The Road to Peace
A positive end to a pity party.
by Mary Cox-Bilz
Born with a severe disability called Arthrogryposis, Multiplex Congenita, I have less than 3 percent use of my left arm and less than 7 percent use of my right arm. I have never walked. I type with a mouth stick held between my teeth and depend on a motorized wheelchair for mobility.
When I was a little girl, my sister and brother got bikes at Christmas; I got a radio. Sometimes it was hard to watch them run and play while I sat. Why did God make them normal and me handicapped? I often wondered. I also struggled with anxious thoughts that led me down dark, unending hallways to nowhere. My tendency to worry about insignificant things sometimes escalated into panic attacks that tormented my soul.
But Mom and Dad always called me Suzie Smart and said I could do anything I wanted in life. I believed them and, as a result, graduated from college with honors and a smile on my face.
I accepted Christ as my Savior more than 25 years ago, but even today, at age 52, my soul refuses to be comforted about my physical condition. My faith is weak. I struggle to trust God, and I eat, drink, and work to be merry; but nothing changes for good. No matter how long I pray, the Lord remains silent. The anguish lingers, like the odor of dead fish.
And sleep? I don’t sleep. I just close my eyes for a few hours to try to escape the pain.
While I bathed this morning, a soapy wash cloth kept slipping from my teeth to the bathroom floor. Exasperated, I leaned my face on the basin brim and wiggled the long mouth stick between my teeth with my lips. Then I lowered it to the floor, hooked the cloth on the stick’s end, and attempted to raise it. But the cloth fell off the end and flopped to the floor, insistent on tormenting me. After five attempts, I successfully got the wash cloth back in the basin.
“Lord, I’m sick and tired of this happening!” I felt like pie dough rolled thinner and thinner by the baker. I sat still to catch my breath. What more can I say? I thought. I’m the dough, not the One rolling the pin.
I drove my electric wheelchair into the roll-in closet to pull a dress from the clothes hanger with my teeth, dropped it on my lap, and returned to the bathroom to get dressed. I raised the dress to the sink with my mouth, flung my arms into the sleeve openings, and managed to squeeze my head through the neck space without unzipping it.
In ten minutes the bus arrived. Then the telephone rang. I rushed to answer it, knowing I still had to put on my shoes and sweater. It was a good friend calling for support. She had been diagnosed with an incurable disease and wanted my advice on stress management. I encouraged her to lean on God and take one day at a time.
A horn blew. It must be the bus. I told my friend I would call her later, then slipped on my shoes and rushed out the front door without my sweater.
Driver and friend
“Where’s your jacket?” asked the bus driver.
“Oh, I didn’t have time to get it.”
“You better roll back and get it. It’s going to be chilly today. I’ll wait.”
I thanked God for the bus and my friend, the driver. Without them I would have been house-bound, except when family took me out. That would limit my independence a great deal.
After teaching some writing classes for the local college, I stopped by the shopping center for a late lunch. A mother and daughter sat at the next table.
“Mommy, why does that lady stick her face in the plate to eat her sandwich? Why doesn’t she use her hands like we do?”
“Honey, she was born crippled; her arms don’t work. Now turn around and don’t bother her.”
“But why, Mommy? Why did God make her like that?”
“We don’t know why. Just be quiet and eat. Mommy has to go to the grocery store from here, so come on and hurry.”
“Mommy, why don’t we know why? Tell me!”
When I got to bed that night, I tossed and turned. “Where are You, God? Why do You seem so far away?”
The next morning these unanswered questions pounded on my temples. Frustrated, I took a deep breath, slid my hips from the mattress to the motorized wheelchair seat, unplugged my battery charger, and drove my wheelchair in front of the warm living room fireplace. I stared at the hot orange flames.
“Lord, I know You say when we play with fire, we get burned. But what do You say about people who don’t play with fire and still get burned?” I asked God the question, though not with sincerity. I just wanted to complain and didn’t care about His reasons for permitting pain. All I wanted was the Lord to end my misery.
I looked down at my deformed feet, wiggled my toes into the loose bedroom shoes, several sizes too big, and slid them on without using my hands — small, deformed hands that could do little but hang by my sides.
The heat from the fireplace made the wheelchair’s blue metal frame hot to the touch. I slung my right hand back to the drive control box and pushed the navigation stick, just enough to roll myself a few feet from the blaze. Then I thought about Paul, a follower of Jesus Christ, and the church in the ancient city of Corinth. The members of that church were beaten, put in jail, and deprived of food.
A lump came in my throat. My heart skipped a beat, and my face flushed. Then I shook my head at God. “Where are You when it hurts, Lord?” My complaint was bitter. God’s sovereignty was more than I could understand. For no reason at all, pain and sorrow infested my body and soul. Anger, like hot acid, seeped through my pores. “God, You have got to do something — now!”
The nerve He had to ignore me at a time like this. If God is love and can do everything, why did He ignore my pleas for help? What wrong had I done to deserve such treatment?
God didn’t move.
Exhausted from my futile efforts, I clammed up and brooded. Angry with God for not allowing me to control Him, I looked to myself to fix my problems in my own strength. Extra helpings of mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner and a double serving of ice cream for dessert sounded like great ideas. I even tried catnaps and a well-deserved shopping trip, even though my cash was low.
But none of these tricks reduced my pain.
“God, help me!” I pleaded.
Good and evil
My frail torso leaned on the desk next to the day’s newspaper headlines: “Ten Year Old Child Kills Parents”; “Earthquake Destroys Town”; “Panic-Stricken Man Refuses to Leave His House.” And then there are my problems.
I suddenly realized I lived in a war zone — an invisible battlefield of good and evil forces. When my heart was angry, I saw disappointment, failure, and pain. But when I was filled with love for God, I saw His marvelous works in my life: family, friends, buses, and computers.
Who needs hands to type? I type 29 correct words per minute with a mouth stick and have authored five books by tapping on my computer keyboard. God has also blessed me with artistic ability to create a line of greeting cards and artwork painted by holding a brush between my teeth.
I can’t walk, but I can sing God’s praises. I just completed the recording sessions for an upcoming album titled You’ll Never Walk Alone.
God has a reason for everything He does and allows. Though we suffer and disagree with His will, to accept what He has chosen is the only road to peace. It is a hard road, but it is the open road.