I sat in my wheelchair in the middle of the football field in front of 35,000 people. University of Cincinnati alumni filled the stadium for the 2010 Homecoming celebration. My heart pounded
as we waited to hear the revealing of the Homecoming King and Queen.
Though I was one of the finalists, being crowned King was the last thing on my mind. I had been confined to a wheelchair for nearly a year and continued to believe God was going to do something miraculous to restore my mobility. Could this be my moment?
I envisioned myself stepping out of my chair onto the field in front of thousands. Clearly I had thought up the perfect PR move for God.
However, the day ended without any physical changes. I went home with a crown in the same paralyzed body I had arrived with that morning.
Was I disappointed? Not exactly. While it seemed like an amazing story in my mind, I just assumed an even better one was right around the corner.
My hope in the end of the story was unhindered. I saw example after example of miraculous healings in the pages of Scripture. I also noticed that the healings always seemed to have a greater purpose beyond the physical wellbeing of the individual, demonstrating God’s power to the masses.
Whether it be Jesus healing a paralyzed man in front of his biggest skeptics or waiting four days to raise his good friend Lazarus from the dead, the storyline was always epic and would be retold for generations.
Encouraged by these stories, I remained on the lookout for the next potential opportunity for God to perform an epic miraculous healing in my own life.
Admiral James Stockdale was a POW in Vietnam and spoke of how his hope fueled his coping strategy. He recounts, “I never lost faith in the end of the story, I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life…”
My thought process was similar. In the months and years following Homecoming, numerous occasions presented themselves as opportunities in which I thought God may be lining up the puzzle pieces for a modern-day miracle.
At various speaking events, I wondered if the current audience would be the one to be able to say that they witnessed a paralyzed guy suddenly begin to walk. When people would lay hands on me in faith for healing, I considered that I may be just one prayer away from witnessing someone see their faith rewarded.
Would it be through a skeptical friend praying over me? Or when a dozen teenage guys pleaded with God to restore my body? Surely this would be a life-changing event to increase their faith for decades to come.
Year after year, I convinced myself there was no reason to accept my current physical reality as long-term. Healing was certainly right around the corner. Would it correspond with a significant milestone? Would college graduation coinciding with the start of a new job be how the story would unfold? Or would I be healed just before my wedding as Stephanie and I prepared to start our lives together?
Each year angst would creep in as I concluded that surely it was going to be the last birthday or anniversary of the accident in which my body remained in this state.
The same Vietnam POW who inspired me to never give up gave profound insight when he was asked about those who didn’t make it out of Vietnam:
“Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’ And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”
Is that what I was doing? Was I being naively optimistic concerning a specific timeframe? Was I conjuring up my own “ideal” outcome with the limited view I had at a given time? Was all this just setting me up for disappointment?
I began to realize that somewhere along the way, my faith had shifted into reasoning. Rather than simply trusting God as Healer, I was constantly putting Him into a box that conformed to my logic. I was writing my own script for how my life should be going and wondering why He wasn’t reading the lines.
This was now the time to remember the vital truth of Isaiah 55:8-9:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
In hindsight, it’s always easy to see how God’s plan has been better than my own. As previous scenarios have failed to play out exactly how I envisioned, I have subsequently continued to learn and grow and get glimpses of a bigger picture.
So does this mean giving up on healing, or can a healthy balance be found?
POW Stockdale’s concluding thought on his circumstances is the balance I want to be cognizant of:
“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Maybe taking inventory of my current predicament would be wise. Are there areas I need to face head on in order to be able to move on to others? With the latest and biggest milestone in the rearview mirror, is it time to desperately grab hold of the next one or would some self-reflection be better?
I can still pray, I can still believe, while at the same time moving forward with life with its current obstacles. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive.
In the meantime, I continue moving forward, keeping in mind God’s faithfulness of the past and trust that his plan for my future far surpasses my own limited view.
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