Push Off the Wall

True story time again.

When I used to drive a taxi, I primarily spent my time transporting wheelchair-bound passengers using a special van. Most wheelchair-bound passengers were on government assistance of some sort and merely used the taxi to get to and from medical appointments. However there were a few that were financially independent enough to pay for the exorbitant price of a taxi ride to go out for leisure activities. Something as simple as going to a shopping center was quite a logistical ordeal for most of them.

So this one time I pick up a lady who is not only wheelchair-bound, but is also quadriplegic. That means all four of her limbs, her arms and her legs, are paralyzed. She only was able to move the parts of her body from her neck up.

It’s one thing to think about this theoretically, but to interact with these quadriplegic people in person just blew my mind. I can’t think of very many things in this life that are more difficult than living with quadriplegia. You are literally a prisoner of your own body. Technology has made amazing advances in helping quadriplegics. For instance, they have little mouthpieces they can use to drive their electric wheelchairs. Yet for almost everything, they are 100% completely dependent on the mercy of others to get through even the simplest of tasks. They cannot feed themselves, they cannot go to the bathroom by themselves, they cannot clothe themselves. I mean there are a lot of doubts about many people who are on government assistance, but quadriplegics do not fall into that category. They literally are unable to help themselves 99% of the time.

But you know what they do have control over? Their attitude and their mind. And believe me – I’ve seen both sides. I don’t want to spend too much time on it, but just for contrast, I’ll say that I’ve seen the dark side of what quadriplegia can do to a person. They are struggling for control of whatever they can control and sometimes that can look like holding people hostage in various ways in order to get their needs met. Or it can look like self-destructive behavior. One of the few times I almost called the cops on someone was when I picked up an older paralyzed man from a strip club and he urinated all over the back of my taxi and then didn’t want to pay the extra clean up fee. Or the times I had a younger paralyzed man who would take the taxi frequently to go out drinking at the club and then be cursing at his caregivers and demanding they pay for the taxi when he arrived back home. I’ve seen paralyzed women torture their caregivers by being viciously emotionally manipulative. I mean, try putting up boundaries with a quadriplegic. Not the easiest task, let me assure you from experience.

And I’m really not here to judge. Even the briefest consideration of their experience, of what it would be like in their shoes, just leaves me so scared and thankful I’m not in that position. I’m not saying their hurtful behaviors are ok. I’m just saying I can understand how easy it would be to go there in that situation.

But that being said, there were those few quadriplegics that I encountered that broke the mold. That rose above. That blew me away with their strength of character, mind, and heart. Some had full-time jobs that they went to. Others travelled. But my favorite was this woman who owned her own business! I picked her up from the shopping center one day and took her to her home in the more expensive part of town.

Now you might think she started her business before she became paralyzed? But no, she started her business after she was a full-blown quadriplegic! She used her mind and organized a service around what she knew best – caregiving! She created an employment agency for caregivers. She would recruit caregivers, interview them, and then find and send them out on caregiving jobs. How perfect, eh? She of all people knew what to look for in a caregiver.

Not only did she inspire me tremendously, but she also challenged me! I transported her at least twice and it was the last time that I spoke with her that she challenged me. I guess in her line of work, she was used to checking people out and evaluating their strengths and abilities. I don’t know how we got on the subject, but she called me out. She questioned why I was doing the taxi-driving when I had potential to do other jobs that paid much more and were safer.

I was at a loss for words when she challenged me. I mean she had true authority, no posturing. I didn’t feel shamed, but any excuse I had paled with the obstacles she had to overcome in her position. And she knew it. She kept pushing me as our time was coming to a close. It was an encouraging rebuke. She had full faith in me. I remember her parting words: “Push off the wall, Sarah! Push off the wall!”

I knew exactly what she meant. I was a swimmer for many years. The people who are scared in the pool cling to the wall, the side of the pool, the whole time. She was speaking my language. That’s what I was doing with my life.

She was challenging me to let go of the security of keeping myself in the relatively safe position of under-performing. Of not enduring the pain of failure to reach my full potential. Yes, any honest work is 100% honorable. But I was letting fear get the best of me. Whereas she had physical paralysis, I had mental analysis paralysis.

Not only was she a stranger speaking life to me, but her success in the face of so many challenges was so inspiring! Amazing to think that we could let fear imprison us more than a paraplegic would let their body imprison them.

“Push off the wall, Sarah! Push off the wall!”

It was shortly after that and at least two other angels in my taxi that also gave me the same challenge and spoke life to me, that I gathered the courage to start to not define myself by my failures. I gathered what little self-confidence I had left and started applying for jobs where my life wasn’t threatened on a daily basis. And what was the first job I was offered? Working as a technical support agent at The Scooter Store! Helping paralyzed people when their electric wheelchairs malfunctioned. Wow, eh?! Full circle! I’d like to think there was some Divine Intervention at work there.

