Saturday, November 8, 2014

“The difference between a stumbling block and a stepping stone is how high you raise your foot.” ― Benny Lewis

I discovered the other day that I have what is called “Dupuytren's Contracture” which gradually turns your hand into a claw.  It is hereditary.  My father had it and corrected it with some very expensive and sophisticated surgery.  I learned from my sister just yesterday that my older brother has had it for several years now.  There are no sophisticated hand surgeons here, so I will just have to live with it.  It affects about one in a hundred men in their sixties but will be passed on, so my sons will have to deal with it, too.  Probably by the time they get it, there will be a pill to either prevent it or correct it, but we are not defined by our ailments but by our response to them.  Many give up and give in to the stumbling blocks life puts in front of us, but a whole lot of folks just lift their feet higher and turn those stumbling blocks into stepping stones.  My father had many physical ailments that would have humbled lesser men, but he never gave in or complained.  He finally succumbed to leukemia, but he was 89 years old when he did.  My father-in-law, Clayton Lusby, battled cancer for 14 years before it finally claimed him at the age of 71, but he never complained either and continued to work until retirement age.  He had to wear an ostomy bag because he had bladder cancer and had his bladder removed, but no one ever knew other than his immediate family.  He never complained, talked about it, or used it as an excuse.  Once, while working at an Allied Van Lines warehouse, he was helping a man put some heavy boxes in the man’s trunk.  The man apologized for not helping by saying that he had an ostomy bag as a result of an operation.  As Clayton lifted the last of the heavy boxes in the trunk, he told the man, “I understand completely.  I had that same operation.”  Probably the biggest effect this most recent ailment will have on me is slowing down my typing, but my younger brother can type twice as fast as I do, and he has never used more than two fingers.  I think I can cope.  Pain only affects you as much as you let it.  Having had three surgeries here in bush hospitals with no anesthesia, I have discovered that I can handle a whole lot more pain than I ever thought.  It’s not a question of pain, it’s a question of perception and of context.  We can all do more than we think we can if we have the courage to do so.  My best friend here is Pete O’Neal who at age 67 after a knee replacement and back injuries that keep him in constant pain, began a orphanage and took in twenty-two four year olds (who are now eleven and twelve year olds) as Pete just turned 74.  The last time I visited with him in February of this year (he lives in Arusha, Tanzania), we compared ailments and operations like only old men can, but we also both agreed that we would never let those things interfere in our service to others (one of the reasons he’s my best friend).  We have both been hit with punches that would have knocked others down and out, but have gotten back up and continued to fight.  You can give up and give in if you want, but there is no joy or triumph in that, only a life of excuses and complaints that will hardly make others want to be around you.  You can, however, take the hand that Christ offers and allow it to lift you and propel you forward as a model for others.  That was the choice of my father-in-law, of my father, of my older brother, and it is my choice as well.  I refuse to be remembered for my stumbling blocks but choose to be remembered for the stepping stones I made of them.  You can’t do it alone, but Christ will give you all you need if you but ask.  Maybe learning to type with two fingers could speed up and improve my texting.  This could be a blessing.
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