She begged God to let her husband walk again, but a different kind of healing was at hand.
Posted in , Jan 20, 2013
“Okay. I’ll go.” My husband, Allen, looked up at me from his wheelchair, his voice resigned, almost a sigh.
I stood by the dresser unfolding a pair of his pajamas. We were in the middle of our bedtime routine. Once I’d gotten Allen into his pj’s I’d hoist him into bed with a special lift anchored to the ceiling. Then I’d get myself ready, take a bath, brush my teeth.
If he was still awake when I got into bed we’d say some prayers together.
Or not, considering the odd request that I had just made. Allen was a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the torso down as the result of a motorcycle accident. I had asked him to go see a faith healer with me, someone I had read good things about online.
Our own church is pretty traditional, so I probably sounded desperate. Or maybe to Allen it sounded like I was getting fed up with taking care of him. I opened my mouth to tell him that wasn’t true, but he spoke first.
“I can tell it means a lot to you,” he said. “Who knows? Maybe something will happen.” The kindness in his expression made me so sad I hurriedly got him dressed and into bed.
In the bathroom I stared at myself in the mirror. It had been a year since the accident. Allen, the doctors said, was done healing. He’d gone back to work part-time as a college campus minister. He was coping well–better than I was, in fact.
Before the accident, Allen had taken care of everything–the house, our finances. I looked after Lily, our four-year-old. I wasn’t ready to make all the big decisions.
Allen’s care exhausted me. I prayed and prayed for him to be healed, to walk again, but nothing happened. It seemed like God just wasn’t hearing me anymore. I found myself wondering, what if someone else prayed for us, someone with a gift for healing? Was it too much to expect a miracle?
Allen wasn’t the sort of person who expected miracles. His faith was quiet and steady, like he was. That was part of the reason I thought he might respond to Lawrence and Liz Banda, the couple whose healing ministry I’d read about online.
Lawrence and Liz were from Africa. A few years earlier they had felt called by God to move to Kansas City. They held special services at a small hotel conference room, and anyone who needing healing was welcome.
Lawrence preached from Scripture then led a prayer session. He and Liz accepted no money. They were sincere and down-to-earth, like Allen. “I think they’re for real,” I told him. “I think God can use them to help us.”
It was no mean feat getting our little family of three to Kansas City. But thankfully Lily was a good traveler and was used to all of the extra steps in our routine. We packed everything we needed–wheelchair, medical supplies, luggage–into our van and hit the road.
I prayed as hard as I could on the four-hour drive, but my mind kept wandering, flashing back to that terrible accident.
It was two days after our thirteenth wedding anniversary. A warm August morning. Lily had just started preschool. We took the motorcycle out for a ride. Allen was a good, safe driver and we stayed on slow country roads.
I loved our lazy rides through the countryside. I’d wrap my arms around Allen, rest my body against his and mentally recite Scriptures and hum while we rode. So relaxing.
But that August morning barely five minutes into our ride, for no apparent reason, I’d felt a prickle of fear. So I’d prayed, God, I know it doesn’t please you when I live fearfully. Help me to trust you. I leaned into that trust the way I leaned into Allen on the bike.
Then we hit a patch of gravel–must have been left over from some construction, but there were no signs and Allen didn’t see it till too late. The bike skidded out from under us and we went flying. I wound up with a concussion. Allen broke his neck.
Did I trust God now? I wanted to. But why did I feel so nervous? I glanced at Allen. He was looking out the van window. What was he thinking? Was he nervous too? Was he mad at me for dragging him along?
All these months of recovery and rehab and uncertainty, he’d never been overwhelmed. Impatient sometimes, grumpy sometimes. But never angry or depressed. Maybe he was just resigned, like when I had first brought up this whole crazy idea.
Well, I thought, Jesus tells us to pray and expect an answer. God would come through for us. He just had to.
We got to the hotel in Kansas City and carted our things to our room. The service was the following morning. I barely slept. First thing, I got up and busied myself getting Allen and Lily ready.
