By ANNIE WESCHE
“My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped…”
Sizing up the large, worn-out van that we planned to all pile into for our journey, I made an internal calculation of the available seats and the number of people in our group. Well, this is going to be … interesting, I mused. Boxes and bundles were secured on top of the van and, on the inside, our suitcases were stacked in the very back clear up to the ceiling. The seats that remained open were just enough to fit each one of us. The only problem was the remaining luggage waiting on the dusty driveway, that had yet to be loaded. This was going to be a tight squeeze.
I’d learned quickly in Haiti that seatbelts were a bonus and what I would call a “seat” was viewed more as “space.” And no matter the shapes and sizes of people and belongings — adults, children, goats, chickens, groceries, or spare tires — you simply fill the space. But for us cautious and comfort-loving Americans on a short trip with an adoption agency, this was a foreign, and slightly concerning, way of doing things.
As people began to climb into the van and take a seat, my eyes landed on the two unclaimed “spaces” in our dirt-road chariot. There was the rickety, fold-out seat near the sliding door and a “space” way back in the furthest corner of the van, crowded by luggage, with a suitcase on the floor making for an awkwardly high footstool. With a four-hour drive ahead of us that evening, whoever landed in that spot was undoubtedly in for a painful ride.
One of the adoptive dads in the group eyed the two spots the same time I did and chivalrously climbed into the far back. It would have been a hilarious sight if it weren’t for the painful thought of him actually enduring such a ride for four hours. Even so, he appeared willing to assume the posture of a cannonball for the long, bumpy, un-airconditioned ride ahead of us. I’m not one to reject gestures of chivalry, but I knew I couldn’t allow him to suffer to such an extent when I was so much smaller in size. I insisted he switch me for the pop-out seat, and he agreed, but not without voiced concern.
“Annie, there’s no way this will work. You won’t be able to feel your legs by the time we arrive tonight.” But with no other options available to us, I smiled and said enthusiastically, “God will help me. It will be okay!” He shook his head and I noted the skepticism in his eyes at my simple statement of faith.
Two things of note. First, I’d been praying earnestly on our trip that God would make me a light to the couples in our group that didn’t know Him, looking for each opportunity He gave to be a witness. And second, poor circulation runs in my family. Sit too long in the wrong posture and something is bound to start tingling. Don’t adjust and numbness soon follows. Ignore that and you’re headed to pain city. It’s not a pleasant issue to deal with, but in the scope of physical challenges — it’s minor.
On this trip, however, something minor was about to be massively magnified. As I climbed back into the far corner and settled in with my feet on the suitcase, knees hugged to my chest, I thought of the looming hours ahead and cried out a silent, desperate plea to God. Lord, You must help me! I don’t know how I’m going to make it in this position. But I know You can help me. Let my life show that You are faithful. That You are my strength.
A short time into our night drive, everyone around me found some measure of sleep. Music crackled from the radio and sporadic street noises came and went in the darkness. As I quickly felt the edges of greater physical discomfort approaching, I recited in my heart the promises I knew well. He gives strength to the weary … I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength … Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and give you help. I will uphold you with My righteous right hand — treasured verses I’d memorized from Isaiah 40:29, Philippians 4:13, and Isaiah 41:10. During that entire drive I spoke with my Heavenly Father and, over and over, meditated on His promises and power available to me.
As we pulled up to our destination in the middle of the night and one by one everyone piled out of the van — tired, stiff, and weary — a hand reached back to me, offering to help me unfold and climb out of my “space.” The man who had agreed to exchange places with me had a pretty good idea of the pain I should be in by now, and his sincere expression of concern, barely visible in the moonlight, showed that he had been eager to see how I was doing. My legs had gone numb but I’d felt no pain. And now was the moment of truth. Oh Lord, regardless of how I feel when I come out of this position, You have helped me. Please show him your grace and power through my life, Lord, even in this small way. I reached out for his hand, rose to climb over the seat in front of me, and felt a wonderful strength fill my legs — so much so that I jumped from the van’s step onto the ground! Delighted at God’s undeniable grace and care, my eyes lifted to look at the man who had helped me down, and I grinned ear-to-ear with joy-filled gratitude to God. With shock, he stared at me, shaking his head.
“You okay?” he asked slowly in disbelief.
“Yes, I’m good!” I said with a huge smile.
To that, he smiled back at me, and continued shaking his head. No other words were exchanged in that moment, but I knew that God’s strength within me had made an impression. That man was well aware of the discomfort of the situation and knew what it would do to anyone to ride for four hours in that position. Yet God had upheld my body and restored my circulation instantly, as if I had been sitting for only a moment. And with this small, simple testimony, He’d shined His light as I had so earnestly prayed.
Most often our greatest witness to others is not through our words, but spoken through the ways we approach and navigate life’s situations, primarily, situations of difficulty. Is there complaint, fear, self-preservation, or panic in our countenance and actions? Or is there faith, peace, hope, and a total confidence in where our life is secured — both in body and soul? Is there a willingness to take the harder or lower position, knowing that as a believer we have the extraordinary advantage of the life of Jesus Christ? His very real promises are ours — strength, peace, wisdom, joy … and even in the oddest of back-seat scenarios, His supernatural physical strength.
My taking the back corner space wasn’t heroic, nor did I think it would be easy. In fact, I had a hefty dose of concern weighing on me and there was some earnest praying involved. But I had to choose to look up from my weakness and fix my sight upon God’s promised strength.
As Christians in the service of Christ, you and I can step out of our comfort zones because our truest, unshakable comfort comes from Him. We can go beyond our limits when needed, because He can grow our capacity and supply our need. We can lay our lives down in the serving of others knowing that we are undergirded by Christ Himself who is the ultimate Servant. And we can defy fear because we are secure in the hands of the One who holds all things together by the word of His glorious power! Our lives are not our own, but His. And we are meant to be poured out on this earth to love and testify of Him. May it be so, for you and I dear reader, in ever-increasing measure and in matters both great and small — for the glory of our beautiful, worthy Savior!