This week I received Fuller Seminary’s quarterly magazine (Fuller Focus, Winter 2009), and was immediately drawn to the cover article written by Galen Buckwalter. I never knew him when I was at Fuller, but I knew his soon-to-be wife Deborah.
Galen has been in a wheelchair since a diving accident in high school. Shortly after the accident, he was transferred to a state hospital for disabled children that was a terrible nightmare for a year. He wrote this about his parents:
“Were it not for the consistent support I received from my parents, I have no doubt I woudl never have made it through those interminable days in the hospital. I loved to hear the “clock” of the automatic door opener down the hall at 7:00 p.m. when visiting hours started. My folks, who were in their early 50s, milked the cows, finished all their other farm chores, and drove 50 miles to spend two hours with me. That time was my lifeline to the world; we talked about what was happening on the farm, how my friends wer edoing, and how my family was doing. They were as emotionally spent as I was, but they missed only one night the entire time I was in the hospital…”
In the next paragraph he writes of his parents: “As I have since come to a better understanding of how relationships shape the adult brain, though, I see how their consistency was reshaping who I would become. Every day that she and my father made the trek to be with me, often just sitting in silence, they got me out of my own small world and helped me see that there was so much to be grateful for – they were helping me see that life could be bigger than pain.”
The last two days I have thought a lot about these farmers in their early 50s who had to deal with the pain of suddenly seeing their active son so very inactive. Through their consistent love that was manifested often in silence, Galen says that they reshaped him. His parents helped get him out of his own small world. Later he writes that all of his friends from that one year state hospital are now all eithe rdead or institutionalized. But Galen is amazingly alive, singing, writing, working creatively. He credits his wife, and his parents, “who are the constant of my life.”
. Yesterday in our missionary small group we talked about this article, and about a special school where Eric goes to teach English every week to junior highers who are severely disabled. He reminded me that I originally didn’t want him to teach there because it wasn’t “strategic”. (I repented!) I love to think about him sitting with these kids and bringing them hope and loving them individually.
And I am thinking right now about what it means to sit with people. To be a friend who is constant, who doesn’t need to necessarily give advice but who God can use to reshape the despair/pain in people’s lives… This morning a good Japanese friend N. came by to bring a key, and to talk about a camping trip we are planning next month with four families (stay tuned — the local mountains aren’t going to know what hit them!). In the midst of our chatting, N. began to tell me about how her son had been hit by another student at school the day before. She kept tearing up as she was telling me. She hadn’t told her husband yet — she is afraid he will just dismiss it. I was so thankful she shared with me — that we could sit (or stand) together in her pain. We actually ended up talking about forgiveness – she had never considered the idea of encouraging her son to forgive this student in his heart to keep the injury from growing further. We had a really wonderful discussion about a topic that I could tell was very foreign to her.
I’m not always good at just sitting. But I sure hope God continues to teach me more about how to do this, allowing me to be a reshaper.