"When it's dark enough, you can see the stars." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Everything changed after my encounter with Benjamin. For the longest time, I had felt disconnected with God. My prayers would hit the ceiling, then bounce back onto me, unanswered. But after meeting Benjamin, it was as if the roof had blown right off the house, and I was sensing God in everything. I couldn't write fast enough to get onto paper all I felt He was saying to my spirit. My focus began to shift. I no longer felt the need to overcome the pain. Instead, I wanted to let the pain teach me to be a better person.
Two days after my pool encounter, I got the strong feeling that God was saying he wanted me to quit physical therapy. After months of such hard work and dedication, it didn't make any sense. But I quit anyway. At last, I was learning to want what God wanted for me. Everyone thought I was nuts. I had come so far, made so much progress. I didn't care.
Within a couple of weeks, my limp began to return. The limp I had worked so hard to rid myself of was coming back. It didn't matter. That sharp, jarring pain was returning too. I knew enough to know that I was beginning to reinjure my socket. I didn't care. I was through with getting strong on the outside. It was time to deal with the person on the inside.
Spring rolled into summer, and that meant a week at Family Camp, a church camp that we attended every year with our kids and my sister's family. That summer, three of our four kids stepped forward and got baptized. I couldn't help but wonder if this was just a fun thing for them to do, or if they understood the seriousness of that decision. A peace washed over me as I watched each one step into the pool and make that decision on their own. The week was memorable...so much so that we decided to sign up for yet another week of summer camp.
We met a man named Gordy at the second week of camp. He was a handicapped man, dealing with cerebral palsy, living his life in a wheelchair. We befriended Gordy, including him as much as we could in our activities. We also celebrated our youngest son's fifth birthday that week at camp. Aside from the pain that was now constant, I was enjoying the time with our family and my sister's family.
Thursday evening, I was sitting next to Gordy. I got up to leave, but he blocked me with his wheelchair. I told him I needed to get out, but he shook his head no. He told me that I couldn't leave just yet ~ he said that God was telling him something about me. He paused, then looked me in the eye and said, "There's something wrong with you. God is going to heal you." Powerful words from a man in a wheelchair!
I couldn't count the number of times people (myself included) had prayed for this very thing. I had accepted the fact that it wasn't going to happen. I remembered the words from the doctor that I would always have pain...for the rest of my life. I thought it was sweet of Gordy, but nothing in me believed him.
Gordy called the pastor over to where we were sitting. Gordy told the pastor what he had told me. The pastor asked if there was something wrong with me. I told him about my journey with chronic hip pain. He called a few people over and they gathered around me and prayed for healing. It was all very nice, but on the inside, I kept thinking that I didn't want to be healed. Clearly, God had a reason for my pain, and I began to realize that what He wanted for me was truly what I wanted.
I left that night with a weight lifted off my shoulders. I was finally able to embrace the pain! My foe had become my friend. It no longer had the power to dictate my life. I was free.
The next day, it rained. My hip was always worse in the damp weather. I rested on the bed most of the day, too uncomfortable to do much. My kids tried to get me up. My brother-in-law looked at me, shook his head, and said, "Seventeen more years of this?" In seventeen years, I would be old enough to be a candidate for hip replacement. He was having a harder time of accepting my pain than I was. My response was, "Yes! Seventeen more years! A lifetime, if that's what God wants for me." And I meant it. I was completely surrendered to God.
That night was the last night of family camp, and the pastor led in a time of family communion. All of our children were present, and it was a wonderful culmination of two great weeks at camp. The pastor began praying, then paused mid-prayer. He began to pray for someone in the room who was about to get healed. He didn't make a reference to who he was talking about, and as he prayed for this person's healing, I prayed that it was for Gordy. How great it would be to see Gordy step out of that wheelchair and be made whole.
Then I heard these words spoken straight into my heart..."This is my gift for you." No, God, heal Gordy. Again, "This is my gift for you."
After communion, we all got up and went outside. It was dark outside, and remnants of clouds from the earlier storm were still lingering in the sky. I pulled away from everyone for a minute to have a heart to heart chat with God. I cried out in my mind, "What's happening, God? If this is really for me, you are going to have to make it really clear, because I am struggling with this! I need a sign right here and now!" I looked up at the sky as I prayed, hoping for some kind of reply. The moon was quite full. A cloud drifted in front of it, casting off an intense glow. Right then, a bolt of lightning shot across the night sky. I could hear the "oohs" and "ahhs" all around me as others saw it, too. I had my sign.
I walked back to our room. Everyone from both families was there. I went up to my sister and said that I was healed, and she shook her head yes. I think she already knew. Suddenly, everyone in the room knew, too. I moved my hip around. I was able to rotate it without pain. No discomfort. Unbelievable! Incredible! Amazing! And true. Still true, almost twenty years later.
"But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy, like calves led out to pasture."