My Wheelchair – a reminder of my disability AND a source of hope

lone wheelchairFunny to think I am still surprised that I have a disability, right?  You’d think I would be used to that reality by now, given that I live it daily.

But seeing my wheelchair, by its lonesome, separated from my body and further away from me than it normally is when I look at it (it looks so small when it’s far away; usually my butt is planted on it, making it seem rather not-so-small), is a rare occurrence which brings up odd feelings.

In some ways, my chair feels like such a part of my body.  I’ve spent years sitting in wheelchairs out of necessity.  When someone touches my chair when I’m sitting in it, it’s like someone coming up behind you and bumping into you, or kicking you accidentally as they walk by.  It’s annoying!  Especially when someone holds onto the handles of my chair for an extended period of time…it’s like someone holding my hand at an inappropriate moment for an uncomfortable length of time because I can’t really go anywhere until they let go since the effort to free myself appears…awkward.  Conversely, say a friend and I are talking, and they put their hand on the wheel or on the front frame…I can feel comforted, as if they had put their hand on my knee (before CRPS was so advanced) or shoulder.

Actually, this wheelchair has a name.  Roadrunner.  Why?  Well, in 2010 my Mom had breast cancer and I decided I’d race in the Susan G Komen race for the cure.  I’d never done a race before, much less a 5k.  But that wasn’t going to stop me.  I trained hard and built up my muscles and stamina for the race which was on paved roads.  Race day came and I crossed the finish line in good time (given the challenges and the fact that it was my first race).  My wheelchair’s colors remind me of

My wheelchair allows me to go places and do things that I could never do on legs alone, or even legs + crutches.  It also allows me to also move around much faster than I can on legs and to carry items I cannot carry while using my crutches.  I’m able to rest using my wheelchair so that my back/leg pain doesn’t get totally out of hand and therefore I can enjoy myself longer.  I am able to work part-time from home because of my wheelchair which is custom made for my body; I know of no other comfortable chairs anywhere which allow me to sit for 5 hours a time.  For that matter, I almost never sit in any other chairs in my house including the sofas (sometimes the recliner for a short nap).

I am very grateful for my wheelchair and the independence and pain relief it brings.

Yet it’s still an odd relationship because my wheelchair is….a wheelchair, after all.  What is the international symbol of “disability”?  A wheelchair.  It represents something not just in American society, but worldwide.  Neither my disabilities nor my wheelchair are my identity, and yet they have shaped who I am/who I have become.  They certainly shape who I am perceived by others to be.

When I see my wheelchair sitting there unoccupied, by its lonesome, it brings a lot of thoughts, some of which cannot be easily put into words.

*  This didn’t necessarily have to happen.  If doctors and others had helped me years ago, my disability might not require my wheelchair today.

*  The unnaturalness of it strikes me.  Disability and pain is an unnatural thing; before the Fall, sickness didn’t exist.  With a slight smirk on my face I note that doctors also did not exist before the Fall as they were entirely unneeded.  Wheelchairs did not exist.  Humans weren’t originally designed by God to withstand these unnatural consequences of sin.  Gratefully, however, He provides His supernatural grace to do so.

wheelchair boy grave tombstone*  There’s a hard-to-capture beauty in the sight of an EMPTY wheelchair, isn’t there?  “Empty” being the key element.  Empty assumes it was once occupied and that its past occupant has no need of it anymore.  What a testimony in the life of a Believer in Christ Jesus, what a display of His HEALING POWER! when a son or daughter of the Most High God no longer needs that vehicle of suffering.  Oh, one day, I hope to rise like the boy pictured on the tombstone at right and meet my Savior in the sky.  I simply cannot imagine a more beautiful moment…oh…except touching my Savior’s face as I look into His loving eyes and then receiving the Best Hug In The History Of The UNIVERSE!  How do you put this image to words?  There are some things too marvelous for words.  These moments, to which I look forward as part of my glorious future, are certainly too marvelous for words and they give me the hope I need to keep living today.

I think Joni Eareckson Tada said it best when she described her relationship to her wheelchair and her conversation with God about the same:

I always say that in a way, I hope I can take my wheelchair to heaven with me — I know that’s not biblically correct, but if I were able, I would have my wheelchair up in heaven right next to me when God gives me my brand new, glorified body. And I will then turn to Jesus and say, “Lord, do you see that wheelchair right there? Well, you were right when you said that in this world we would have trouble, because that wheelchair was a lot of trouble! But Jesus the weaker I was in that thing, the harder I leaned on you. And the harder I leaned on you, the stronger I discovered you to be. So thank you for what you did in my life through that wheelchair. And now”, I always say jokingly, “you can send that wheelchair to hell, if you want.”

That thought tickles me, but not long ago when someone heard me say that, they replied, “Oh, Joni. You can’t mean that. Look at how God has changed you through your wheelchair. Look how close you’ve drawn to Jesus because of it. And look at the ministry that came through it and all the people reached. Please, don’t say you want God to kick it out of heaven,” my friend said, “why, the Lord just may transform it into something golden and glorious studded with beautiful jewels for every person you’ve reached for Christ through that wheelchair of yours.”

And you know what? She had me. She stumped me. After all, the Bible does say that it has been “given” to us to suffer for his sake. My wheelchair is a gift from God – a gift! I never would’ve chosen this gift, but since God chose it for me, I’ll take it as a gift, hard as though it may be at times. So there may be such a thing in heaven as holy wheelchairs… if God’s throne has wheels, and the book of Daniel makes it crystal clear it does… then who am I to say that there won’t be other chairs in heaven with wheels on them, too? Not to sit in, thank the Lord, but wheelchairs as symbols of the bruisings of a blessing that God has given people like me when he had blessed us with the gift of suffering.

So, friend listening, if you are in a wheelchair, or using a walker, or a cane or crutch… try imagining it gilded and golden and encrusted in jewels. Oh, it’s a strange and humorous picture, but remember, it is the gift that causes you to be weak — and the weaker you are, the stronger you will discover your Lord and Savior to be. More than 40 years in my wheelchair has taught me that — and in heaven, whether or not my old wheelchair is parked up there by the gates of pearl, feel free to join me in dropping on brand-new, grateful glorified knees before our Savior for all that he has done through our sufferings, yours and mine.



One thought on “My Wheelchair – a reminder of my disability AND a source of hope

  1. People bumping my chair or leaning on the handles drives me mad. When I’m not in my chair and people decide to sit in it for fun I could scream. I would love to be able to walk, run and dance again and hate the restrictions my disability places on me. But in the ten years I’ve been sick and needed a chair I have learned far more about myself, my friends, society and more importantly God than I did in the twenty years I was able bodied. I would get rid of the chair in a heartbeat but not the lessons I have learned from it.

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