“Take these broken wings and learn to fly again and learn to live so free. And when we hear the voices sing the book of love will open up and let us in.” – Mr. Mister (Richard Page, Steve George, John Lang)
“To be perfectly honest,” he said sadly, “I am a bit incapacitated.”
That’s what I heard him say last week standing before his congregation. He is a pastor friend of mine, truly one of the finest persons I have ever known. (His name withheld for privacy purposes.) We met almost 40 years ago when I applied at a shoe store for one of my first jobs right out out of high school. For the specific title, he is a Messianic Jewish Christian. Today, he pastors a well-known Messianic Christian congregation in the Dallas/Ft Worth area. In the late 70s, before he was in the ministry, I had the awesome privilege to work side by side with him every day for a couple of years. He befriended me immediately; and I was mentored just by observing his daily life. We were in the retail trenches together in a business where some unusual people can test you. We had many casual times away from the workplace, like playing flag football (he always beat me when running a hook route as a wide receiver). He and his wife had me over at their home for a dinner or two. Over the decades we continued to bump into one another at different concert events and gatherings.
He would disagree with me if I said he is a giant person of faith. He is loving and kind, honest to the point of self-degradation, ready to aid and hold you up whenever your personal tank is dry. He has been at my side on a few occasions, including presiding at my wedding, as well as at my early morning bedside just before they administered anesthesia for a surgery. He’s also tough, forging through the wars and hurdles of life while working, going through seminary, raising a family and tending to his parishioners. I would trust him on a battlefield. I would trust him with an unwritten contract, or frankly, with my life. Yet, here he was, bomb-shelled, pale and thinner than the week before. He wasn’t himself, or what I have always known him to be. Just a few days prior, his dear wife suffered (and survived) a mid-level stroke.
She had been in good health with no reason to anticipate such a horrific trauma. Needless to say, it hit them broadside. On this night, facing the congregation for the first time since the stroke, he stood behind the pulpit looking as if he had left himself at home. His love for people brought him there when he probably could have stayed by her side in the hospital as she continued to be treated. As common with my dear old friend, he was open and transparent about her status and his own condition. He delivered a short sermon entitled, “What To Do When You Are Suddenly Flying On One Wing”. He mentioned how strong and supportive his wife is, not only among the congregation, but in their home life as well. Later someone said it takes about 20 parishioners to do what she does for church service prep, etc. (I knew this all too well and have seen that in her over the decades.) Above all, she is in his DNA, not a crutch for him, but an agent of intricate involvement in the very beats of his heart.
Have you had your wing clipped? Have you been there? Are you there now? Maybe for you it wasn’t an unexpected stroke with a significant other, but maybe a lay-off at work, cancer death sentence, divorce, custody loss, abandonment, foreclosure, totaled car, bankruptcy, an addiction, a suicide or a sudden death of your best friend, baby, parent or spouse. Allow me to apologize here and now if I typed a word that stings to this very moment. Proof reading that laundry list, I will tell you I hurt, too. Indeed, I have been on the receiving end of immense agony with selective titles above, and what’s worse, I could have written much more. These are weapons inflicting even the very best of us. Why? Well, some blame it on others, like parents or siblings. Others point the finger at the general environment. Still some blame it on a failed government or societal ills. In reality, these are only results of cause and effect from ground zero of a cursed world.
Simple, but true. Like a bird with an injured wing, you flutter the best you can in hopes you can stay aflight without spiraling to the wreckage below. Finally, you find yourself unable to keep the wind beneath the afflicted wing, then a loss of altitude takes over. There you sit, in a busy trafficked parking lot, flapping as if there was a hope of getting off the ground again. If only the one good wing was enough for liftoff, but alas, the universal science of gravity and aeronautics denies you the freedom of the sky. Being grounded is a very lonely place to be. I must add here that I have a few friends who share that ground even now and in various conditions. And if you’re wondering, it doesn’t matter how “good” of an individual you are. Those dastardly twins, cause and effect, don’t have favorites.
I have an old beloved friend who calls a life of faith (in my case, a life that follows the teachings of Jesus) a “crutch”. (For a wounded one, even a crutch would be helpful.) However, where is that “crutch” if there is a fire? What happens to the “crutch” if it snaps in two pieces at the whims of a pothole? Where is the aid of the “crutch” when you lose your grip and Mr. Gravity has his way? If another earthquake jolt comes to the Dallas metroplex, how will a “crutch” hold up? As for me, I have found a solid rock, a cornerstone to build my house by which all things are measured. I dare say, if I stand on the cliff-edge of the Rock Of Gibraltar looking down at the Mediterranean, some 1,388 feet below, gravity doesn’t take me to the crashing waves. Why? Because the Rock of Gibraltar isn’t a crutch.
My friend and his wife will be fine. She is currently in a rehab hospital and making terrific progress. He continues to be perched at her bedside where he belongs gaining strength for the road ahead. He has always been a super compassionate servant-of-a- guy. I suspect he will be even more so as his ministry work continues. The teacher is, once again, the student as they both will find their tank of compassion expanding to aid others who find themselves strapped down by illness. I believe I see a sling holding up a mending wing.
My weight is on the One Who gave the fowl their feathers and the wind to elevate. Contrary to a false echo, your runway is always stocked with fuel for the race.
“Be not afraid, for I AM with you. Don’t be dismayed, for I AM your God, I WILL strengthen you. Yes, I WILL help you. Yes, I WILL uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness. — but those who HOPE in the Lord WILL renew their strength. They WILL soar on wings like eagles; they WILL run and NOT grow weary, they WILL walk and NOT be faint.” – Isaiah 41:10 (World English Bible) -Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)