God granted me an extra chromosome, by which He made me all that I am.
It was said throughout my childhood that I was always late. I was late arriving, late learning to crawl, late starting to walk, late to talk… and when I did finally do so, it was infrequently. If three words suited others, one was always enough for me.
In infancy, I was always the quiet one, extremely shy and lacking self-confidence. When our builder came to the house, I would hide in the cupboard. At school, two years into my education, my head teacher once exclaimed, “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard you speak.”
Throughout my education, I came to accept I was lazy and stupid. I’m still convinced of the former. I was late learning to read, and never really got into the swing of it: even now I am so poorly read that my friends shudder in horror. To all around me, it seems that I live my life in slow motion: I think slowly, I read slowly, I talk slowly.
As a teenager, I started to understand that I was not quite right. I had difficulty socialising with others — no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t maintain normal relationships. I was extremely passive, so easily bullied. And just as everyone around me was having a growth spurt, I seemed to find my own growth stunted. I was weak and scrawny, with a skeletal frame, my arms devoid of muscles, the circumference of my wrists no larger than my bones.
Those traits all had a profound effect on me, though I just accepted the narrative of all those around me. From all the adults in my life, I came to accept that I was just lazy. From the youngsters all around me, I came to accept I was a weirdo, a misfit, a freak. This was the first impression I left on everyone: even those who had never met me before quickly judged me and decided what I was. I became known as Billy Nomates, the perennial butt of jokes.
Back then it weighed down heavily on me. I suffered from extreme anxiety, paranoia and serious self-esteem issues. In my late teens, it materialised as severe depression. I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. People always seemed to know what sort of person I was before I had even opened my mouth. Frequently I felt hurt that others would never take the time to get to know me, but would write me off on first impressions.
But all was not lost. All these years later, I am grateful for all that made me. I appreciate the traits which formed my character. I am thankful for experiences which shaped me. With hindsight, we look back on the pieces of the jigsaw which formed the picture we see before us today.
I am glad today that some people rejected me so completely back then. I’m so grateful that I didn’t get mixed up with them, and I’m happy they didn’t get mixed up with me. I’m glad that my shyness granted me haya (modesty / decency), enabling me to easily embrace the best adab (good manners). I am grateful for such profound experiences which carried me towards the light of faith. Without them, I wonder where I would be today.
I found out about my extra chromosome three years into my marriage to my beloved. What a blessing to marry a woman of faith, forever content with the decree of her Lord, forever accepting of the purpose of life: “Do they think they will be left to say we believe, and will not be tested?” Looking back on all that brought me to that meeting with that woman from a world away, I can only mutter praises of the One. All that came before was merely preparation for my time. I saved myself for my beloved and she saved herself for me.
God granted me an extra chromosome, by which He made me whole.