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.
I took a tumble off my patio this morning. Wasn’t paying attention to a common law of physics. I was weeding, which would not be remarkable, except that the weeds were by the patio and I was standing about seven inches above them. You gotta understand – because I don’t have any quadriceps, I can’t bend my knees very much, let alone squat. In fact, to stand I have to hyper-extend my knees some so my legs won’t collapse. No quads also means I can’t get up from the ground without crawling up on something. Now you get the picture…
I was standing on the patio, bending at the waist pulling weeds seven inches lower than my feet. One can’t mess with center-of-gravity laws without consequences. Yep. Over I went, a face plant. After doing a mental checklist and finding nothing was hurt, I rolled over, sat up and decided those varmints would be a whole lot easier to pull from ground level, where I was now. When I was done, I put my crutches where I could grab them when I was ready to, crawled up on the patio and used it for leverage to get my legs under me and stand up again.
Metaphorically I’ve done that lots of times. You, too, I’d guess. We do something dumb, like maybe ignore one of God’s laws? and take a tumble. I have found it pays to assess the damage, redeem the experience, file it away in my mental “warning” file, get up and go again. But that’s always with the Lord’s help. He’s the solid thing I crawl up on to stand again. I know it is fashionable these days to “believe in yourself” and do things your way. Yeah, and end up with your face in the dirt and no way up. Like a bent over bruised reed. I prefer to rely on the Solid and Strong One.
I wrote a story that talks about all this, “Bruised Reeds“, about a simple tribal teenager with a big heartache. Check it out! What do you think? Send me a comment.
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 have a 23-pound, three-way mixed mutt. Gulliver is Jack Russel terrier, Whippet and Sheltie. His high vigor loves to run, jump, chase and pull. Gulliver must be exercised daily for the sanity of us both. Most of the year we take two walks a day; Gulliver on his feet and I on my scooter to which Gulliver is attached by a retractable leash. Usually he is at the far extent of it, pulling to make us go faster.
These days, though, I haven’t been able to take Gulliver for walks. The snow on the road was too deep and now the slush is so bad my scooter would get stuck in a second. In fact, it is so awful today that I didn’t even venture out in my car for fear I would get stuck. Gulliver didn’t understand all that. He just wanted to explore the neighborhood and begged me to the point of distraction. So I phoned a neighbor who has two boys who have helped me with Gulliver before. Would one of them be able to walk here (a quarter-mile of two-feet deep snow) and take Gulliver up the road for some exercise? “Sure!” was the enthusiastic reply. Soon, though, their mother’s four-wheel-drive SUV came slippy-sliding up my driveway with one of the boys inside. He told me, “You know how slushy your roads are? Well, Mom said our roads are better. They were plowed. We can take Gulliver there and walk him on those roads.” Gulliver didn’t even bat an eye as he hopped into their car and left on his adventure. He came back much happier and calmer. Stephanie said to call on them any time. They’d love to do it again.
Walking the dog may seem an insignificant thing, but it isn’t. Proverbs 12:10 in the Bible says, “A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal.” It seems to me that the logical opposite would be that a person who doesn’t care about his animal’s needs is not righteous, or is – well, wicked. Don’t we all react with disdain at the stories of cruelty to animals that we see on TV? Why? Maybe because deep in our hearts there is the echo of the memory of God’s command to our first ancestors to take care of His creation. If conscious obedience to God is worship, then something as simple as walking the dog can be worship! That’s an amazing thought. Do you agree? Click on “comments” below to respond.
For another animal interaction tale, see my story, “A Boost Up.“
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.
Not all that many years ago I would not have titled my Weblog “Polio, Jesus and Me.” Call attention to the fact that I had had Polio? – Never! Mind you, my body did. It couldn’t run, jump or walk up stairs in a normal manner. I couldn’t even ride a bike. And my walking gait had a pronounced “galumph”. But I did everything I could to make people either forget that I was different (I also would not admit to being actually “disabled”), or at least get them to look at my polio-caused differences on the same level as color of eyes or hair. Descriptive, but no big deal.
So why the change of heart? Why do I now put “Polio” right up front in my title? Because I now understand, with actual gratitude, that polio had a profoundly positive affect on my life and in fact is the central factor that shaped me. It made my mind sharp, always having to search for alternative ways of doing and being. It forced me to think deeply theologically – did God play a cosmic joke on me, or was His plan to make something intensely beautiful from what appeared to be ugly. Something only He can do. Just look at what he made from a handful of nondescript clay. From that statement you know the conclusion I came to. I wrote a some of articles about these musings. Check a couple of them out and tell me what you think. One is “Faith Healer Experiences” (Yes, I even explored that). Another is “What I Learned About God When Things Crashed” And “Good-By to Irian.” On a lighter note, there is “God’s Secret Weapon“. Any come-back?