We’re continuing our Summer Sampler series, revisiting some of our favorite posts from past years. This article was originally published in 2002. Enjoy! And please feel free to forward to a friend.
by Dr. Beverly Rose
“Do they come in purple?” I asked the medical equipment dealer as I stared at the dreaded assistive devices. “After all, if I am destined to be on crutches for the rest of my life, I might as well be color-coordinated,” I quipped, trying to make light out of a far too serious situation. Meanwhile, the dealer, who had apparently heard it all, didn’t crack a smile, responding surprisingly, “Yes, in fact, they come in nineteen colors.” Then, without missing a beat, he pulled out a color chart that featured everything from standard silver to punk rock pink.
Suddenly, my mind began frantically sorting through my wardrobe, trying to settle on just the right shade. How ironic. I had dragged myself to his shop hoping to find a way to walk better. Yet, all of a sudden, it seemed far more important to look better. “I’ll take the lavender,” I said, “. . . although, on second thought, the yellow is really nice.” “Some people buy several pairs to match different outfits,” he replied. I didn’t respond. One pair is quite enough, I thought to myself. None would be even better. Unless they come in twenty colors — the twentieth being invisible.
It had been agonizingly difficult to bring myself to purchase crutches that day. For I had always prided myself in getting through life under my own power. Even after the ravages of a mysterious illness threatened to end my prestigious career as a Harvard-trained clinical psychologist, I somehow continued working, while searching desperately for answers. But the disease finally won out after four grueling years, and I was forced to resign my position. Refusing to give up my search for a definitive diagnosis and a cure, however, I consulted top physicians and researchers until, fifteen years after the initial symptoms began, I was finally diagnosed with a form of muscular dystrophy. A world famous MDA researcher discovered that I was suffering from mitochondrial myopathy, which is a progressive, incurable neuromuscular disease.
Even though my painful, weak muscles deteriorated to the point that walking became laborious, I was resistant to using assistive devices. I was determined to make it on my own. That is, until recently when I finally consented to a wheelchair for distances and a walker for those times when I begin to fall and can’t get across the room any other way. But to use crutches for every step I take? That thought had been intolerable, until I finally realized that the more I strove to better my walking, the worse it got. Finally I gave in . . . but not up. I purchased the crutches and worked hard to learn to train my painful muscles to use them properly. Much to my amazement, I discovered that the crutches enabled me to walk much more easily . . . and farther than I had in over a decade.
And so it was with my spiritual journey, which was remarkably similar. For, when I was stricken with this disease, I lay in bed for years searching for answers. Having been raised Jewish, I first looked to the God of my upbringing for comfort and hope. But to no avail. Judaism defines God in the negative — who He is not. It is difficult to search for Someone who isn’t. Finally, after researching numerous world religions, I did the one thing I thought I would never do. I picked up a book and read about Jesus Christ. I say I thought I would never do this because almost all of my mother’s relatives were murdered in the pogroms in Czarist Russia — brutal riots that were often perpetrated in the name of Jesus Christ. Fortunately, my grandparents escaped to America before succumbing to a similar fate or I wouldn’t be here today. My reading about Jesus, or even speaking His name, would have been the last thing my mother would condone. Yet, as I lay there in a sickbed that fateful day, learning the truth about Jesus, I was captivated by His words and wondered whether, somehow, they were meant for me. Exhausted and drenched in sweat, I placed the book down and whispered the name of Jesus. Suddenly, an awesome, loving presence filled my body and soul. I knew it was Jesus Himself coming to rescue me . . . to give me hope and a future. I had to be brought to my spiritual knees before I could kneel before Him and acknowledge Him as the Lord of my life . . . and my strength.
I have come to realize that the more I rely on Jesus, the more my life blossoms. For He is the ultimate support, who not only enables us to walk upright in this world, but also bestows upon us the righteousness to walk with Him in His kingdom. Some say religion is a crutch. But they could not possibly have had the experience of walking hand in hand with Jesus. For if they had, they would realize that surrendering to His grace day by day is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. He is the one “crutch” no one should be without.
When people meet me on the street, I wonder if they pity me because of the crutches they see. If they could only see my invisible support, they would not pity me . . . but envy me. Perseverance through the many years of illness enabled me to eventually find my answers in Jesus. But perseverance alone would never have rescued me from a progressively grim existence. It was when I learned to persevere in Him every day that my life became imbued with hope, meaning, joy, and the promise of a blessed future. For I have learned firsthand that I cannot do it alone. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) There is no disability that can ever handicap someone who strives to faithfully serve Jesus Christ. God will always make a way.
I will persevere, ever in Him, no matter how hard the road ahead, confident that He will lift me up when I stumble, carry me when I am weak, and walk beside me into eternity. In the words of Paul, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
Dr. Beverly Rose, who has learned how to thrive despite a devastating neuromuscular disease, is passionate about sharing her hard-won personal wisdom and extensive professional training to inspire others. She was nominated for a Golden Medallion award for her first book, Mothers Never Die, which relays her life story. She is also the author of My Jesus, Your Jesus, So Close I can feel God’s Breath, and Both Feet off the Ground, all of which can be found at Amazon.com.