January 2, 2016
As I look back and review 2015, at the top of my grateful list, surprisingly, sits a man named Paul. I remember the day Paul first appeared in my life. He conspicuously sat in the front pew (the one that is normally empty) of my small country church. Throughout the service, his booming ‘Amen’ and ‘Alleluia’ seemed disruptive. I admit to hoping the front pew would soon go back to empty. Thankfully, it never did.
Paul is special. He wears his faith like most people wear a shirt. It’s so much a part of him, it’s one of the first things you notice. He’s not much of a talker, but in the few words he does say, he always seems to find a way to praise God.
To the question– “Hi Paul. How are you?”
I’ve come to love his response– “Wonderful.”
This one word, ‘wonderful’, sticks with me and boosts my faith more than any powerful sermon.
Because his answer could easily be so very different.
In his early 20s, Paul suffered a traumatic head injury. Now at the age of 48, he has difficulty walking; he has difficulty expressing himself; he has difficulty remembering; he can not work, or drive, or even button his coat. Fortunately he can read, but unfortunately only very large print; even the print in a ‘large print’ book is too small for him to see. When his mother died a few years back, his life changed dramatically. He was forced to move to an adult foster care home. Despite all this, Paul says the injury was the best thing that ever happened to him.
How can this be?
His answer is simple, yet achingly beautiful, ‘because it brought me closer to the Lord,’ he says, with great genuineness.
When his mother died, I heard a familiar little voice behind my ear urging me to reach out to him, but I never did. I was scared. What would we talk about? I am terrible at small talk, and he barely talks– definitely not a recipe for success.
Many months went by. Sometimes after church I sat next to him and ate cookies, but it never seemed enough. ‘Reach out to him’ persisted that little voice. Then one day in Sunday school each member of the class was given a book to read. Paul didn’t take a book because the print was too small for him to see. Putting my fears aside, I offered to visit and read to him– one chapter a week for six weeks. At the end of six weeks, I offered to continue my visits and read books of his choice.
Yesterday at the end of a chapter, in his chosen book, I came to a special prayer entitled: Prayer for the Prayer Warrior. I read the title. Suddenly Paul fell out of his chair to the floor. I thought he had lost his balance, or fallen asleep, until I noticed him kneeling with his hands clasped fervently together in prayer.
And that is how I started my New Year– reading to a mighty prayer warrior and very dear friend. At first, I thought my visits were for him, but now I am wiser, I visit for me.