there isn’t room for improvement. I’m always trying to be better so I can better serve Him and the world!
I do believe my life has no limits. I want you to feel the same way about your life, no matter what your challenges may be. As we begin our journey together, please take a moment to think about any limitations you’ve placed on your life or that you’ve allowed others to place on it. Now think about what it would be like to be free of those limitations. What would your life be if anything were possible?
I’m officially disabled, but I’m truly enabled because of my lack of limbs. My unique challenges have opened up unique opportunities to reach so many in need. Just imagine what is possible for you!
Too often we tell ourselves we aren’t smart enough or attractive enough or talented enough to pursue our dreams. We buy into what others say about us, or we put restrictions on ourselves. What’s worse is that when you consider yourself unworthy, you are putting limits on how God can work through you!
When you give up on your dreams, you put God in a box. After all, you are His creation. He made you for a purpose. Therefore your life cannot be limited any more than God’s love can be contained.
I have a choice. You have a choice. We can choose to dwell on disappointments and shortcomings. We can choose to be bitter, angry, or sad. Or when faced with hard times and hurtful people, we can choose to learn from the experience and move forward, taking responsibility for our own happiness.
As God’s child, you are beautiful and precious, worth more than all the diamonds in the world. You and I are perfectly suited to be who we were meant to be! Even still, it should always be our goal to become an even better person and stretch our boundaries by dreaming big. Adjustments are necessary along the way because life isn’t always rosy, but it is always worth living. I’m here to tell you that no matter what your circumstances may be, as long as you are breathing, you have a contribution to make.
I can’t put a hand on your shoulder to reassure you, but I can speak from the heart. However desperate your life may seem, there is hope. As bad as circumstances appear, there are better days ahead. No matter how dire your circumstances may appear, you can rise above them. To wish for change will change nothing. To make the decision to take action right now will change everything!
All events come together for the good. I’m certain of that because it’s been true in my life. What good is a life without limbs? Just by looking at me, people know that I faced and overcame many obstacles and hardships. That makes them willing to listen to me as a source of inspiration. They allow me to share my faith, to tell them they are loved, and to give them hope.
That is my contribution. It’s important to recognize your own value. Know that you also have something to contribute. If you feel frustrated right now, that’s okay. Your sense of frustration means you want more for your life than you have right now. That’s all good. Often it’s the challenges in life that show us who we are truly meant to be.
A Life of Value
It took me a long time to see the benefits of the circumstances I was born into. My mum was twenty-five years old when she became pregnant with me, her first child. She’d been a midwife and worked as a pediatric nurse in charge in the delivery room where she provided care for hundreds of mothers and their babies. She knew what she had to do while she was pregnant, watching her diet, being cautious about medications, and not consuming alcohol, aspirin, or any other pain-killers. She went to the best doctors and they assured her everything was proceeding smoothly.
Even still, her apprehension persisted. As her due date approached, my mum shared her concerns with my father several times, saying, “I hope that everything’s okay with the baby.”
When two ultrasounds were performed during her pregnancy, the doctors detected nothing unusual. They told my parents that the baby was a boy but not a word about missing limbs! At my delivery on December 4, 1982, my mother could not see me at first, and the first question she asked the doctor was “Is the baby all right?” There was silence. As the seconds ticked by and they were still not bringing the baby for her to see, she sensed even more that something was wrong. Instead of giving me to my mother to hold, they summoned a pediatrician and moved off to the opposite corner, examining me and conferring with each other. When my mum heard a big healthy baby scream, she was relieved. But my dad, who had noticed I was missing an arm during the delivery, felt queasy and was escorted out of the room.
Shocked at the sight of me, the nurses and doctors quickly wrapped me up.
My mother, who’d participated in hundreds of deliveries as a nurse, wasn’t fooled. She read the distress on the faces of her medical team, and she knew something was very wrong.
“What is it? What’s wrong with my baby?” she demanded.
Her doctor would not answer at first, but when she insisted on a response, he could offer my mother only a specialized medical term.
“Phocamelia,” he said.
Because of her nursing background, my mother recognized the term as the condition babies have when they are born with malformed or missing limbs. She simply couldn’t accept that this was true.
In the meantime, my stunned dad was outside, wondering whether he had seen what he thought he saw. When the pediatrician came out to speak to him, he cried out, “My son, he has no arm!”
“Actually,” the pediatrician said as sensitively as possible, “your son has neither arms nor legs.”
My father went weak with shock and anguish.
He sat stunned, momentarily unable to speak before his protective instincts kicked in. He rushed in to tell my mother before she saw me, but to his dismay he found her lying in bed, crying. The staff had already told her the news. They had offered to bring me to her but she refused to hold me and told them to take me away.
The nurses were crying. The midwife was crying. And of course, I was crying! Finally they put me next to her, still covered, and my mum just couldn’t bear what she was seeing: her child without limbs.
“Take him away,” she said. “I don’t want to touch him or see him.”
