Thursday, February 4, 2016

The stranger’s story

Almost three weeks ago my beautiful niece, not yet thirty, nearly lost her life. A wicked virus attacked muscles from head to toe, leaving her almost completely paralyzed.

Imagine yourself in her place there in the ICU—I’ll call her “L.” She had no use of her arms or legs or facial muscles. She couldn’t speak, swallow, or smile. She couldn’t toilet herself. What a scary, helpless feeling!

After a week of intense intervention, the staff sat her in a chair but she couldn’t keep herself there: They had to strap her against the chair back.

I can only imagine the thoughts and questions racing through the minds of L and her young husband. What if she doesn’t heal completely? Will she spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair? Will she be able to have children? Will she lose her job? If so, she’ll lose her medical insurance. How can she pay her exorbitant hospital bills? And on and on …. This evil virus could destroy all their hopes and plans and dreams.

By God’s grace and in answer to many prayers, little by little doctors and nurses and medicine defeated the virus. Now L has started to regain some use of muscles. She’s now in an acute rehab center and has a long, long recovery ahead of her—maybe a year. Maybe longer.

L is fighting fear, discouragement, and heartache, but she’s also experiencing answers to prayers. She’s determined to fight hard and not give up.

She’s a very brave young lady but the reality is this: She’s fighting a major battle and no one knows how it will end.

Enter a perfect stranger. Two days ago. A young man, age 24.

He told his story. One year ago, he said, he occupied the room is in now, suffering from the same syndrome.

He came, he said, because he wanted L to see how well he was doing after a year. He encouraged her to be patient while her body heals and to work hard at physical therapy.

He urged her to stay positive. He pointed out how important family and friends are to successful healing.

He said he wanted to encourage L with his story and—get this: He said his life is better now for having endured that awful virus.

His story reminds me of the ways God works everything out for good for those who love him (Romans 8:28). It also reminds me of the ways God comforts those who mourn and can bring beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:2-3).

What hope, what encouragement L and her husband and parents received from that young man! God bless him for sharing his story!

 “Stories link past, present, and future in a way that tells us where we have been (even before we were born), where we are, and where we could be going,” writes Daniel Taylor in Tell Me a Story: The life-shaping power of our stories (emphasis mine).

By sharing his story, the young man who visited my niece offered L a glimpse of hope as to where she “could be going.”

“… Healthy stories,” continues Taylor, “challenge us to be active characters, not passive victims or observers…” That’s what the young man and his story did for L: he reminded her that even when she gets discouraged, even when progress is slow, she needs to be active, not passive, in her healing.

“Our stories are interwoven,” writes Taylor. “We cannot live our story alone because we are characters in each other’s stories.” That young man saw himself as a character in L’s life, and recognized that his story and hers are interwoven. He knew he had to tell her his story.

You know where I’m going with this:

Write your stories.
Then share them with others.
Someone—maybe even a stranger—
needs to know your stories.

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