The greatest gift

Last week we took Ellis to the zoo.  Excitement levels were running high and he had the time of his life: feeding giraffes, staring orangutans in the face, petting and jumping with the wallabies, and watching elephants feed.  Seriously, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo might be one of the best zoos I have ever been to. Anyway, I asked Ellis on the way home what his favorite animal was, and he said rawr!  Which in Ellis-ese means "lion" (or tiger, but he didn't see any of those today).

Fast forward a couple of hours and I run down to the basement of the home we are staying in, to start to prepare Ellis for bed. I miss the last step of the stairs, land on the side of my left foot, and hear something crack.  Ouch.

Now, there are very few times in my life when I have been doubled over in pain. Once, three years ago, when I fell off my bike and broke my foot (yes, same foot).  Again when I went to Nepal had the worst ever case of some stomach bug or food poisoning. And then when I was in labor and giving birth without drugs, of course.  And then this moment.

 I was laying on the couch icing my foot and thinking about my bad luck, thinking about the cracks I felt in my foot when I fell, when Ellis woke up. He was upset and was saying rawr! and I knew that the poor boy was having a bad dream about a lion. Having bad dreams are bad enough, but watching your own child have bad dreams is even worse.

He calmed down in arms and we cuddled back to sleep, a bag of frozen blueberries on my foot.  I whispered to him, I'm here, you're safe. God is with us.  He will never leave us or forsake us.  I remembered the song that was in my heart three years ago (almost exactly) when I broke my foot in Penang.  The words go like this:

Please, please, please, please, cripple me, so I can't keep running away.

I know that English is a second language to some of you reading this right now, so the meaning of some words and phrases difficult to understand. One of my favorite challenges of working across cultures and languages is to try to explain difficult concepts in simple ways.  I will try my best here:

I ask God to cripple me because I know that both health and weakness are blessings. When I can walk and run I don't have to trust in God. When I am crippled, when I cannot walk or run or do the things I love to do, do I remember that everything, even my legs and feet, are a gift from God. He gives us health and and he can take it away.  But God is always good.  My hope is in him, and not in anything I can do or see. 

There was a man named Paul in the Bible who was strong, smart, and powerful.  God made him weak. When Paul prayed for God to make him strong again, God told him this: I am enough for you. My power is perfect in your weakness. So Paul was proud of his weakness and wanted to tell people about it, because he knew that God's strength was better than his own strength.  

When I ask God to cripple me, to make me weak, I'm not really asking for God to hurt me. Sometimes weakness lies in my character, my ability to do things (physical and not physical), or in my circumstances.  I've tried and worked in my own strength enough to know that I'm not really strong at all.  When I admit that and ask for God's strength is when I really am strong.  The kind of weakness that brings me to my knees is the greatest gift.  I am stubborn enough that I need to be crippled for that to happen.

And my foot turned out fine, after all.  I'm totally convinced it was broken but that God healed me.  I was walking almost normally the next day.  But in the midst of keeping my foot elevated and icing with a bag of frozen cranberries, I had ample time to reflect on this present weakness of mine.  I also had plenty of time to feel the panic of what a broken foot might mean for my near future.  In every real, present, future, or imagined circumstance, this is God's promise: He gives and he takes away. He is always good.  

And now, O Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in you. -Psalm 49:7

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