Out of Control

As I look back on the past two months since I last wrote an update, one word comes to mind: control. Since my last post, God has been using different circumstances to both grant us more control over our lives and show us that He is the One who is ultimately in sovereign control of everything.

The beginning of February ushered in a very significant life change for us. After just over five years of sitting in a manual wheelchair completely dependent on other people to move me, I’m finally using a motorized wheelchair. I’m not able to use the joystick controller you typically see on power wheelchairs; my motor skills aren’t advanced enough. Over the years I’ve trialed multiple control methods (I’ve actually had this power chair since 2013) including a modified T-bar joystick, a single-switch scanning system, and a head array system. Eventually, my therapists and I discovered that the best control method for me and my level of disability is a system called sip and puff, where I actually drive my chair with a straw.

Sound Crazy? It is. It’s a little hard to explain without showing you, so that link will take you to the most relevant YouTube video I was able to find. Driving a wheelchair with a straw definitely is as hard as it sounds, so it’s been a pretty steep learning curve involving an inordinate amount of dents and scratches on our brand new walls, the backs of Emily’s legs and Nyra’s left foot. But as I get better and less accident-prone, this new independence (something we didn’t have physical space for in our previous apartment) has taken a huge load off Emily’s shoulders. It’s amazing how big a deal it is just to be able to get around independently. Matter of fact, I had grown so accustomed to sitting stationary for extended periods of time that for the first week of being in my power chair I had no idea where to go or what to do. Now I’m getting used to being able to control where I go and what I do whenever I feel like it. I had no idea how much value there is in independent mobility until I lost it five years ago and regained it six weeks ago. This new sense of control over my life is heartening for both of us.

But just like everything else, there are two sides to this coin we call control. The side everyone likes is the side where we control our lives. Nelson Mandela was fond of quoting the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley. The most well known stanza is this:

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

I enjoy this poem, including this stanza, but it’s simply not rooted in truth. Granted, the poem itself is less a theological treatise than an assertion of grit and courage in the face of insurmountable odds. But were I truly the master of my fate and the captain of my soul (I thank the Lord that I am neither), not only would my life look vastly different (for the worse, I’m afraid), but I would have no true life at all. All I would have is a dull shadow of the true, full, shining life of adventure that’s found in Christ alone. The “life” offered to us by the world is one consumed by the desperate drive to distract ourselves from our own mortality. Of course we will die someday, but by golly let’s not think about it. Entertainment, food, drink, activities, even good things like service and relationships—in this system— exist for the purpose of distracting us from our imminent end, or otherwise making us feel more comfortable with the end we know must come. For that reason, the thought of being the masters of our fates thrills our souls. But there exists a Master, a Captain much higher, better and wiser than ourselves. God, our Creator and the lover of our souls, is in control of our lives and our circumstances.

Last Thursday around midnight on her way home from an eight-hour shift at Sparrow hospital in Lansing, Emily was in a car accident. Driving through a green light less than a mile away from the hospital she had just left, Emily’s Subaru was blindsided by a vehicle that fled the scene immediately after. Fortunately some onlookers stopped to help her and called 911. Less than an hour after walking out of Sparrow, she was rushed back in an ambulance. Emily was physically fine aside from some whiplash and bruising from the seat belt, but her first thought was for the baby growing inside of her. Was he or she alright? One ultrasound later, a wave of relief rolled over her as she watched our little baby wave its tiny arm at her through the “camera”. Neither Emily nor I was in control Thursday night (or December 26th, 2012 when I became disabled) but Somebody was. And that Somebody has been in control all along. I don’t have any easy answers to the question of why God determined Emily’s accident or my accident were necessary, but the why is far less important than the Who. When we come to terms with the fact that God is the one in control, not us and not chance or karma, we can rest. I’m not trying to advocate a fatalistic attitude of “Why bother with anything if everything is out of our hands?” No, but when circumstances truly are out of our control (as they often are), I rest in the fact that they’ve never left the hands of the One who created it all.

Thank you to those of you who have been praying for us to find a new vehicle. Emily and her dad found one today and brought it back this afternoon. God showed us His perfect provision in 2013 when He supplied us with a 2009 Subaru Forester, and He did again today when He supplied us with a 2013 Honda CR-V. He is the able, we are grateful.

Emily and “Sandy” (Nyra named our new car)