Rise, pick up your mat, and go home

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“I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. At once; when Jesus healed someone it always seemed to be at once, immediate, no surgery, no waiting, just instant healing. Imagine all those paralyzed by accidents or war being instantly healed, “rise from your wheelchair and walk.” And, isn’t that what we all want, instant relief from our suffering, be it physical, mental, or emotional.

When my oldest daughter was 10 years old, she had an accident that stunted the bone grown in her right knee and her leg grew inward instead of straight. Doctors at the Shriner’s Hospital for Crippled Children thought she would be a good candidate for an experimental surgery that would stimulate the bone growth in her knee. She had one painful surgery to straighten her leg and I didn’t want her to go through anymore. So, with great hope and constant prayer, we took her to Springfield, Massachusetts for the miracle cure that would make her leg grow straight again. After surgery, she was placed in a body cast and lay in a Stryker frame which was turned every few hours, so she was either looking up at the ceiling or down at the floor. Doctors also informed me that the damage to her knee was too extensive for them to do the experimental implant. That was devastating. For nearly 4 weeks she lay in that frame, and when she was able to come home, she went to school on a stretcher and was wheeled from class to class. I transported her from home to school and back again in the back of a borrowed station wagon. Throughout this time she had to watch her friends play outside while she was bedridden. To say the least, I doubted God’s goodness. In the Gospel messages, I knew he had healed the blind, deaf, dumb, paralyzed, etc.; why wouldn’t he heal the leg of a young innocent girl? I went to healing masses; people prayed over her leg; I had masses said and lit candles; I just wasn’t giving up. After three more surgeries, doctors told us that she would have a half inch difference in the length of her legs and would need to wear a special shoe with a lift for the rest of her life. It seemed to me that God had turned a deaf ear to my prayer?

Well, God must have looked down at me with a smile saying, “Oh ye of little faith, where is your trust?.” You see, God did heal my daughter in ways that took me a long time to see. First of all, doctors told her not to go skiing with the rod in her leg, but she went skiing and climbed trees. She refused to wear the ugly orthotic shoes, instead, she wore any shoes she wanted to, and for the past 25+ years has worked as a registered nurse, lifting patients, walking all over the hospital, and doing all the things that nursing entails, all without back or leg pain. From being bedridden she learned to develop the social skills and patience that she needed to be a good nurse. Her disability also brought out virtue in others. There were so many who came to our aid, from the family who lent us the station wagon, those who cheerfully greeted me to take my daughter into school and encourage her as they transported her to classes; those who babysat for the two youngest, and those who brought meals at a time when I was exhausted. Even today, disabilities beget virtue. We live in a society in which the blind see with Braille, the deaf hear with closed captions, and the lame walk with wheelchairs. We even have surgical procedures to reattach retinas and embed cochlear implants. All of these technologies spring from the compassion of the able-bodied for the disabled.

Never think that God has turned a deaf ear to your prayer and never underestimate what he will do; trust Him with the outcome even if it is not the way you expected and even when it is not immediate. Sometimes we can only understand why things happen when we see them in the rear view mirror.

Sylvia Bates