Steve Saint shares reflections on the fifth anniversary of the injury that nearly took his life.
It has been five years now since a heavy blow to my head drastically changed Ginny’s and my life. Brian and Dan in our media department said there are lots of you kind-hearted people who still ask how I am doing. Those who do must be relatives. You are real “saints!”
First, please let me take a short side trip. There was a pain medicine ad long ago that asked, “How do you spell relief?” Well, I now spell relief “CATHETERIZATION!” 1 1/2 liters later I would have danced with the ER doctor if my legs were working and if I knew how to dance. The CAT scan showed that I still had a half karat gem to pass on to posterity. I was pleased to find out the 36 hours of agonizing pain had been unavoidable.
The ER staff was kind, efficient, and capable. I came away wishing I could help provide kind and efficient healthcare where people don’t have it. Then, I realized that wish has been coming true for the last 23 years. Now the Indigenous People’s Technology and Education Center (ITEC for short) has given a growing number of us exactly that luxurious privilege. Helping people get well in body opens a spiritual world of opportunity.
Fairly often when someone asks me the standard rhetorical question in North American culture, “how-r-ya-doin,” I try to give them a quick update like I’m trying to do here. As I run down my checklist:
- “My back hurts unless I walk and sit like Quasimodo,” they nod in affirmation.
- “My joints creak and pain me,” bigger nod.
- “I lose words I used to use all the time,” my listeners crack smiles as their heads now sway in affirmation.
- I mention my kidney stones and supplemental plumbing. At about this point they take over.
“Isn’t that the way it is?” They start adding things to the list. I catch myself nodding and then smiling. It is as if the entire world over sixty has contracted Quadriplegia. My spirit begins to rise. I can almost hear the music begin to soar. “I am no longer in the ‘special class.'” It’s as though I have returned home from chemotherapy and all my friends have shaved their heads, same same like me.
I am no longer alone, at least not in Central Florida where the median age is 72, golf carts are the vehicles in vogue, and if you’re not on social security and enrolled in Medicare you don’t count.
Seriously, I really have learned some good life lessons over the last 43,800 hours as a High-IQ [our abbreviation for- High functioning Incomplete Quadriplegic].
The Life Lessons I have learned through these last five years of pain and a crippled body include:
- Preparing to die is an important part of life.
- I have fallen deeper in love with Ginny. There should be regular tension between us, but it is incredibly rare. Before, I could be kind of insensitive. Now I don’t feel almost anything (most of my body is numb).
- Before, I didn’t stop to smell the roses enough. Now I do. Around our house, they usually smell of sweat and dirt from playing in our 5 acres of woods and with our 2 two horses. I’m talking about our precious 19 grandchildren, of course.
- Media is a monster that we invite into our homes at our peril. I have watched lots and lots of Netflix programming when I couldn’t do anything else- most of it being documentaries and seemingly innocuous wildlife shows. At 61, well exposed to a broad scope of life, and also being something of a skeptic/cynic, I thought I would be immune from the secular and immoral influence of internet and cable media. WRONG. The “Theory of evolution” is repeatedly presented as a proven reality that only fundamentalist wackos don’t believe. And speaking of wackos, when is the last time a pastor or Christ Follower was shown as anything but a wacko?
- The nerve damage that renders my hands inoperative is a painful and debilitating blessing. Now, when I want to teach my grandchildren a skill, I let them hold the tools. Before, I expected them to learn by watching me do it. How is it that we wonder why our young adults can’t maintain a car, don’t understand basic home construction, can’t sew or cook, can’t balance a checkbook, and can’t calculate the true cost of car ownership. Maybe it is because we don’t give them hands-on responsibility. We keep doing it for them. Dependency hurts at home just like it does in missions.
- I have had time to also notice why many children growing up with what are called “Strong Christian Parents” don’t value faith and leave the church. I think it is because their parents give lip service to making the Bible their “Only Rule of Faith and Conduct” but don’t spend much time and effort committing Bible precepts to memory nor wrestling with how to apply those principles to real-life dilemmas.
- When I think that it is tough having hands that don’t work I frequently fail to consider my neighbor who has no hands.
- Our lives have been bought with a price. Our great privilege is to offer ourselves back to God. Consider the old saying, “Only one life will soon be past. Only what is done for Christ will last.” In my last conversation with my aunt Rachel Saint just before she died, she told me she wasn’t a very capable Bible teacher, nor a good linguist nor much of a Bible translator. She said she couldn’t help the jungle people much medically. She was sometimes over protective of the stone-age tribe she spent her last 36 years of life with. But when I asked her what she did have that God could use, she gave me a simple formula for living a productive Christian life. She said first, “Well I loved the Lord Jesus with all my heart,” and second, “I trusted Him completely.” Then after a pause, she added number three, “and I guess I just learned to persist in doing whatever he gave me to do.” What a great formula for living the Christian life.
- Finally, I have learned that life is painful for everyone. Trusting God to take away pain is admirable. But trusting God’s will and His love when He doesn’t take the pain away is yours and my greatest opportunity to demonstrate our faith. When Job’s wife gave up and suggested that he should just curse God and die, his answer has made him a hero to millions of hurting people. Job 2:10 says Job replied, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” Should we accept blessings and not adversity also?
There is more but “idaewaa” as the Waodani would say. “It is enough.”
Thank you to those of you who remember Ginny and me, and some of you who regularly pray for us in our challenges. But please don’t feel sorry for us. We don’t believe I had an accident. We believe this is part of God’s plan for us and we are very content in His plan.
P.S. Thank you for being part of team ITEC. I love it, and you too!