Hobbling Faith

I took an ailing veteran to the VA Center in Boise, Idaho this week. He’s a young fellow, in his mid-forties. A big lug of a guy, 6′ 3″, and hauling around too much weight on his broken frame of a body.

Twenty years ago, when he was all taut muscle and in running form, an infection set in, ate away his thigh muscle. During those three weeks he spent at the hospital, doctors considered amputating the leg.

Years of favoring the one leg over the other have taken their toll on the veteran. He’s crippled up. Standing takes an act of the will. It is something he has to intention to do. He must first scooch himself to the edge of the chair. Then he grabs hold of something – the chair arm, the counter-top, a set of crutches – and pulls himself to a standing position on the one good leg. His feet splay out of the rips in the worn and ill-fitting leather loafers. They do not steady him as much as plant him. He does not stand straight and tall, but bent over, head in a perpetual bow.

Brokenness willing itself to stand.

Faith on its feet.

Unwilling to concede to the despair of the obvious.

When he passes by other men, older than him by twenty, thirty years, veterans of a different era, they study his feet, his back, those crutches, and marvel that he is able to walk at all.

A miracle, they whisper, one to another.

Surely they are right.

That same night as I was trying to sleep, a flood of horrible, no-good, very-bad thoughts hit me. Ran over me like a combine does a field rat. Smacked me down and left me with tread marks down my back.

Disappointment doesn’t even begin to capture the essence of it.

These are matters about which I have been praying, some of them for years now, and so much of the time, lately, it feels like I’m praying to a crack-pot masquerading as God. All his whiz-bang supernatural powers nothing more than levers and whistles. I want to go behind the curtain and yank him out onstage and expose him for the fraud that he is.

But instead, I lay in bed repeating this mantra until I fell asleep: “And yet I trust him.” 

Faith hobbling on unsteady feet, head bowed, spirit broken, but rising in darkness.

 

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Mother of Rain, an Appalachian tale of mystery, madness, mountains and Melungeons. 

 

About Karen Spears Zacharias

Author. Speaker. Journalism Instructor. Four kids. Three dogs. One grandson.

  • Darian G. Burns

    Beautiful. Heartbreaking. Honest and authentic. I believe but help my unbelief. Thank you.

  • Gloria

    Thank you for the picture in words and for your compassion and for sitting with him literally and figuratively! My heart heard every word as I cried.

  • AFRoger

    When Jesus and his little band of brothers finally hit the Big City of Jerusalem, they are amazed by the size and grandeur of the temple. Jesus says not to be so awestruck. It will be leveled. Not by an earthquake either. Naturally, when people heard such a forecast, they asked when. When will these things be? I confess that I’ve been too hard on them. I have ridiculed then for not asking the more important question, “What do these things mean?”
    And then I read the Beatitudes, especially in Luke 6 when it’s no longer in the third person but second person. Or I read Mary’s song, the Magnificat, in Luke 1. And when I look out at my little flock with heavy clothes, backpacks and duffles filled with what they can carry, carrying their homes around on their backs, I realize how honest the question “When?” is. And how necessary. It’s no longer a matter of talking about Jesus’ preaching good news to the poor 2K years ago. They’re sitting here in front of me. It’s no longer theoretical. “The poor” have faces, names, life stories, badly faded hopes and dreams. Hunger and bathroom needs that follow them every day and every hour.
    All I have to offer them is a place to sit for a short while. A shelter measured in minutes rather than months or years. Coffee and a meal for the short evening. Prayer. Music too often from a boombox and not from a live musician with a real instrument. A little bread and a little non-alcoholic grape juice–because Jesus promised to be present in these things. And in them.
    So, yes, Jesus. When? When will the Beatitudes and Mary’s song be fulfilled? If you’re a fraud, Jesus, then I’m a fool. But I’ve trusted you not to be. So I continue, trusting that fulfillment is happening in ways I cannot see–or will not live long enough to see. Always, the when question comes echoing back to me. If there is so much more that we could be doing but haven’t been, then the when sits present in our hands. Waiting. Hope is real only when it has a now to it. I guess that’s all the when I need. For today.


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