Last Sunday, my hubby preached a wonderful sermon and he used me as an illustration. Since then, I have really been thinking and so it is entirely his fault that this post is being written. He was preaching in Joshua chapter 4 about the stones that had been placed as a monument for the children of Israel. When the children asked about the stones, they were to be a reminder of how God had helped them to pass over the Jordan. Jimmy was encouraging our flock to look back in their lives and look for the monuments and the reminders of where God had been faithful and worked in our lives. He then used the story of me becoming paralyzed and how when we look at the wheelchair, we are reminded of that day but also of how God’s grace has been sufficient. Since that day, I have thought about my wheelchair as a monument and what it reminds me of.
My routine is to pull up next to my bed in my wheelchair, transfer onto my bed, grab one leg at a time and get them under the covers, and then manuever myself little by little until I get on my stomach (which feels SO good) and go to sleep. When I wake in the mornings, my body is screaming at me to please get back in a seated position. It is not used to being straight anymore and after so many hours of straightness, it is really mad at me. So I begin my s..l..o..w process of getting up, trying to move and stretch and prepare for my morning routine without moaning or crying. And there it is. My wheelchair. Sitting there. Staring at me. Waiting on me.
Some mornings, I don’t even think about it. I just plop in it and go. However, there are many mornings that I look at it with very mixed emotions. I am thankful that it is there to get me to the next place and I feel that we are friends. Other times, I feel that it is mocking me that I am helpless without it – especially if it is a “paralysis” morning where everything is not going as it should. I really look at it in despair and don’t know if we are going to be able to salvage our friendship.
This idea of looking at it as a monument though has really stuck with me. What if someone came up to me and said, “What does your wheelchair represent?” What would I say? What does it really represent to me?
- It represents something painful. I will never, ever, ever forget the day that changed the life I had only ever known into something drastically different. I used to think that I would forget over time but you don’t. There are always reminders. The sting of the pain has changed but the pain is always there. I don’t want to forget though. Someone once said that if you do not believe in a literal hell, just look around at the pain and suffering that people experience because of the presence of sin on this earth. Live in pain or suffering and you will have a hard time in denying that there is a hell. As much as we can have a taste of Heaven on earth because of God’s grace, we also get the tastes of hell because of sin. I don’t want to forget the pain. It reminds me that one day there will be no pain and that I will spend my eternity, not in pain, but in Heaven. I want to remember the pain so that I will share that same blessed hope with others.
- It represents a fresh start. I will never forget the life that I had, but I have been given a different kind of life. I would have never asked for it, but it was given to me. I don’t want to take that for granted. I want to seize life and shake out of it everything I can. I want to make a difference in my physical and spiritual life. I don’t want to just sit by and watch life happen. When I realize how easy death could have come and how the outcome could have been tragically different, it is exhilarating to think that God still has something special He needs me to do. I never want to get over that. I am so thankful for a fresh start.
- It represents growth. I have grown so much as a Christian. I have also grown to the point that I realize that I have so much more growth that needs to happen. I had such a strong faith….until my darkest hour. Then, I wanted to have a strong faith but I was so very afraid. Had God betrayed me or could He still really be trusted? I chose to trust Him (not because I felt like it!) and take Him at His Word and begged Him to cling to me because I was so afraid and did not know where I was. It was a dark time for my faith, but it was not a dark time for God. He was so faithful to me. I fell in love with Him. I could not fathom that He continued to pour His love out on me even when I was doubting Him. My faith was stretched, and in that growth God became so much bigger in my world.
- It represents a new philosophy. No, not about God’s Word but about my misconceptions about God’s Word. It really is amazing how much we can convince ourselves of what God is saying in His Word. Until…something in life happens that completely blows all of your theories out of the water! You are then left clinging to absolutely nothing. Traditions, preachers, opinions, my church, friends, family – none of these things can help. When you come to the place that many of the things you believed are of no value and you are begging God to show you how to make it through the next hour, it is unbelievable how His Word comes alive and speaks right to your need. I have no list of new philosophies. Just one. It is all about Jesus. Plain and simple. I answer to Him, live for Him, long to glorify Him and will one day be with Him. I do not know all the answers to life’s questions, but I know HIM and He is my answer to all of my life’s questions and that is enough.
- It represents God’s abounding grace. God’s grace has been sufficient. I wrote a song about this many years ago for a friend who was going through a great trial. I believed it but I had never lived it. I have now lived it and I believe it more than ever. Those days I talked to you about that are hard to roll over and face that chair for the day? Guess what? I got through those days! I have gotten through MANY of those days! I know that I will go through more. All because of God’s grace. I have never exhausted my supply of God’s grace for Alicia. He just keeps pouring it out over and over. He delights in that! And because of that, I delight in Him. I am so unworthy with my whining and complaining to Him, but He doesn’t mind at all. He says, “Are you having a rough day? It’s alright. I’m your Daddy and I am right here to carry you through this day.” And He does. Amazing grace? Yes, I am amazed.
- It represents God’s abundant blessings. God has set me on a new path. He has set my family on a new path. I should say new to us – not to Him. He knew it was our path from the very beginning. God has opened doors and opportunities for us like we never imagined. We entered a new world called disability and we have found a people that we love. I cannot begin to describe the burning passion in my heart to share with others about this world. God has opened doors for us, has pushed us out of our comfort zones and has given us the strength to do all that He is asking us to do. Our children are so compassionate and comfortable around disabled people. I was so scared at first that this would hurt them emotionally, but God has blessed them and used this to strengthen them emotionally towards “our kind”. There has been physical, financial, emotional and spiritual blessings. I could not even begin to write them all down, but I am eternally thankful for His blessings.
- It represents a lot of joy. I started with pain and I want to end with joy. Besides representing a lot of humorous episodes that happen because you are in a wheelchair (and I won’t elaborate on that – you can read about some of them here), it really represents a settled joy deep in my heart. I am not always happy when I have depleted my energy and feel bad, or when nerve pain hits me out of nowhere or I can’t do something that I really want to do, but those are minor irritations that are gotten over shortly. In spite of everything negative that a wheelchair can represent – sadness, bondage, bitterness, entrapment, lifelong insecurity, remorse and on and on, I do not feel those things. There has been only one difference and that has been Jesus Christ. It has been through the pain, because of the fresh start, because of the growth, because of a new life philosophy that is no longer a “learned faith” but is a “lived faith”, and because of God’s grace and His blessings, I have a joy in my heart. And that is because He is my joy! I am thankful that even though paralysis took away the use of my legs, it cannot touch my joy.
This chair of mine is not made of stone. It will never be erected into an altar or carved out of marble. However, with its metal and rubber, it is my stone. A monument to stop and remember all that it represents. I pray I can do it justice and as I ride out the rest of my days sitting in it, others will look at me and know what this chair means to me.