One Sunday morning I preached at a church in Boise, Idaho. A lady with multiple sclerosis, bent in her wheel chair, sat in the front row, as attentive to my words as her condition allowed. I could tell when my message really connected with her because her head bobbed back and she smiled. Often.
When the service finished, I went to her and introduced myself and asked her name. Her name is Jo Ellen. She lives in a body that keeps her alive but isn’t able to allow her to do all she’d like to do or express the thoughts and ideas of her excellent mind. How frustrating that must be!
Jo Ellen had some helpful and encouraging comments on my sermon! She didn’t speak very loudly and it took her a long time to form and speak her words. I leaned in close to hear her whisper and to watch her mouth shape the words so I could understand. I was glad it wasn’t as hard for me to say the words of the message as it was for her to express her thoughts about it. I don’t have the stamina or the courage.
As I listened carefully to Jo Ellen, I wondered how many times Father God has bent down close to me and watched my lips forming the words with difficulty and heard me struggle to speak my heart to him. How he loves us!
I can’t imagine life in Jo Ellen’s wheelchair. She’s a hero. I can imagine, however, my own God-aware spirit living in a body of flesh that so often refuses to cooperate. My spirit wants to do the good and noble and my body of flesh is so stubborn and uncooperative. My spirit has kind and wise things to say and my body of flesh mumbles and stammers and sometimes doesn’t speak at all.
I’m so thankful for that brief conversation with Jo Ellen that Sunday morning. She’s an excellent teacher!