Every now and then the extraordinary happens; something, or someone, set apart, enters the world and lives are changed for the better. For many years I was unaware of the miracle I was born into. A story was unfolding in my family and I was an unknowing witness to events and circumstances that were being shaped by God for His greater purpose and glory. Even today, I can only see the edges of His plan as I look back on the characters He cast…
One day on a trip to the grocery store I noticed a little girl staring at my aunt as we made our way through the parking lot.
“What is she looking at?” I wondered. I looked at my aunt and saw her for the first time, through someone else’s eyes…She was not tall, in fact short by most standards. Her back was curved which made her hunch forward. She did not walk like other people. She wore bulky metal braces on both her legs that went from her hips to her feet. Her strong hands gripped the handles of long metal crutches she used to propel her body in a forward motion by swinging her torso to move her legs forward, over and over again. She moved differently from every other person on the planet, her physical limitations and adaptations unique to her.
I understood for the first time that this is what some people saw when they looked at her, someone physically disabled, strange, different.
But this was not who she was.
I’d seen pictures of my aunt when she was little, before she contracted polio. She was unusually beautiful with perfectly placed features, a delicate nose, rosy red lips and big bright blue eyes. She had naturally curly brown hair and a contagious smile.
When she was 5 years old she became very ill. She would suffer the torment of doctors who did not understand how to treat polio, and who performed surgeries and procedures that left her crippled and in constant chronic pain.
But this was not who she was.
When my Aunt was diagnosed with Polio, they put her in a quarantine ward in Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles, California. At one point, no one, not her mom or dad or any family members were permitted to see her. She lay alone and frightened surrounded by strangers in contamination suits; nameless, faceless shadows that moved in and out, they could offer neither hope nor healing.
One night, alone in her sterile hospital room she wondered if anyone was coming to check on her. She wondered if she might die alone and what that would be like; and she wondered if there was a God and if He was watching.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. Isaiah 58:9
She was staring out the doorway of her empty room when an “angel” appeared on the edge of her bed. It did not speak, and yet she knew why it was there; God was letting her know she was not alone, that He was watching over her. She felt the full comfort and hope of a loving God in that moment of pain and loneliness, and it changed everything.
Fast forward 20 years and several miracles later, by the time I was born, Aunt Bonnie was the loving face that looked down at me, changing my diapers and holding me close. She was the warm hand that held mine when I stood close to her for comfort. She was the maker of many home cooked meals and special family gatherings. She was the one who picked me up after school when my parents could not. She was the one who sat with me when I was sad or discouraged and took my mind off my own troubles by effortlessly cheering me up.
She didn’t let me feel sorry for myself. She showed me how to be grateful for what I have, and not waste time thinking about what I don’t have.
Aunt Bonnie knew what was important and what was not. She was a rock and a comfort to all who knew her. Her family leaned on her, not the other way around.
This was who she was. Smiling in the face of pain.
Today, God speaks to me through my Aunt’s life. I realize this is how He sees us, the way I see my Aunt, through the eyes of love not the lense of brokenness.
The message of The Cross is love.
“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that who so ever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
This was who she was. She was a child who saw an angel sent from God and found a hope and strength that few posses. She became a light to other children and families stricken with polio.
I often though of my Aunt as my guardian angel, never seeing her as anything less. I will forever be grateful that despite the doctors certainty that she could not possibly live past age 7 or 8, God had a different plan, a perfect plan…
“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesian 3: 14-21
Ephesians 3: 14-21 reminds me that the love of God is stronger than any disease. It reminds me of the extraordinary things He does through the weak and broken, and it reminds me that when we are firmly rooted in this love, miracles can happen.
Thank you God for the extraordinary people you raise up, for the angels and guardians you send to watch over and protect us. Give us eyes to see them among us so we may be blessed with hope and courage by your loving protection and provision. Thank you, that you love us and will never forsake us, that you go to prepare a place for us in Heaven. Let our prayers intervene for those who can not call on you Lord, for you alone are mighty to save! In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Amen.