Krista Horning was born with a rare genetic disorder called Apert Syndrome and has undergone over sixty surgeries in her lifetime. I first heard about her book, Just the Way I Am: God’s Good Design in Disability, from John Knight, the senior director of Desiring God Ministries, who writes at www.theworksofgod.com. Horning’s book is a glorious achievement and a demonstration of God’s grace in her life. I eagerly anticipated its arrival for two reasons: First, I have a daughter who was born with Williams Syndrome. Second, I knew this book would be written from the biblical perspective that God is both good in all that He does and sovereign over creating people with disabilities.
Though Just the Way I Am is not intended to be an exhaustive work about the Bible’s view of disability, it effectively teaches vital truths about this often neglected subject. It has the look of a coffee table book, and the majority of its contents alternate a page containing a Scripture reference and a declaration of truth (such as “God made me just the way he wanted.”) with a page of a stunningly beautiful photograph (sometimes more than one) of a child or children with special needs. Some of the photos include family members or friends. The pictures alone tell a story of God’s goodness.
One of the purposes of this book is to teach children with disabilities the truth about God and what He has done and is doing in their lives. To that end, Horning includes a list of discussion questions that could prompt thoughtful dialogue (60). However, I won’t hesitate to give or read this book to adults with disabilities. Page after page, one finds verses of Scripture that present the undeniable reality that God is both kind and King. As Joni Eareckson Tada comments in the foreword about Horning, “She wants every child, she wants all of us to simply trust the One who holds all the answers in his hand” (7). Some books that deal with the subject of the sovereignty of God are complex, and necessarily so. But that is not the design of this book, which is why this sixty-four page volume may have a greater impact than a five-hundred page, detailed treatise on disability. The basic truths presented in the bulk of Just the Way I Am are powerful in their simplicity.
Along with the affectionate foreword written by Tada, there are important sections toward the back of the book. David Michael, one of the pastors of Horning’s church (Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota), writes briefly about the first time he met Krista and her parents and the following decade of their lives together in the church. Next is a section titled “Krista’s Story” written by Horning’s mother, Mary. In five pages, she describes in tear-producing detail the opening moments of Krista’s life up to the present, testifying to the greatness of God in making her just the way she is.
Just the Way I Am includes an important page written by John Piper titled, “Quest For Joy: Six Biblical Truths” (although in teaching this to unbelievers we will want to add the fact that Jesus was resurrected). Though this book does not address whether or not those who are intellectually incapable of expressing faith in Christ will be saved (though it seems to be implied), this section is a reminder that no one will be saved because of their inherent goodness (of which they have none) or because they were born with a disability, but only by the grace of God in Christ.
This is not just a book for those who have a disability or who know someone with special needs. Everyone in the church should care about this issue because God does. Furthermore, if a “disability” is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual” (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990), then over 20% of the population of the United States (approximately 54 million people) live with a disability. Everyone is affected by disabilities either personally or through relationships with others. Churches should not only purchase multiple copies to sell on their book table and to put in their library, but pastors will want to have several available to give to people affected by disability (order at www.desiringgod.org).
On the dedication page, Horning quotes Psalm 115:1, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory.” Just the Way I Am superbly introduces the subject of God’s good design in disability and emphatically gives glory to God. My family’s copy is on our coffee table. Our hope is that guests in our home will look through it. Perhaps it will promote discussion about God and His good purposes in creating all people, including the “mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind” (Exodus 4:11).