Since it hadn’t happened in a very long time, the whole thing shook me to my core.
Last Saturday I went to the Women’s March in Topeka. Andrea, a close friend of mine asked me to accompany her, kind of a spur of the moment thing. Enthusiastically I accepted. I needed to go. It felt good to be surrounded by people (both women and men) from all walks of life who were concerned about the same issues that I am.
It seemed that the theme for the day was solidarity. That we would all stand together as one group and fight for justice, equality and hope. We weren’t alone in our struggles. Other people understood them. There were all kinds of speakers. And I even saw a few people that I knew. It was a good time.
Towards the end of the event, that was when I noticed them. Two young men came up and said hello. They weren’t scary, and they started making conversation. What was my name? Why was I in a wheelchair? So your disability is progressive then? (It isn’t.) That is when they asked what they wanted. Can we pray for you?
I’m not inclined to deny anyone that request. Prayer is a nice thing that usually comes from a good place in people. I was not expecting what happened when I accepted.
These two men closed their eyes and laid their hands on me. They started praying that God would strengthen my bones and muscles and tendons so that I could rise up and walk. I was stunned. I couldn’t move. Couldn’t speak. Could barely breathe. And it only got worse.
After they finished praying for me, one of the young men actually asked me if I felt any different. When I said I didn’t, they prayed again. When it failed to work a second time, they walked away.
Sometimes I wish I were a little faster on my feet. (No pun intended.) About ten minutes after the encounter, I was able to come up with about 87 things that would have been appropriate to say. But as they were standing there disappointed that I wasn’t walking, all word and thought alluded me.
It is hard to describe what I was feeling in that moment. Sadness. Disappointment. Utterly misunderstood. Did they think my life, as it is, was not worth living? Did they think their prayer was going to “save” me? There is no way to know exactly what they were thinking, but I think it is safe to say that none of their assumptions about my life were positive.
The thing that struck me was that they were not preaching the gospel. If that had been what they wanted to do, they could have spoken to anyone in that crowd. Instead, they singled me out. Of all the people at that gathering, they made the assumption that I needed to be “healed.” In this event that exuded solidarity, I was the one they focused on.
My friend Andrea, standing next to me through all of this, has known me for more than 20 years. After the two men prayed, she asked me if she could go tell the guys how offensive and demeaning what they had done had been to both her and me. I nodded. She took off. Her purpose was not to be mean in any way, she simply wanted to let them know how their actions had come across to us.
I’m not one to often speak about my faith. Although it is vitally important to me, I don’t like to push my beliefs on other people. I also don’t like the experience of having them do the same. It makes me really uncomfortable. Case in point? See above.
Here’s the thing. I believe in a God who can do anything. Therefore, if He wanted me to walk I would be walking. And since I am not walking, God must want me to be in the situation I am in. And I am okay with that. I will continue to be okay with that until God decides to do something different.
I also believe that only things that are broken need to be healed. A strained relationship. Someone who is suffering. A weary soul. My lack of balance and coordination simply doesn’t qualify. At least not in my book.
John chapter 9 in the Bible talks about a blind man that the disciples brought to Jesus.
They asked Him “Who sinned Lord, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered them. “Neither one. This happened so that the work of God could be displayed in his life.”
Ahhhh. I get it now.
I don’t know why I was born with a disability. It’s not something I spend a whole lot of time thinking about. I’ve always considered my cerebral palsy to be just one characteristic of the totality of who I am. And if God can show who He is through my disability, who am I to wish my circumstances were different?
The young men who prayed for me on Saturday thought they could make my life better by praying for me to walk. What they didn’t understand is that I don’t want to change anything. My life is pretty great the way it is. And my walking at this point is not my ultimate goal. Not by a long shot.
Not even a prayer.