Nurse Doris lost her patience with me as I counted the pills and placed them in tiny plastic bags. We were working in a bush clinic made of straw bales and thatch, and though I wanted to be helpful I struggled to understand her unfamiliar pronunciations of the medications we dispensed.
I was especially intimidated when I asked her for the bathroom facilities.
Doris huffed, cinched the chitenge skirt tighter around her hips, and sent me to the thatched hut at the edge of the village.
What if . . .
I walked around the circular latrine to check it out and found it was merely a hole in the ground with an open doorway facing away from the village. While I figured out how to manage I worried that my days of serving in missions might be numbered.
“What will I do if I’m unable to squat in my old age?” My physical limitations could keep me home. I was in my forties at the time but wondered how I could be useful if I eventually lost the ability to count pills, or hold sick babies, or bounce along bumpy African roads without crying out in pain.
How can I serve if I’m disabled?
There can be benefits reaped from experiencing disability. One is that our weakness can give someone an opportunity to practice compassion and service. My elderly father was in the hospital recently, and he received encouragement from a young believer as she cared for him. He was able to give her a boost in return, saying “God bless you for being so kind to an old man.”
Another is that we can strengthen others in their faith. I followed the life and writings of Corrie ten Boom, a survivor of the Nazi death camps during WWII, and learned a lot about faithfulness in serving God no matter a person’s limitations. One of her stories was of a woman in Soviet Russia, bent and twisted from multiple sclerosis, who could barely lift her head. She could, however, move one finger well enough to type and translate the Bible and Christian books. The authorities left her alone because she didn’t seem to pose a threat, yet the pages she produced were passed far and wide.
“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”
“. . . remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose'” (Isaiah 46:3-4 and 9-11 ESV).
What I fear most
My physical condition and personal needs don’t hinder God in accomplishing his will, so why should I worry? He has cared for me since I was conceived. My needs will never be too much for him. He has never disappointed me. He will never abandon me.
But will he help me pluck out the dark hairs on my chin when I can’t see them any more? It’s a huge thing to worry about, right ? The truth is that what I fear the most is not being able to read the scriptures. Will his life-giving words be there for me when I am old?
Maybe he will send someone like the young believer that served my dad in the hospital. Whatever comes I can humble myself, quiet my soul, and trust him.
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come” (Proverbs 31:25 NIV).
Thankfully, for now I have the ability to move more than one finger to serve others. I should go visit Nurse Doris and ask if she needs anything plucked.
by Kathy Sheldon Davis