Sunday, May 05, 2013

Wendel Walks

A man that lives down the road from my apartment had a stroke several months ago.

His name is Wendel, and he's a story of hope.
Over the last few months, Wendel has been learning to walk again.
First, with the help of a therapist and a walker.  He would take the steps from his front porch to about halfway down his driveway, where he could at least feel the cool evening breeze and catch a glimpse of the magnolia tree in bloom. A few weeks later, Wendel was making the walk from his porch to his mailbox at the end of his driveway, still with the help of his therapist, but what an exciting accomplishment!
About a month ago, I turned onto my street after a crazy day at work to find a lady in bright pink scrubs and Wendel pushing his walker, slowly, but surely, right in front of my apartment complex. My heart was thrilled for him.

A couple weeks ago, I drove around the block near my apartment, where I found Wendel taking one step at a time, holding on to that walker, by himself.

No therapist holding him at the waist; nobody coaching him along....just Wendel and his walker.
Today, I was standing at my door trying to decide if it was jeans or shorts weather. I glanced across the street, and saw Wendel rounding the corner by himself with a cane in his right hand.  Slowly, but surely, he walks every day- training his mind, and training his legs to do the things that they did for years and years until the stroke.

When I think about Wendel, I can't help but think how frustrating that would be, but I'm also reminded about how Christ gives us the chance to start over in many different ways. Ultimately, he provides the chance to trade a broken, destined-for-hell life, for a complete and eternally awesome one. He also takes specific situations, past mistakes, and past disasters and offers a fresh start.

It's not all fresh evening breezes and blooming magnolia trees, though.

When I watch Wendel struggle with each step he takes, I wonder if he ever feels like giving up on it all.

I wonder if he recalls the days when he could walk to his mailbox without giving much thought to it; without having to focus so intently on getting his right leg to bend at the knee.
The encouraging thing about Wendel is that even through the struggle, he remains focused and disciplined.
It reminds me of what Paul says in Philippians 3.

 "But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christand be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Now, I don't know where Wendel stands in a spiritual sense, but I can see in his eyes a sense of awareness that says "I'm not there yet, but I'm on my way." In these verses, Paul is now speaking with a perspective of faith in Christ, instead of his former perspective of upholding his status and the credentials that made him a leader in the Jewish religion. He sees a clear picture of his future, regardless of the past, and regardless of how bad things may get for him in the future. This idea of "pressing on" implies that there will be pressure, and we're all familiar with the pressures of life. We're bombarded daily by stress, pressure, disappointments, and pain. 
When I see Wendel, I can almost hear him say "I will press on. I will press on." 
What a challenge and encouragement he provides!