How a Compassionate Wife, a Profoundly Disabled Child and a Simple Song Changed a Life
Numerous issues have arisen in the world today leaving many uncertain, fearful and questioning their faith. Natural disasters across the globe, government instability throughout nations, the declining financial state of America, the loss of jobs, increased food costs, skyrocketing fuel prices… such concerns have left many asking the question:
It was Christmas Day, 1979; before my days at the Topeka Rescue Mission and before I had a true understanding of the genuine love of God. I knew that there was a God, but didn’t fully comprehend the depth of His desire to have a full intimate relationship with each one of us. I was employed by the Menninger Foundation and my wife, Tami, was working at the Kansas Neurological Institute (KNI), a place where I admittedly had a very difficult time visiting. I had found throughout my life that I could work well with most situations such as poverty, crime, mental illness, substance abuse and physical injury, but recognized that it had always been difficult for me to find the strength to embrace people who were as severely disabled as those residing at KNI.
Tami’s assignment that Christmas Day was to work with seventeen profoundly mentally and physically disabled children. Because staff had been downsized for the holiday, she was unable to leave the unit and asked if I could bring her a sack lunch. I can still remember putting her sandwich together that day with the full intention of dropping it off and getting out of there as soon as possible. She was surprised I hadn’t brought a sandwich for myself and I told her that I just couldn’t eat there. I reluctantly sat there as she ate.
Behind her were individuals laying on mats on the floor. Most had an assortment of tubes running in and out of their bodies, they were making strange sounds and each one seemed to be in a world of their own. I looked around and asked her why she didn’t get a job where she could truly make a difference in someone’s life.
She responded that she was making a difference right there. Missing it completely, I replied that I didn’t think she was. I didn’t even believe that the children knew she was there. The expressionless faces, the unintelligible grunts, the thrashing around of bodies from physical abnormalities and the undetermined amount of suffering I saw was beyond my comprehension.
As I gazed at the sea of disfigured humanity which was hidden from society but now before me, I found myself asking the all too familiar question, “Where is God?” He was obviously not there. I rationalized that, for some reason, He must have chosen to forget about the children before me and all of those who cared about them. My wife knew better.
While I was busy trying to convince her that her presence was making no difference in the children’s lives, Tami got up and asked me to follow her. As we walked into the middle of the room, she knelt down on the floor next to Tommy. Tommy was fifteen years old, profoundly mentally challenged and blind. He had tubes running in and out of his body to keep him alive and his legs were as big as my wrist. The distress on his face was overwhelming. Even though we were standing close, there was no acknowledgement from him that we were even there.
Surely God had forgotten about Tommy. As if she were reading my thoughts, Tami looked up at me and shared with me that God loves them all. “He loves Tommy,” she said, “and today Tommy is suffering greatly.” She then began to sing the simple little song, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong.”Never in my life had I experienced a moment like that before. Suddenly, the anguish on Tommy’s face began to disappear. He lifted up his face and his eyes and it was as if he was seeing something that I could not. It was as if he was being transformed before my eyes. The distress that had been on his face when we first approached him had now turned into peace. A gentle smile began to develop. Tami began to sing that simple song again and giant tears began to flow down Tommy’s face. Something had happened that I never thought possible, and that something changed my life.
That day I believe God clearly spoke to me through a simple song, a profoundly disabled child, and my compassionate wife. He showed me that even in the midst of great uncertainty, suffering and hopelessness, He is with us, He is for us and He simply loves us.
Today, nearly 32 years later, I have seen countless times in the eyes of the homeless, the poor, the mentally ill and the broken that same Jesus I saw when I met Tommy. In times like these when we are not sure what is going to happen next, it is so important for us to stop and remember that God so loved the world that He gave us His most precious Son, Jesus; and that He is alive and active in the world today. Whether it’s the tragedy of earthquakes and tsunamis, the senseless loss of life through war, or the uncertainty of the survival of the republic we call the United States of America, we must remember that the God of ages who created us has not forgotten about us but has an eternal plan that is not only about tomorrow, but about today.
That plan is for the homeless hurting individual, the neighbor that lives next door to you who is suffering silently and for you during those times when you are anxious and afraid. May you find comfort in the words of our loving Father when He said, “I dwell in a high and holy place but I also dwell with those who are contrite and lowly in spirit” (Isaiah 57:15).
Christmas Day, 1979, I was able to see for the first time a loving God who cares for everyone, regardless of the hopelessness, the uncertainty and how bad their situation seems. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God loves Tommy; but I am also fully convinced of God’s love for you.