Some of you may remember my friend Steve Ruetschle who had a motorcycle accident last year that left him a quadriplegic. Steve’s recovery has been incredible. He and his wife Michelle and their three kids plan to return to the Philippines in August. Their journey over the months since the accident has profoundly impacted thousands around the world.
The following reflection was written by Theresa Froehlich after she heard Steve share at church last week. His sermon was entitled Friends of a Paralytic
Faith is not intellectual assent to a system of doctrines. Faith is not mere participation in religion. Faith is not having positive feelings about a deity. Faith is not just membership in a religious institution.
I had known all these disclaimers of faith from the day I began a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. At least I thought I knew these disclaimers well. But the missing piece of the puzzle – a rather big piece – was that while I knew what faith was not, I had not understood what personal faith was until I came face to face with losses.
I came to faith in Christ as a young adult in my 20’s, still guided by my old values – the compulsion for control, the attraction to achievements, and the search for security. I had been convinced of my total commitment to God, my correct understanding of faith, and my good grasp of Christian discipleship.
This prideful and self-congratulatory attitude toward my faith was shattered to pieces when I began to experience heart-breaking challenges in the launching of our children in the mid- to late teen years. After a very forceful and traumatic launch of our two children, I was then confronted with brick walls when I tried to return to my professional life. The veneers of achievements and success which had been hiding my superficial faith were being stripped from me. I felt naked before God.
Stripped of those things that used to give me confidence and identity, I am now driven to run to and depend on God. Perhaps this is what the Apostle Paul really meant when he said, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14).
Last week at Sunday worship, I once again came face to face with this new understanding of Romans 13:14 as I listened to our guest preacher Steve Ruetschle.
Steve is a gifted and young pastor serving at an international church in the Philippines. A catastrophic motor cycle accident in June 2010 paralyzed him from the neck down. The doctor gave him a 10% chance of ever being able to move again. Ten months later, as he walked up – yes, he walked – to the pulpit to preach the message on the healing of the paralytic (Mark 2:1-12), the congregation immediately applauded.
For a moment, I asked myself: “What are we applauding for?”
We were applauding for more than just Steve’s accomplishments in recovery or the resiliency of the human spirit. We were applauding for the hope we could find in Christ, the grace God repeatedly lavishes upon us, and the new and much more profound understanding of what it means to personally trust in Jesus Christ. As I looked around through my own moist eyes, I noticed many, women as well as men, wiping off the tears from their eyes.
Our tears were the tears of knowing and understanding – knowing what it was like to suffer losses, understanding how this pain can bring prosperity to our souls, and embracing God’s mercy as the sole conduit for our salvation and survival.
In the same way that God lovingly made garments of skin to clothe Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness (Genesis 3:21), God continues to clothe Steve, me, and many who invite Jesus Christ to cover our nakedness.
If you were to write a paragraph to describe your faith in Jesus Christ, how would you describe it? How has your faith evolved over time and as a result of your life experiences? What have you learned about God and about yourself through all of this?
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