A Holy Limp
I got polio at six months old. Every step of my life, I have walked with a limp. It was a source of great shame to me growing up because of people’s stares. And my limp was probably the biggest reason I hated polio and hated how I saw myself, as the “ugly crippled girl.”
One day, as I studied the scriptures, God gave me a divine “lightbulb moment.” As I read in Genesis 32 about Jacob wrestling all night with God, the same Lord who touched his hip, asked me, “Do you see the souvenir I gave Jacob from his night with Me?” Jacob walked the rest of his life with a limp. He had been touched by God and it changed the way he walked.
It was a holy limp.
In that moment, I saw that there was nothing inherently shameful about a limp if God gave one to His beloved Jacob.
Certainly, this doesn’t magically transform a limp into something beautiful and good—after all, it means something is wrong. But God can, and does, bring something beautiful and good out of the limps of our lives.
Over the past few years of walking with hurting people, I have come to see how God uses my limp to connect with those whose hearts are still scarred and limited by the wounds they’ve received. As I wrote to a dear friend who left behind decades of life as a gay activist when she trusted Christ, and who still has to submit her feelings to Jesus every day of her life:
“You know, it’s entirely possible your attractions to women won’t change and you will walk with an emotional limp the rest of your life. . . just as I will continue to walk with a physical limp the rest of my earthly life. But both of us can glorify God in our limping by honoring Him with our choices, as we look to Him to restore us to a perfect future that includes running and jumping and leaping and loving perfectly, on the other side.
“I know that may sound weird, ‘glorifying God in our limping,’ but I think He receives more glory through limping people who are dependent on Him, than healthy people who breeze through life independent of Him.”
Connecting the dots between my physical limp and my friend’s emotional limp encouraged her greatly. Just as I was deeply encouraged by the godly response of my pastor, Todd Wagner of Watermark Community Church in Dallas, to the news that he has cancer in his foot. He wrote to his church family:
”So grateful for the prayers so many of you have offered on my behalf. I covet them for both wisdom in dealing with sarcoma (the cancer affecting my body) but especially sin (the cancer constantly waging war with my soul). There is no greater kindness than your earnest prayer for me. . . . In the coming weeks I will be watching, monitoring, imaging, praying, continually consulting with caring docs, and trusting in a good and sovereign God Who is never asleep. Having to trust my perfect Father with one more thing is no burden—it is a blessing. Anything that reminds me of His goodness and my futility is a gift. Thank you for praying with me… may my every decision honor my King and may my every step—whether with two feet or one, with cancer or without – find me running hard in His way. Pray for my health… but double down on the health of my walk with Him over my ability to walk physically. If He will allow me both I rejoice. If the days ahead allow for only one, I would gladly choose to limp in this life over anything that would compromise my running toward His presence in faithfulness. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)” (Emphasis mine)
Can you imagine how Todd’s last sentence made my heart soar?
But it doesn’t end there. Watermark’s worship pastor, Jon Abel, “plays with a limp.” Several years ago, when mowing his lawn, his lawnmower blade sliced off his finger—his wedding ring finger, which he uses every day as a guitar player. The trauma of losing his finger, with the attendant threat of losing his livelihood, forced him to come face to face with the question of whether a good and loving God was in control. Jon’s godly response to this trial, which is documented in this short YouTube video, is one reason he is one of my favorite worship leaders of all time.
I recently learned from my sister—on Facebook, of all places!—that the doctors told my mother I would never walk. Mom decided they were wrong, and worked patiently with me every day, exercising my once-paralyzed leg in the bathtub as she taught me the ABCs and who knows what else.
I don’t know why my mother didn’t tell me this fact, but I do know this: limping means I can walk!
I am grateful for the gift of perspective. Whether it’s my polio-caused limp, or Todd’s possibility of limping from losing a foot, or Jon’s limited ability to play guitar from a once-severed finger, I just know that if God can be more glorified from our limps than from physical perfection, we’ll take the holy limp every time.
This post was first published on November 11, 2013.
Love this post Sue.
Love this post Sue.
Such encouraging stories. I just smiled as I read the part where your mom exercised your leg and its enabled you to walk through out the years. I am grateful for people like you, your pastor and the worship leader. You guys add serious coolness to walking with a limp! God Bless you Sue.
“Serious coolness to walking with a limp”??
::BIG smile:: Bless you, Rhonda, and thank you for being such a HUGE encourager for me!!!
Love running thru this life with you Sue. Grateful with you for our King's strength which is perfected in our weakness.
I am honored, Todd.
Thank you so, so much for your encouragement, beloved brother! And thank you for letting me use your story to bless others.
When I was 10 years old and riding my bike, a car hit me from behind, causing the handlebars to swing around and "pop" my spine and toss me up and over the car. I had a broken back. Many issues followed and one of them was that my left leg was now shorter than my right leg. I had exercises to do which helped but did not remove the limp. I was teased for years. That teasing hurt and made me feel odd and unliked. It wasn't until high school that I felt less bothered by it. That's when I began saying that both my feet touched the ground when I walked! Even the most beautiful of us has some kind of physical shortcoming I'm just thankful mine is minor!
Odd and unliked. Ouch.
Thank you for sharing your story with me/us, Bebie! I'm sorry that happened to you and grateful that God can use it to grow your heart of compassion for others! Love your saying about both feet touching the ground when you walk!
Yep, you’re soaring!
As a little girl who watched people, I never saw your limp. Instead, I saw a woman who held her head high, leaned on the Lord and strutted her stuff to sit in front of the church. I remember telling myself at 13 years old, "I want to grow up to be just like her." I love you.
::tears:: Oh my word, Raquel. I had no idea. Thank you so, so, so much!
I love YOU and I love being on this team with you!!!
Limping through life
I have carried the holy.limp visual close to my heart ever since the day you shared it with me. Thanks for being the worlds best cheerleader and encourager to all you come in contact with.
I am alive and limping one foot at a time
Walking alongside you toward heaven is one of the greatest privileges of my life, Hope! I will never forget the moment I realized God has His hand on you in a huge, powerful way, and asking Him to let me be a part of your life. Love you!