I often tell people that I don’t miss my former way of life – the time before fainting in my kitchen and waking up paralyzed. I don’t miss the disconnectedness I felt with people and with God. I don’t miss all my worldly possessions and my worldly outlook because it was too tempting to make those things my idols rather than put God on the throne. As David proclaimed in Psalm 16, “Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.”
On the other hand, there are a lot of things I do miss about being an able-bodied person. I miss working out. I was in shape most of my life and did gymnastics for several years during childhood. As an adult, I was a runner, I enjoyed various group exercise classes, and taught indoor cycling for a period of time. I just loved being active.
As worldly as it sounds, I miss looking fit and muscular. When my neck was broken, my muscles atrophied within a week. What that means is they basically melted into nothing. I don’t even have the muscles in my chest to clear my throat, cough, laugh heartily, or even blow my nose! On the other hand, I still have so much. I have my voice to write these blog posts and I believe that’s part of my purpose now.
When I say I don’t miss my former way of life, it wasn’t always that way. When I was 25 I was baptized into Christ and my life changed dramatically. I had been drinking alcoholically since I was 15, and by the grace of God the obsession with alcohol left me. The more important things that changed were my feelings about myself and my feelings towards others. I was willing to forgive myself for the things that I had done, and I was willing to forgive others. I’m not saying it happened overnight (and I still pray to God about forgiveness) but compared to the way it had been before, life was so much better. For these reasons, I was joyful and grateful and had godly contentment.
Some eight years after becoming a disciple of Jesus, I became disillusioned over some things that were happening in my church and mostly in my life. I didn’t tell anyone about how I felt, but put on a stoic face and tried to march on like a good little soldier. As a result, I became a bitter, depressed, legalistic Christian. I eventually decided I needed a drink to relax one day, and well, the rest is a pitiful story. It can be best described in Proverbs 26:11: As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly. Thankfully, I made the decision to return to my church and rekindle my relationship with God a couple of months before my injury occurred.
Many people think, before they meet me, that this wheelchair and my life are a great burden. My life in this wheelchair is not a terrible at all because of God. Most of the time, I feel at peace and useful. God communicates with me in many ways, especially with the Scriptures. He has also blessed me with a church fellowship that prays for and supports me so loyally; and friends and family that are forever going out of their way to meet my needs. They are my lifeline. Because of these things, I am able to experience contentment, purpose, and have hope. Life isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly not gloomy. I have more good days than bad days.
I do not want my former way of life because I believe had my injury not occurred, I would’ve returned to the vomit. I believe I have a very important purpose in this wheelchair. God has already shown me that many times over.
I just started rereading a great book by Joni Erickson Tada titled A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty. In the first chapter she talks about focusing on what’s waiting ahead rather than what we left behind. She uses 1 Peter 1:4, but I have included 3-7 because it’s packed with so many good things.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
I believe I’ve had two new births (v.3 says …he has given us new birth into a living hope…). The first one was in 1989 when I became a Christian. I believe the second one was August 2013 when I woke up paralyzed from the shoulders down. It was definitely a new birth into an entirely new life, but it was still a living hope – may be radically different from the first one I received in 1989, but no less powerful.
In this wheelchair, I have hope because of the gift I’ve been given. My inheritance (v.4), kept just for me, will never perish, spoil or fade. When I arrive in that place, they’ll be no neon sign flashing “no rooms available.” As it says in verse 6, I am suffering grief and all kinds of trials so that my faith can be proved genuine.
James:1 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
These trials are producing perseverance, maturity, and making me complete. I need these trials to bolster my faith. I hate to say it but I have to, no pain no gain. I need to build my spiritual muscles so that I will continue to worship and trust God until this life is over.
Do I miss my former life? Some parts of it, but these feelings are usually fleeting, few and far between. I believe this paralysis is a gift. It’s caused me to hold on to God and dig deep spiritually; and I acutely understand that letting go of my relationship with him at this point in my life would be a death wish. How could I make it through each day? I know I would get so depressed and embittered.
No, I don’t hate my life. The old has gone and the new has come. I have bright future ahead.
Revelation 21: 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”