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.