woman on cane

Learning to Lean Hard–AGAIN

Walking with God. The scriptures talk a lot about how we walk, which is biblical language for how we live. But walking itself, beyond the analogies, has a special meaning to me.

As an infant, polio paralyzed me from the waist down, but little baby helper nerve cells sprouted up and gave me some use of my leg back. I needed a full-length brace to be able to stand and walk at all for my first years. And every step of my life has been a rather noticeable limp. So to me, walking = limping.

So when I hear words of wisdom like, “Don’t trust any leader who doesn’t walk with a limp” (meaning, a leader who hides their brokenness and need for Jesus), I’m all over that. I’ve got that “walk with a limp” thing DOWN!

My limp was the cause of great shame for decades. I have always avoided looking in mirrors and plate-glass windows, anything that would remind me of what I look like when I walk. I didn’t need reflective surfaces, though, to be reminded of my limp; the stares of people, especially children, did that, making my soul burn with embarrassment. Every single day.

And when I was 35, a physical therapist instructed me to start using a cane. It helped with stability and relieving some of the stress on my polio leg. As long as I was going to use a cane, I thought, I may as well enjoy it by using fun and pretty canes (thanks to FashionableCanes.com!)

And then bad arthritis hit both my hips, and the pain escalated to the point where I literally could not walk or stand for a year and a half. My mobility scooter became my legs 24/7.

I wasn’t limping anymore. Because I wasn’t walking anymore, with or without a cane.

By God’s grace, particularly through Medicare, once I hit 65 I was able to have both hips replaced. The arthritis went into the medical waste bin along with my natural hip joints. I have had no pain since 2018, a daily source of gratitude for me.

And the ability to walk and stand was restored to me. What a blessing!

One day I realized that yes, I was limping again, because I was walking again! That put a whole new spin on seeing limping as a privilege!

God has used this journey to teach me a number of lessons. (Such as “Lessons From a Hospital Bed”) I recently learned a new one.

I often advise people to “lean hard on Jesus” regardless of the reason, but especially in times of trial and crisis. Sometimes they wonder, What does that look like? Legit question!

And one day as I was walking across my kitchen, leaning hard onto my cane, the Holy Spirit nudged me. As usual, without thinking about it, I was depending on my cane to provide stability and assistance and relieve some of the weight and pressure on my increasingly-weak leg. Then, when my cane struck some water on the floor I didn’t see, it slid as if I had been walking on ice. By God’s grace I did not fall, though I could easily had done so—and falling is baaaaaad for people with artificial hips. I suddenly had a new appreciation for how much I need my cane. And I need it to be firmly planted on non-slippery surfaces.

Just like I need Jesus, who is far more secure than my cane on a dry surface.

I need to lean hard on Him in grateful dependence, trusting Him to empower me, lead me, grow me, change me, provide for me. Just like I do my cane, a physical reminder of what “leaning hard” looks like.

But there was another lesson coming.

I don’t need my cane to walk like I used to need my scooter to move. But when I walk without it, my wonky polio limp is not only there, it’s even wonkier than it was before because my new hips changed my gait. Sometimes when I need to carry two items from one room into another, I hook my cane into the crook of my elbow so I have both hands free to carry stuff. When I do that, my walk—my limp—is almost bizarre.

It is not lost on me that when I hook my cane onto my arm like a fashion accessory instead of leaning hard on it, my walk is wonky. And unnatural. And when I depend on myself, walking in self-sufficiency instead of leaning hard on Jesus, the walk of my life is at least equally wonky. And unnatural. And unattractive.

So yes, my cane is like Jesus. He wants us to lean hard on Him, to depend on Him, instead of treating Him like a fashion accessory. He actually said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, emphasis mine)

The other day, as I entered the living room with both hands full, my husband said, “I would have been happy to help; you don’t need to wear Jesus on your arm.”

I laughed . . . and then the next time, instead of leaning on self-sufficiency I asked for help. Because leaning on Jesus means, among many other things, that He helps me spurn self-sufficiency and ask for help.

The lessons continue.

(I wrote a 2016 blog post (Leaning Hard ) about my first set of lessons in learning to lean hard, which I had forgotten about until I went to upload this one. I will clearly need to keep learning the lesson.)

Sue Bohlin is a speaker/writer and webmistress for Probe Ministries, a Christian organization that helps people to think biblically. She loves teaching women and laughing, and if those two can be combined, all the better. She also loves speaking for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women's Clubs) on the topic How to Handle the Things You Hate But Can't Change, based on her lifelong experience as a polio survivor. She has a freelance calligraphy business in her home studio; hand lettering was her "Proverbs 31 job" while her children were young. Sue also serves on the board of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ-centered organization that helps people struggling with unwanted homosexuality and the family members of those with same-sex attractions. Sue never met a cruise ship she didn't like, especially now that God has provided a travel scooter for getting around any ship! She is happily married to Dr. Ray Bohlin, writer and speaker on faith and science with Probe Ministries, and they have two grown sons. You can follow Sue on Twitter @suebohlin.

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