We made our way downstairs. Allen rolled into the conference room ahead of me. Lawrence and Liz motioned for us to join a group of about two dozen others. I noticed no one else was in a wheelchair. Was Allen the only one needing healing?
The worship leader struck up some music and we sang praise songs. Then Lawrence got out his Bible and preached from Isaiah. “The salvation offered by Jesus is offered to all people,” he told us. “And Jesus came not just to save our souls. He healed the body too. He came so that we might have full, abundant life.”
I drank those words in. I felt myself full of anticipation.
“Let us pray,” said Lawrence. “Allen, may we put you in this chair?” He pointed to an armchair. Allen nodded uncertainly. With the help of many hands, he was transferred from his wheelchair to the armchair.
He looked apprehensive. Lawrence and Liz laid their hands on him. “Reach out your hands to Allen and his family,” Lawrence instructed everyone. I felt hands on my shoulders.
Lawrence began to pray and his prayer lasted a long time, at least 15 minutes. I kept opening my eyes, looking at Allen, watching for some sign that he had been healed. I saw Lily with her eyes squeezed shut, her lips moving.
“In Jesus’ name, amen,” Lawrence concluded. The room went quiet. Everyone waited. I stared at Allen.
Allen stared back. He didn’t move.
One last song, then the service was over. “Thank you for coming,” said Lawrence and Liz. “God be with you.”
We got Allen back into his wheelchair and the room slowly emptied. I had to force myself to take Lily’s hand and go back to our room to pack. Allen and I said nothing. I loaded the van and we headed for the freeway.
I couldn’t cry, I told myself. I had to be in charge. Oh, how I hated being in charge! Especially now that I’d dragged us halfway across the state, gotten our hopes up...all for nothing. Would Allen ever forgive me?
We got home. The bedtime routine once again. By the time Lily and Allen were tucked in I was exhausted. I ran hot water for a bubble bath and fixed myself some cucumber salad. I sat in the bath eating salad, feeling numb.
Help me to trust you, I’d prayed that morning on the motorcycle. God was supposedly my Lord and my Protector and yet he’d let this accident happen, this totally random, preventable accident.
Then we’d gone all the way to Kansas City to this healing service. I’d prayed harder than I’d ever prayed–even Lily prayed! And Allen was still lying in the bedroom unable to move his legs and his lower arms. What was there to trust?
I shook my head. I couldn’t keep thinking like this! It was wrong. It hurt. I cast about for something else.
I thought of a friend we’d had over a few days ago. She was going through a rough time, and I’d been struck with how stable our family was by comparison, how well-grounded in our routines. Every night we read aloud to each other, ending with a passage of Scripture and prayers. It was my favorite time of day.
It reminded me of when I was a child, my parents reading Scripture to me before bedtime. Sometimes I’d hear them praying together before they went to bed themselves–often praying for me. How safe and protected and cared for I’d felt!
Allen and I did our best to give Lily the same sense of God’s presence in our home. Obviously she was picking something up. She’d prayed hard in Kansas City.
I looked up from my salad. Something was different. I hadn’t seen or heard anything. And yet something in the room–or maybe in me–felt different.
Lily praying, Allen and me praying, my parents praying, this long chain of prayers stretching back through the years–what was that if not a powerful sign of God’s constant loving presence in my life?
Of course he hadn’t turned away. I had. I’d demanded a very specific outcome then pushed God aside when he didn’t follow instructions. What did I want more? An outcome? Or God himself? I wanted God.
And he was here. In this room, in our house, in our strong, faithful family.
I felt almost giddy climbing out of the tub. Lawrence and Liz had laid hands on Allen in prayer. But maybe Allen wasn’t the one who needed healing. Maybe it was I who had been healed that day, granted the miracle of acceptance.
I dried off, brushed my teeth and put on my nightgown. I walked back into the bedroom. Allen was asleep, his face peaceful, like it so often was. I loved him so much.
I knew the coming years would not be easy and there would be times when we both wished Allen could get up and walk like before the accident. But I could accept that. I knew there was something greater than my definition of healing. There was the Healer himself.
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