|My head fit in the palm of my dad's |
|Walking in Gillette's gait lab prior |
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a permanent, life-long condition with no known cure. My brain is continually telling some of my muscles to contract. So instead of working together my muscles work against each other. This makes tasks like walking challenging. My balance is off, my hand-eye coordination is poor, and my reaction time is slow. I also have quite a startle reflex.
I had an orthopedic operation when I was four at Gillette Children's Hospital, St. Paul, MN. The procedure involved breaking both of my legs and pinning them back together. My tendons were also lengthened. I was put in a body cast for six weeks to recover. The results were great! I went from walking very awkwardly, not being able to balance while holding anything in my hands, to having only a slight limp. However, by the time I got to junior high I hated my body because of my disability and was too ashamed to talk about it.
|I was in a body cast for six weeks.|
During my middle and high school years, our family attended a church that believed in miraculous intervention. I was frequently prayed over for healing from cerebral palsy. After years of persistent prayer I never received my miracle and was instead left with what were some very big questions that I wrestled with for over a decade. Questions like:
- How can a good God hear the desperate cry of a little girl to be physically healed of an incurable condition—and say no?
- Where is God in the midst of our struggles?
- How do we respond in faith when God doesn’t seem to intervene on our behalf?
I cannot say that I have found concrete answers to these questions, but through prayer, counseling, and an understanding church family, I have learned how to live with the tension of knowing that Christ is the Healer and I will walk with a limp for the rest of my life.
|Walking with my PT.|
I have also learned that having to endure suffering and challenges in life, rather than being delivered from them, produces perseverance and character. In my life I have seen my walk with CP develop within me a strong sense of humility and compassion.
I cannot speak for every Christian who happens to have a physical disability, but in my life, not being healed and having to live life with CP has been a humbling experience. I mean this in the practical sense, tripping and failing down regularly in public is humbling and in the spiritual sense, yielding to God realizing that I cannot manipulate Him because His ways are truly above and better than mine is humbling. This realization has helped me to submit to God's sovereign plan for my life.
|Sitting with my friend Cicily.|
I am honestly thankful for the Lord's sovereign will. I struggled for so long wondering why I was never healed. I thought that God had made a mistake in choosing to withhold His healing hand and in doing so was ignoring my plight. I was further discouraged and confused because I held the conviction that if God healed me of CP people would give glory to the Lord.
That may have been true, but....
As I have grown into adulthood, I have had several opportunities to interact with children who have disabilities and are walking down the same road that I did as a child. My experiences of living with CP have not only helped me to have compassion and empathy for these kids, but it has also provided them with unique opportunities. First, a realization they are not alone in their struggle, and secondly, a glimpse at what adulthood may look like later in life. I find it interesting that the struggle I've had, not the miracle, is what is touching people's lives.
I have seen that sharing my story has the power to provide hope, inspiration, and encouragement to others who are struggling. In October 2010, I had the opportunity to share my story on stage at Church of the Open Door, Maple Grove, MN. Steve Wiens preached a sermon that weekend focusing on character formation through suffering and interviewed me at the conclusion of his message. The video of this interview is embedded above. In addition, I have written a book called Walking with Tension about my journey walking with God and with cerebral palsy. You can buy it on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.