This morning a local TV station aired a story about today’s Iron Man contest in Couer d’Alene, Idaho. One of the athletes is a blind soldier. He lost his sight to shrapnel from a car bomb blast in Iraq. For some weeks afterwards he felt angry, useless and hopeless. How that changed is another story, but it did, and he was about to run his first Iron Man. How? Tethered to his brother-in-law, the same way he trained for the race. His wife’s brother, a successful Iron Man, knew exactly what this soldier needed to do to train, and knows the guts it takes.
They trained and raced tethered together at the wrists by a short rope. What struck me is what the soldier said: “I am free when I am tethered to him. I never imagined I could be this free.”
He is free when he is tethered because the one he is tethered to has successfully gone through this before. He knows the push, the emotional ups and downs, the fear of failure and the joy of success. He knows exactly how to lead his blind brother-in-law. He can be implicitly trusted.
What a picture of Jesus and me. I have always been blind to the way ahead. It was impossible for me to succeed at the wild dreams in my heart. Impossible unless I stay tethered to the One who has gone through it all before me, and won. Who knows exactly how to get there with success. I am free because I am tethered.
My mission agency, World Team, has put the 22 minute video, “Bad Legs” on their YouTube channel. It’s a very short summary of God’s story in my life – a whole lot shorter than my memoir will be! The p,oject was not my idea originally, but I’m glad that it was done. The video can go places and reach people I can’t. See it at
Tomorrow the 22-minute video, “Bad Legs – Elinor Young, a Missionary Story” will be launched by my mission agency, World Team. See the one-minute trailer at:
One of the things I love to do the most is talk to the next generation. Usually that is in a college class setting. Whatever the venue of a presentation, it takes some days to get my body ready, and some days to recover, but I am SO grateful I’m able to! Helping to spark, stimulate or encourage another generation of future missionaries to persevere and go is a use of my limited energy that will last for eternity. What can top that?! I am already getting ready for a road trip into Oregon in September to speak at a Christian university. Fun!
This photo was taken shortly after my seven months in the hospital recovering from Polio. I was learning to walk using parallel bars on a ramp built by my dad off our kitchen porch. I felt as pleased with myself as I look in the picture.
But it’s about more than that.
I am not a parent, but reflecting back over my life, I am blown away by the power of mother and father love. I was just one of five kids, but my mom spent two hours a day doing physical therapy on me, and my dad built for me equipment they could not afford to buy. They were such models of a “can do” attitude that for years it didn’t dawn on me that there was any other kind! How MUCH I admire them – both in Heaven now.
March 23, 2008 (Easter Sunday)
I’ve been excited for days. Special friends were going to (and did!) join me for church this morning and for lunch afterwards. Not special because we see each other often. In fact, I haven’t seen them for years. Not since I left Papua 17 years ago, except for Barb. The guys of both couples were pilots who flew other missionaries like me across the vast swamps and over the dangerous mountains. There were not many of us non-indigenous folk and we needed each other. Pilots depended on accurate weather reports from us on the ground. More than one died due to bad weather conditions in the mountains. We depended on them to get us safely in and out of the little outposts where we worked.
In a dozen other ways, no matter what our role we had each other’s back; supported each other. That dependency alone is enough to forge deep ties, but there was more. Something even deeper and stronger. We had the same supreme purpose, no matter what our specific task was. Whether pilot, translator (like me), community developer or whatever – we were there in answer to Jesus’ commission to “make disciples of all nations.” (See Matthew 28:18-20) We didn’t speak about it much, but we understood that we all felt the same joy and fulfillment of a purpose that outweighed the risk and what others would call hardship. That is a very, very profound bond indeed.
If you are not a classic Christian as I am, this may sound a little strange. Other-worldly. Doo-doo, doo-doo. Bizarre. Wacky. I happen to believe, though, that far from being wacky, it is as true as it gets. That authentic reality is found is found only in the perspective that relationship with Jesus gives. Here I could launch into my rationale for saying that. I won’t, but I will invite you to contact me (click on “comment” below) if you’d like to talk about it. Doesn’t have to be publicly posted. Or you can read a story I wrote that relates to this. It’s simply called “Life!“. Check it out!
I didn’t make it to church today, but it wasn’t for not trying. Last night we got fresh dry snow on top of the previous crusty snow. No big deal except that with the new snow came high winds. I didn’t realize that the snow was drifted too high for my Honda until I turned the corner to head down my driveway and got stuck. We native Spokanites know all the tricks for snow driving, but none of them worked. I couldn’t get unstuck. I had to abandon the car and walk back to the house, which wasn’t very far I suppose. Unless you are a crutch and full-leg brace user and the snow is ten inches deep at best with ice underneath. And you don’t have boots. And are wearing a dress.
Needless to say, I prayed all the way to the house. If I fell I could not have got back up. Crawling is very difficult with full-leg braces. Add deep snow and a dress … well, you get the picture. But I didn’t fall; I made it.
That is something to ponder. Did I make it because of fear-motivated focus and luck, or did the Lord come alongside and help keep me on my feet? Is He really that personal? Does the Sustainer of the Universe truly care about one little woman’s request for help in the snow? Yes. I’ve seen Him come to my rescue too many times to believe otherwise. One time you may chalk up to luck or coincidence, but there is such a thing as “a preponderance of evidence.” So many such incidents that they by far beat the odds of happenstance.
Can I then presume upon His protection or rescue and recklessly get myself into dumb fixes knowing God will bail me out? No. Though He has promised to always be present with me, He did not promise that the way would always be smooth. What if I had fallen? Could I then say He had abandoned me? No again. I’m theologically getting in deeper than a snowdrift here, but I believe that any child of God through true faith in Jesus Christ as He is revealed in the Bible, can bank on the Lord’s presence even while freezing to death in a snowbank. Because God’s perspective of things is so eternally above anything we can imagine, His “no” in answer to our requests is as merciful as His “yes.” It is always the right one. What peace of mind that gives!
At least that’s how I see it.
For similar thoughts, see a letter I wrote at What I Learned When Things Crashed.