Once parked at the curb of our married student housing apartment, I groaned as I glimpsed another mountain. We lived on the second level, and before me a tower of weathered, wooden steps stretched from the sidewalk straight up to my front door. How would I ever climb those steps with a frozen ankle and pain-wracked right leg?
“Please, Lord, help me get up there?” If the Lord tried to insert some sense into my resolve…like suggesting I go directly to the student infirmary, for example…I didn’t hear Him.
I took a deep breath, set my jaws now clenching teeth, and took hold of the splintery siderail. Truly, the first painful step was the hardest. After that, I just looked straight up and pretty much hopped up those steps on my left leg, using my stiff right leg only when needed to regain my balance. At last, Step Twenty-Four and I slid over to unlock the front door. I’d made it!
Crossing the threshold and re-locking the door, I slipped to my knees. How grateful I was for that teensy, weensy living room I’d always found so squeezed with even our sparse furnishings. Just a few crawls to the matchbox kitchen. I pulled myself up, stood with weight on my left leg, and retrieve the ice cube trays from the freezer.
Having quickly fashioned my makeshift icepack, I slid back down to the floor, icepack held high in my right hand. What a sight I was, had there been anyone there to behold my three-legged dog locomotion.
After the initial pain of the icepack’s weight, the home remedy made the ankle relax; the rest of the leg soon followed suit. How I longed for Curt to come ambling through that door to bring me something to drink. I was so thirsty, but no way was I going to make my way back to the kitchen on my knees now. When I had to get up to use the restroom, I’d get the drink and, maybe, even something to eat.
This essential bodily event, which we campers refer to as the “call of nature,” arrived half an hour later. After responding to the call, I grabbed a couple of aspirin to go with the food and drink. I saw that it needed to be consumed in the kitchen, unless I made several trips in the three-point crawl. Not going to happen; I ate and drank standing at the tiny counter.
Time for bed and a good night’s sleep. I’d be fine in the morning, or so I thought. Sleep didn’t happen, unless you call fits of exhausted napping between moans and groans “sleeping.” I spent the night in agony; no amount of calling out to the Lord relieved the pain.
When the early rays of dawn began to show through the little, center gap in our curtains, I made a decision. I had no choice but to go to the infirmary for some kind of treatment. Fortunately, it was open twenty-four/seven.
I bounced down the roughly-hewn steps on my backside; I’d need my hopping maneuver to get out to the car. The trip to the infirmary was not long, but the distance from the curb and into the infirmary was another matter. This short sidewalk led to the front doors just fine, but inside was a short flight of steps to reception. Who in the world ever thought of such a thing for an infirmary for university students? Didn’t they realize how many kids would find climbing those steps with their injured lower limbs difficult? Relief flooded my grimacing countenance when the on-duty nurse spotted me hopping up the steps. She rushed to lend a hand.
Well, to spare you the details of a long, early-dawn, argumentative session with my doctor and the nurse, as well as saving you from my ridiculous explanations, it will suffice to say that I did not let them admit me to the inpatient section of the infirmary. The kids were counting on me to be there for the weekend; I would not let them down.
Crutch-walking over to the steps, I felt the pain of the shots in each posterior hip more than the injured leg. One of the shots took that awful pain nearly completely out and I rejoiced big time. Stopping at the top of the short flight of stairs, I turned to speak to the dynamic infirmary duo, still frowning at me. “Really, I’ll be fine. I’ll come back Monday morning, just as I promised I would.” My radiant smile should have touched them a little, or so it seemed to me. Nope, they knew I’d made a mistake and that was that. I’d be back before the day had finished no doubt in their minds.
“Well, little-miss-independent-who-knows-better-than-the-doctor, you’d better be here. The surgeon will expect to see you first thing. It isn’t easy to get surgery time on a Tuesday.” Yup, the nurse was not happy.
“Tell you what? I’m a counselor at a church camp. Even if God heals me at the camp, I will still keep my appointment Monday morning. I promise…healed or hurting, I’ll be here.”
Leaving the stern, shaking heads behind me, I slipped my way through the front door and out to the car. With the crutches, ambulation was no longer a problem, but I still had to use only my left foot to drive. Better let Cathy take her car instead of trying to make my way back up the mountain.
“What’s happened to you? Are you still able to go to the camp?” Cathy had come through the door and, truly, had not expected the sight that awaited her. “When did you get hurt? You never said a thing on Thursday!”
“That’s because I wasn’t hurt on Thursday. I got hurt setting up our campsite yesterday afternoon. I’ll fill you in as we go. Can you drive?”
“Sure, no problem, but I want the whole story; don’t leave out any details. I can’t believe you’re still going today! Did the doctor say its okay?”
“Let’s get in the car, I’ll tell you the whole story.”
We did and I did. Cathy was worried, at first, that I wouldn’t be able to handle the pain once the shot wore off. The same thought had crossed my mind, too, but…well, I just had to try. Before we’d reached the campground, however, Cathy was gleefully expressing her expectations for God’s healing miracle. She, totally, expected a manifestation of His power to hit my wounded ankle.