To this day my father regrets that the medical staff did not give him time to prepare my mother properly. Later, as she slept, he visited me in the nursery. He came back and told Mum, “He looks beautiful.” He asked her if she wanted to see me at that point, but she declined, still too shaken. He understood and respected her feelings.
Instead of celebrating my birth, my parents and their whole church mourned. “If God is a God of love,” they wondered, “why would He let something like this happen?”
My Mum’s Grief
I was my parents’ firstborn child. While this would be a major cause for rejoicing in any family, no one sent flowers to my mum when I was born. This hurt her and only deepened her despair.
Sad and teary-eyed, she asked my dad, “Don’t I deserve flowers?”
“I’m sorry,” Dad said. “Of course you deserve them.” He went to the hospital flower shop and returned shortly to present her with a bouquet.
I was aware of none of this until the age of thirteen or so, when I began to question my parents about my birth and their initial reaction to my lack of limbs. I’d had a bad day at school, and when I told my mum, she cried with me. I told her I was sick of having no arms and legs. She shared my tears and said that she and my dad had come to understand that God had a plan for me and one day He would reveal it. My questions continued over time, sometimes with one parent, sometimes with both. Part of my search for answers was natural curiosity and part of it was in response to the persistent questions I’d been fielding from curious classmates.
At first, I was a little scared of what my parents might tell me, and, since some of this was difficult for them to delve into, I didn’t want to put them on the spot. In our initial discussions my mum and dad were very careful and protective in their responses. As I grew older and pushed harder, they offered me deeper insights into their feelings and their fears because they knew I could handle it. Even so, when my mum told me that she didn’t want to hold me after I was born, it was hard to take, to say the least. I was insecure enough as it was, but to hear that my own mother could not bear to look at me was . . . well, imagine how you might feel. I was hurt and I felt rejected, but then I thought of all that my parents have done for me since. They’d proven their love many times over. By the time we had these conversations, I was old enough to put myself in her situation. Other than her intuitive feelings, there’d been no warning of this during her pregnancy. She was in shock and frightened. How would I have responded as a parent? I’m not sure I would have handled it as well as they did. I told them that, and over time we went more and more into the details.
I’m glad that we waited until I was secure, knowing deep in my heart of hearts that they loved me. We’ve continued to share our own feelings and fears, and my parents have helped me understand how their faith enabled them to see that I was destined to serve God’s purpose. I was a fiercely determined and mostly upbeat child. My teachers, other parents, and strangers often told my parents that my attitude inspired them. For my part, I came to see that as great as my challenges were, many people had heavier burdens than mine.
Today in my travels around the world, I often see incredible suffering that makes me grateful for what I have and less inclined to focus on what I may lack. I have seen orphaned children with crippling diseases. Young women forced into sexual slavery. Men imprisoned because they were too poor to pay a debt.
Suffering is universal and often unbelievably cruel, but even in the worst of slums and after the most horrible tragedies, I have been heartened to see people not only surviving but thriving. Joy was certainly not what I expected to find in a place called “Garbage City,” the worst slum at the edge of Cairo, Egypt. The Manshiet Nasser neighborhood is tucked into towering rock cliffs. The unfortunate but accurate nickname and the community’s rank odor come from the fact that most of its fifty thousand residents sustain themselves by combing through Cairo, dragging its garbage there, and picking through it. Each day they sort through mountains of refuse pulled from a city of eighteen million residents, hoping to find objects to sell, recycle, or somehow make use of.
Amid streets lined with garbage piles, pig pens, and stinking trash, you would expect people to be overcome with despair, yet I found it to be quite the opposite on a visit in 2009. The people there live hard lives, to be sure, but those I met were very caring, seemingly happy, and filled with faith. Egypt is 90 percent Muslim. Garbage City is the only predominantly Christian neighborhood. Nearly 98 percent of the people are Coptic Christians.
I’ve been to many of the poorest slums in all corners of the world. This was one of the worst as far as the environment, but it was also one of the most heart-warming in spirit. We squeezed nearly 150 people into a very small concrete building that served as their church. As I began speaking, I was struck by the joy and happiness radiating from my audience. They were simply beaming at me. My life has rarely seemed so blessed. I gave thanks that their faith lifted them above their circumstances as I told them how Jesus had changed my life too.
I spoke with church leaders there about how lives in the village had changed through the power of God. Their hope wasn’t put on this earth, but their hope is in eternity. In the meantime they’ll believe in miracles and thank God for who He is and what He has done. Before we left, we presented some families with rice, tea, and a small amount of cash that would buy them enough food for several weeks. We also distributed sports equipment, soccer balls, and jump ropes to the children. They immediately invited our group to play with them, and we had a ball, laughing and enjoying each other even though we were surrounded by squalor. I will never forget those children and their smiles. It just proved to me again that happiness can come to us under any circumstance if we put our total trust in God.
How can such impoverished children laugh? How can prisoners sing with joy? They rise above by accepting that certain events are beyond their control and beyond their understanding too, and then focusing instead on what they can understand and control. My parents did just that. They moved forward by deciding to trust in God’s Word that “all things work for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.”
Excerpted from Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic. Copyright © 2010 by Nick Vujicic. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.