By Gayla Parker, BCM/D WMU Executive Director, Missionary for Missions Education and Customization, Missions Innovator Specialist (WMU, SBC)
In September of 1994, I went through a back injury that left me temporarily paralyzed in both legs. It was four weeks before a diagnosis, a ruptured disk that was pinching the spinal cord in half. (The same as a broken back with no break.) For two more weeks there were daily physical therapy sessions, traction and lots of tests. After six weeks in three different hospitals in the Philippines, I was flown back to the United States on a stretcher where I would undergo surgery. I will never forget the turmoil of emotions I felt getting on that plane. Would I ever walk? Would we ever return to the Philippines?
During those first six weeks there was not much sleep. Either pain, nerve spasms or the discomfort of traction kept me from sleeping more than an hour at a time. So I read a lot! I searched scripture for encouragement and found the story of the paralytic in Mark 2:1-10 to be more important than ever! And I prayed without ceasing.
A missionary friend brought me the book, Rise and Walk, The Dennis Byrd Story by Dennis Byrd and Michael D’Orso. Dennis was a New York Jets player whose back was broken in a tackle. Dennis is a believer and wrote about his journey. He talked about questioning God. I was there. He talked about the hard work of rehabilitation. It was some of the hardest work I have done to date!
Tonight while was channel surfing I stumbled across the movie, Rise and Walk. It has been a long time since I’ve thought about Dennis Byrd’s story. The movie took me back to those six weeks of paralysis and the lessons learned in the midst of them.
Lesson One: Prayer is amazing! Jesus prayed “not my will but thine.” As much as I wanted to pray that prayer, I was afraid His will might mean never walking again or never being a missionary again. My faith was weak. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Are you tired of thinking, weary in circumstances? Allow the Holy Spirit to get you through. He is indeed our resting place.
By the end of the six weeks in and out of hospitals in the Philippines, I was emotionally exhausted. It was then I truly knew what it was to rely on the prayers of others. James 5:14 says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church and let them pray over him.” When Martin Burnham arrived in his Cessna 125 to evacuate me to the hospital, dozens of Filipinos showed up at the airport, stood over me and Martin’s plane and prayed that God would allow “their missionary” to return. There are no words to describe how amazing that was.
Is someone you know going through a life crisis? Pray for them, pray with them in person, over the phone, through a text, through a tweet, through Facebook. Let them discover the amazing power of prayer.
Lesson Two: At the end of the story in Mark 2 Jesus said, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins he said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you rise, pick up your mat and go home.” And then it says that all who saw were amazed. No matter where you are in life, it is still up to each of us to decide to pick up our mat and walk. The mat may be a trial, an illness, a challenging job, chronic pain, or even all the good stuff. But it is up to us to decide that we will take what we have been given and rise and walk. After all, the greatest miracle of all has already taken place, we have been forgiven of our sins, made holy by the blood of Jesus Christ, and given a guarantee of eternal life with God.
It has been almost 17 years since my back injury. God chose to heal. I walk, run, and live life pain free. The only paralysis left is in my left foot and except for trying to keep flip flops on my feet it is no big deal. But I still have to decide every day that I will continue to live life relying on prayer, His word, and glorifying Him through my daily walk.
What about you? Decide today, regardless of where you are, that today you will bring glory to God as you take up your mat and walk the journey laid before you.