I'll call him Greg. He's in his early 40's, with dark hair, glasses, and a ready smile. And he's spent most of his life needing that kind of help. He spends his days sitting in his wheelchair.
We've attended the same church for years. I've smiled at him in passing. And I've watched him, getting wheeled into church, standing there in the front row, held up to praise. And I've struggled to decipher what he's saying when he speaks. A couple years ago I got to know him a little better. I was facilitating an event at our church and he was participating in the event. He needed a ride to church. We offered, with some reluctance, honestly--What if we can't understand him?-- to give him a ride.
My children met Greg that day. They watched carefully as daddy wheeled Greg out of his home, towards our van. And as Mark helped him out of this wheelchair to settle him into our van. As the wheelchair was folded up and put in the back. And they watched the process in reverse when we arrived to the church. And they struggled to understand him when he spoke.
The fact that it's difficult to make out what Greg is saying, most of the time, does not stop him from saying what he wants to say. When there is a time of sharing at our church, Greg is one of the first ones to wave the pastor over. And he speaks, then. His voice low and garbled and drawn out. He shares how much he loves God. He shares how faithful God is. He tells what God has been teaching him; his reflections on a recent message or passage in the Bible.
In all these years I've not once heard him complain or speak sorrowfully of his paralysis. Never. I've attended our church for 25 years. He's been there for most of that time.
Following the day when we gave Greg a ride, my children began to talk about him more. They asked questions at first, Why can't he walk? What happened to his legs? Why does it sound funny when he talks? And they watched him closely at church. A number of times, at home, I've overheard one of them say, "Let's 'play' Greg!" And Ella will push Greg (Isaac) in his wheelchair (doll stroller), or she'll put her arms around him to support him so he can stand. And they will sing. Isaac even imitates Greg's garbled speech.
One day Ella and I were driving somewhere and she asked me about miracles. I reminded her of some of the miracles in the Bible. And then I said, "Do you know what miracle mommy would like to see God do?" I told her I would love to see Greg walk one day; that I would love to see God heal his legs, his speech, his body. She pondered that for a moment and then said, "Let's ask God if He will." So we did. As we pulled the car into our parking spot, we prayed for Greg.
Ella and Isaac have prayed ever since. At each meal, they earnestly include in their prayers, "Please help Greg to walk."
Today as we were leaving church, we saw Greg, sitting there in the foyer. I knelt beside him and asked, "How are you doing today?" He smiled, and said he was good. He asked how us how we were doing, me and my shy children, hovering close to their daddy. I told him we were good. Then I told him that my children remembered him in their prayers at each meal. He spoke then, and we listened. There was a pause as we gathered what he had said. He then directed a question to my daughter: "Did you understand what I said?" I could tell that she hadn't, so I told her what I had heard. "What he said, sweetheart, is that he can tell you are praying for him, because he is doing very good and he has no troubles at all." My eyes are welling up with tears even now.
He has no troubles at all.
I asked him then,to be sure: "Is that what you said?", and he nodded and said, "Yes. That's right."
This is the passage I think of each time Greg comes to mind:
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wildnerness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
"Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you."
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness.
The unclean will not journey on it;
it will be for those who walk in that Way;wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
nor will any ferocious beast get up on it;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
and the ransomed of the Lord will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
When I pray for Greg, I do pray for a miracle. My children pray for one. Others, too, see him and are moved to pray. I don't know if God will restore his body here on earth. But this I do know: that there will be a day when Greg's feeble hands will be strengthened, and his knees steadied. That he will not only stand, and walk, but he will leap. And he will walk on that highway; the Way of Holiness, and enter Zion with singing, gladness and joy.