What limits am I putting on myself today? I am Loved. It’s ok to try and fail. This isn’t about performing for the sake of performing. This is more about considering regrets. Will I respect myself tomorrow for the decisions I make today? Push off the wall. 😁

And this is also about speaking life to one another. You never know who needs you to see them today. When they’ve lost sight of the accurate picture of themselves. You never know where your seed of encouragement might land on someone who needs it today. Don’t underestimate whatever impact you can make. My paralyzed customer is proof of putting whatever gifts we have been given to work. Working with whatever we have. You are important, needed, and have a lot to offer!

Push off the wall. 😁

Uncomplicated

“I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God.” (Ecclesiastes 3)

“The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much;” (Ecclesiastes 5)

“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works.” (Ecclesiastes 9)

As you do not know what is the way of the wind, or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, so you do not know the works of God who makes everything. In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” (Ecclesiastes 11)

“Each one repaired the section immediately across from his own house.” (Nehemiah 3:28)

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord…” (Colossians 3)

Control

Maybe the whole point is that we can’t manipulate God and there is no formula for ensuring that we get what we want.

For many, it is terrifying to accept that we have no control of God. The alternative is to take responsibility for our choices and trust Him for everything. Probably an easier task for the unchurched – those who have escaped years of religious doctrines and dogmas.

I’m a champion for the real Truth, but a lot of what I’ve encountered has been more akin to witchcraft. I.e. if you do x, y, and z then God will do a, b, and c. That is witchcraft. You’re just replacing spells and potions with behavior modification and superstitions. It is much more personal and scary to be in relationship.

I always thought the point of the book of Job was to say that God can do whatever He wants to do and we shouldn’t question Him. But now I wonder if maybe the point was to show that we cannot manipulate God.

Job was righteous. Even God said so. But it seems to me that Job and all his friends freaked out when the “formula” that seemed to work before was no longer working. They sat around thinking, “Where did we go wrong? It must have been something we did. Or didn’t do. If only we could figure it out. Maybe we just didn’t try hard enough.” Just like we do in modern times.

We call it grace but forget that means unmerited favor. Unmerited.

Some might say that we have the propensity to want to believe we can control and manipulate God so that we can feel better about ourselves compared to others we see doing worse. I disagree with that being the entire reason.

I rather think it comes down to fear. We see bad things happening to other people and we want to avoid that pain in our own lives. So we try to figure out a formula to escape bad things happening to us.

For some that looks similar to what many call OCD. For others it looks like agoraphobia. For others it looks like benign routines, never taking risks. For others it looks like religion. For others it looks like proving we “trust” God by presuming on His grace – in the pratical sense, being super risky.

But I think God was telling Job that there is not a formula. All and anything we have is a gift. Being alive is a gift.

He works with us where we are. He lets us get to the end of ourselves if we insist on trying to do all the heavy lifting without Him. Rules just show us that we aren’t as independent as we’d like to believe we are.

If we knew how much we were loved, we would trust. That is why I write. To share the hope that I have been given. Hoping it will resonate in a seeker’s spirit and encourage.

He says to come boldly to the throne of grace. Like children.

I notice there is a theme in the American culture that I’ve witnessed. The theme is that parents refrain from sharing wealth with the children. They say it’s good that the child struggles and suffers. They basically say the child needs to know that they shouldn’t depend on anyone.

Some spread their wings and soar. Others fall on the ground and then we call their value and character into question.

But I was thinking: why would it be such a bad thing to prepare your children for the best possible success? Why make it more difficult for them to succeed in a world that is already dog-eat-dog?

Why not give them clothes, education, transportation, housing, and healthcare so they can focus on their work and have the best possible chances of success? Wouldn’t that make sense for the family as a whole?

I think that’s the key: family. I see the super successful put this into action. It isn’t all about me, me, me. There isn’t a poverty mentality. Their actions speak that the children are wanted, desired, included, accepted, loved, provided for, etc. The focus is less on the individual and more on the group.

We are as successful as our weakest member.

I say all that to make note that I think we project the way we treat each other, and the way we’ve been treated, onto God and then incorrectly conclude that we aren’t welcome in His home or in His heart. Jesus came to show us that it is God’s great joy and longing to gather us under His wings.

Perfect love casts out fear. I thank God that He doesn’t treat us like we treat each other. He doesn’t leave anyone behind.

At the same, His passionate wrath will not let us settle comfortably into a wrong view of Him. He resists our blind, valiant attempts to appease the gods we have misrepresented Him to be. Only for our highest good, not His ego.

It would do us so well to truly understand who we are in Him and who He is for us. It would change everything if we only knew and believed how much we are loved.

It would mean we could not continue to hide behind the litany of excuses we employ to attempt to shield ourselves from the consequences of our poor decisions. But the good news is that we would see that the fear of failure, death, and so many other temporary states do not carry anywhere near the same paralyzing, terminal power we attributed to them in the past.

We are truly free to live. To love. To create. To participate.

Amen? Are you willing? Enter His rest. Ask Him to help you see.