“That would be nice, Cath, but I honestly don’t really feel like I have the faith to believe God will heal it here. I have an appointment with the surgeon for Monday so…” I really had not considered it something that needed a miracle, since surgery could fix it.
“But, don’t you see how the girls’ faith would be built up if God healed you? Well, let’s just give God a chance to do it, okay?” I agreed but had little expectation.
The Weekend Conference orientation information was given to the assembled campers of all ages, the speakers introduced, ending with the last minute admonition concerning the hour to re-assemble for Praise and Worship. We gathered our various small groups to head over to the campsite.
Introductions were made so that all newcomers felt a part of our close-knit group. It wasn’t long before Cathy gave the account of my injury of the day before, as well as the trip to the infirmary early that very morning. She wasn’t a cheerleader, but it would have been hard to tell as one listened to her revving the girls up to pray for God to heal my leg. I told them it wasn’t necessary for them to pray for healing right then as we had other things to do. Like each of them practicing the use of my crutches. This produced no limit to the degree of fun, since I was much shorter than most of these teenage girls. All-too-soon, the camp bell rung out and our little group meandered back to the lodge.
One of the announcements warned of a storm front moving in. Rain was forecast for the night hours, so conferencees were encouraged to bring their bedrolls inside for the night. The groans from my kids let me know they were not happy campers.
“Well, what if we pray and believe that God will keep the rain away from our campsite? Can we stay out then?” My question was greeted with cheers from all kids and a few adults, but the stern looks from the other adults spoke volumes on how my idea registered with them.
“Of course, you can stay out and risk getting wet, if you like. A soaking can’t hurt you and you can move inside at any time the thunder shakes your resolve.” Our Camp Big Cheese had spoken.
No question what my girls wanted to do; it was unanimous. We’d pray and sleep by the campfire. Praying to keep the rain away wasn’t the only item on Cathy’s prayer list for the evening.
“You can’t let us forget to pray for your healing.” Cathy was adamant.
“But, Cath, what if the girls are expecting God to heal me, get their hopes up, and God doesn’t? Don’t you think it will do more damage to their faith if that happens than if He should choose to heal me? And, really, what are the chances that God will heal me? Lots of people pray for healing who have more faith than I do, and they aren’t healed.”
“C’mon, Sojourner. You’re supposed to be the leader for the group! If God doesn’t heal you, it’ll give you a chance to talk to the girls about His sovereignty, etc. Besides, I think He will heal you. I have enough faith to believe for your healing, even if you don’t.”
As the afternoon and evening progressed, no more mention was made of the girls praying over my leg. I’d assumed Cathy had forgotten and was not going to remind her. Ha, who was I kidding? The sleeping bags rolled out, the fire crackling and now the time had come for “good night” prayers.
”Okay, girls, we’ve prayed for God to keep the rain away from our campsite. We’ve asked Him to put His canopy over us to keep us dry all night. What do you all think about praying for healing? Sojourner doesn’t have enough faith to believe that God will heal her leg. She thinks God will just let her have the surgery. I think we should all gather around her and lay hands on her to ask God to heal her. What do you think; want to pray for Sojourner?”
Boy, was I out-numbered! Cheers and “you bet we do’s” rang out all around our little circle of high school girls.
“But, God may not want to do it this way, you know. God is God, after all, and we need to let God heal me with surgery, if that’s what God wants to do.”
“Yeah, we know. But, you need to let Him heal you with a miracle, if that’s the way God wants to heal you, don’t you?” The youngest teen, and newest member of the group, spoke the truth, of course; still, I worried that they would be disappointed.
Kneeling all around me, each girl laid one of her hands on my ankle or leg. One-by-one the adolescents prayed for my leg, as I reclined on my sleeping bag. All expressed the expectation that I would leap up in the morning, and not need those crutches lying next to my sleeping bag.
The girls snuggled in their bags, with choruses of “Good nights” resembling the closing scene of The Walton’s (from television’s distant past) criss-crossing back and forth over the blazing campfire. Cathy and I would stay awake until the fire was just a low glow, and then close our eyes for the night. If it got too cold, we’d get the wood to stoke up the fire a bit.
Finally, the fire was at a safe level to close my eyes. “Please, God, answer the girls’ prayers for the canopy to keep the rain away. I don’t want anyone getting sick out here, but don’t want to spoil their fun either. As far as the healing for my leg, God? Well, if You’re not gonna do it, please prepare the kids, will You? Some of these kids are just getting to know You and their own fathers haven’t been such good examples of fatherly love, You know. Most of all, I don’t want them to remember this weekend as the time You weren’t listening. Thanks, God.” I fell asleep immediately, in spite of the thunderous roar overhead. Would God keep us dry for the night? That was the most pressing question on my mind as the peaceful sleep drew me into unconsciousness.
****Faith Not My Own, Conclusion…Next Post