Some days surprises pop up in the most unexpected ways. One might think I have a handle on living with disability after nearly a quarter of a century married to Jerry. Born with cerebral palsy, he uses a power wheelchair. But sometimes I am still dumbfounded.
One surprise confronted me in the early years of our marriage. The pace of life. It suddenly slowed down. Things I could do in a matter of minutes now take nearly an hour. Nothing ever happens quickly. Just to load in or out of the van adds fifteen minutes to anything we do. Spontaneity is not in our vocabulary. Yet even as the pace of life slowed, the demands on my time increased. Essentially, I have more to do in less time. Slower and fuller, what a combination! Some describe disability as a part-time job. Sometimes it feels like a job without perks . . .
But the benefits show up when and where I least expect them. One of my favorite passages in the Old Testament comes from the book of Isaiah. God appointed Cyrus to lead the children of Israel out of captivity, though he hadn’t acknowledged God in his life.
Isaiah 45:2-3 reads, “I will go before you and will level the mountains, I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.” How’s that for accessibility?
“I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”
Treasures of darkness. Riches stored in secret places. I think if someone, particularly the God of the Universe, offered treasures and riches to us, we would accept. But Isaiah tells us we find these treasures in dark and secret places. Not usually places we willingly go—especially if the path’s not well marked or heavily traveled.
I am not saying darkness is the mark of life affected by disability, but there are some tough times and it’s okay to admit that. Some things make little sense to us. Yet, with God leading the way, I anticipate the adventure.
Did you notice the end of verse three? God says He gives us these treasures and riches in darkness and secret, so we may know that He is God. The King who engages with us personally and intimately, summons us by name.
Here’s how this passage played out one day in my life.
I had a plan. Jerry got up early, at 4:00 a.m., for a 6:30 a.m. breakfast meeting. For him to rise at four, my feet hit the floor even earlier. Once he was out the door, I laid down for thirty minutes before getting up to have a quiet time and head to the Y. It seemed like a good idea to me, and one that would surely honor God because it included taking care of myself both physically and spiritually.
A little after 6:30 the phone rang, it was Jerry. “I am coming home; I have a wheelchair problem and need your help.”
A few minutes later, he pulled in the driveway and called me to assist. The cable which supplies the connection between his wheelchair motor and joystick came unplugged. This had happened a few times recently. We were waiting for the replacement part to arrive. Jerry tried to reconnect it while sitting in the van at the restaurant parking lot, but there was a spark.
My only hope of fixing this meant I needed more light and space than the van supplied. Sounds simple enough, but imagine getting 500 pounds of stationary wheelchair and husband out of a full-size van using only wife power. I put his chair in manual override and tugged, pulled, and grunted. Step one complete, I released him from his locking system. Now to bump him over the little hump, which now felt like it was part of the Alps, and onto the van lift. The real trick—do this without losing my balance and toppling off the lift.
Mission accomplished. The slope of the ramp to our home always seemed so gradual until today. But we made it this far. I took a deep breath, planted my feet for the initial push up the ramp, while ever so slightly angling his chair left for a wide turn through the door. Phew! We made it to the mudroom. Only two more rooms to cross and doorways to navigate, and we’d be in the bedroom. Thank you, God, for the ceiling lift to make the transfer out of his chair to the bed safer for both of us. Now to assess the damage. After several minutes, I determined I was not skilled in this repair. We deemed the chair temporarily out of service, and I trudged to the garage to get his back-up chair.
Arriving at the garage, I found an additional problem; the power door would not raise to get the other chair out. Thankfully, I knew to adjust the door sensors. I took the old chair to the house, acknowledging my blown schedule. I consoled myself by thinking since Jerry missed his morning meal, maybe we could salvage the day with a breakfast date.
Just as I readied to transfer Jerry into his chair, he said, “I don’t think it’s worth going back to the restaurant. I think I’ll nap half-an-hour before I go to the office.”
I had a choice. How would I respond?
I wanted a reward. A breakfast date seemed a splendid plan. But I also thought about the wear and tear the morning had taken on Jerry’s body. After a short debate in my head I replied “Okay.” He shut his eyes, immediately starting his gentle snore.
Gathering my wits about me, I headed to the kitchen. I made my eggs and toast and ate them as I spent quiet time with God. Quiet time may be a misnomer, because all the while I muttered to myself, “my life is not my own.” I wish I could say I’d never before uttered those words. As consistent as my complaint, I heard the still small voice of God respond similarly as in past conversations, “And the problem with that is?”
Then God reminded me . . . what is it I want my life to be about? In a high school assignment to create my epitaph, I wrote “a woman who loved and served God by loving and serving others.”
“So my daughter,” God gently asked, “isn’t that what you are doing?”
Could I obey God’s calling in this moment, and trust Him to find another opportunity for me to swim? If I genuinely love and serve God by loving and serving others, my life cannot be my own, and that’s a good thing (I Corinthians 6:19-20).
Sweet dreams, and nap well sweetheart!
Thank you, Lord, for the riches of your truth stored for me in secret places, and for the treasures found in darkness which lead me to You.