A couple of weeks ago I was out making sales calls… working with this company that removes odors out of people’s homes and cars. Not a glorious job, but something I do to rub shoulders with the public. Because of the cavalier way in which I go about business, I was looking for a place to park in my truck in order to make some marketing calls.
My truck is my office, my sometimes prayer closet, and my more than sometimes napping place. It is a big Master cab Ford F-150 and there are times when, I will find a shady place to park, turn on a great teaching online, turn up the A/C and stretch out to take a nap. On this day, I confess, I was thinking about doing just exactly that…but, Cody showed up.
I didn’t know Cody before I had hatched my plan for a little siesta, but as I reclined my seat into “meditation” position, there was a little “tap, tap, tap” on my driver side window.
I was used to having people panhandle while I was parked. It happens. When I turned to look to my left, instead of seeing someone standing shoulder to shoulder with me, I looked down at a smaller sized 9-year-old boy with a woman by his side. I rolled the window down. Before I could speak, Cody said loudly,
“Mister, I’m Cody and this is my mom. Would you please see if you could reach my plane in those bushes? My mom can’t reach up to that high and I would do it, but… I can’t do it…”
I smiled and looked down at Cody as he spoke. He had bright brown eyes, was smiling and confident and his mother looked at me and smiled in a shy, somewhat embarrassed way. Cody was seated in a wheelchair. His mother, Shawna, spoke up.
“I’m so sorry to disturb,” she said in a lovely Australian accent. “Cody’s usually a better pilot than this!” She laughed and I was impressed that neither seemed afraid to approach a stranger.
I sat up straight and muted my audiobook. “Of course I will,” I said, not looking to see where the “bushes” were that held the plane. I introduced myself and got out of my truck and locked the door. Cody explained he and his mom came to the park a lot to fly his plane…a small radio-controlled plane and helicopter set he had gotten for his birthday two months earlier.
His mother pointed at the tall bushes that were more like tall ornamental grass…but they were surrounded by low bushes and landscape boulders. I gladly struggled over the boulders, over the bushes and ventured into the grassy forest to get the plane that was stuck in the middle of one of the grass plants. I recalled the days of my youth as a gymnast when I would have bounded over those boulders….but that was 42 years ago…things have changed a bit at 61…no bounding!
As I emerged with the plane, Cody, forgetting that pulling the trigger on the controls would turn the propeller on the plane, he pushed the trigger and the plane sprang out of my hand and into the air. He laughed and his mother told him to be careful.
I climbed back over the big rocks and started on my way back to my truck and Shawna spoke up. “Cody was born with Spina Bifida…and he is our only child…my husband and me.” I had heard of Spina Bifida but wasn’t exactly sure what it meant as far as treatment and/or healing of the condition. She saw my mind was going through the mental process of trying to formulate questions when she generously offered, “ Do you know what that is?” I explained I had heard of it and she said, “Cody will be an independent person, but may always need his wheelchair…his treatment was started a little late.”
She explained that circumstances had prevented them from getting the kind of early treatment Cody had needed. I had understood it to be financial circumstances. It certainly was evident that her son was the apple of her eye. I asked about her family and about their spiritual lives. Listen, if someone is going to be bold enough to ask a stranger to climb over a bunch of rocks and bushes to get a toy airplane, I feel an equal amount of boldness is my due….so, there.
“Have you asked for prayer for Cody’s condition?” Shawna looked annoyed when I asked that.
“Thank you for your help.” She said trying to get rid of me. I persisted.
“Shawna, I asked if you have asked for prayer for Cody’s condition?” Her lips pursed together as her eyes narrowed. She became terse with her reply. “I appreciate your help…but that is a private matter!” I am an easygoing dude. I never push people, always try to be courteous and kind to people and you are going to think I was a real jerk, but this time I was not going to retreat because her fear was turned to anger. I responded.
“Okay, it’s between you and God…but I hope you aren’t angry at God for Cody’s condition…have a good day!” I began walking away. And this is when this little Australian lady became a bulldog.
“Oh…it’s not God’s fault, isn’t it? Oh…okay, now you opened your mouth so I don’t care now that you got his damn airplane out of the bushes…God did this to my son and if he didn’t he sure as hell didn’t do anything to stop it!” Her cheeks were flushed red and her eyes scowled at me. If you’re going to try to get to the root of someone’s issues, you’d better be ready for both barrels. In the back of my mind, I heard the words…”this is going to be your Waterloo!” She continued.
“I’ll bet you haven’t had any hardship in YOUR life, have you? I’ll bet your nice tidy life is just perfect like your God designed it…I guess God just needed a target and chose my little boy for it!” Tears were coming down her face…and I have to admit, it had been a while since I had encountered something like that. I just froze in my tracks and inadvertently looked for a fast path to my truck.
I hesitated between getting back into my truck and driving away or saying something that would make a difference. The only problem was; at that moment, there were no words and none on the horizon. My personality type doesn’t like silence…we like to fill empty embarrassing gaps with talk but absolutely nothing was coming to my mouth to say.
I could tell that my silence was somewhat satisfying for her. She asked if the “Cat got your tongue?” I stood still and was looking down at the ground. Here is what I figured. I figured that pulling into this park was not something I had planned, I also considered that it was a one in ten million chance that a boy in a wheelchair would come tapping on my window. After thinking these things, I knew I was supposed to be the one here at this moment but was inwardly ashamed that I had nothing to say. No big dramatic, “parting of the water” statement…I mean…NOTHING. So I stood still looking at the ground.
She crossed her arms and I
think began to feel embarrassed she had been so cross with a stranger.
She sighed out loud and said, “Look, I’m sorry, I am really not mad at
you. You’ve been very kind…” that was all. I felt I should try to defuse
the silence with a nice, “It’s okay…no problem…” but I didn’t. Again, I
stood there like a cigar store Indian…wooden and silent.
As she began to walk away, finally my mind came online again and I finally spoke without qualifying the words…
“My son just discovered this week he has a tumor in his head and I still believe.” She stopped and looked at me. “What?” she asked, “What did you say?” I answered a bit louder, “I said, my son who is 34 years old just discovered he has a tumor at the base of his skull and I still believe God is in charge.” Shawna took a couple of steps back toward me…then asked, “why? Why do you still believe?”
I said, “He’s a cop with three boys, one of them the age of Cody…and a gorgeous wife. He’s my youngest son, and it is wrapped around his carotid artery and nerves that could leave him without a voice.” I then said, “I believe because I know the character of God…he has always been faithful to me.” Even if I don’t get the result I pray for, God is a God of faithfulness and life.”
She shook her head no, like nothing I said would even matter. I didn’t have anything else I could do but do the one thing that I figured would rile her up again, which; is what I signed up for when I told Jesus I would follow him. In my head, I heard the words of the song by Andre Crouch and the Disciples from way back in the 1970’s…named ”Tell Them” God always uses music with me…
even if they don’t believe you,
Just tell them;
even if they don’t receive you.
Oh, tell them for me
tell them for me please
please, tell them for me…
tell them that I love them
And I came to let them know.
when it seems you are forsaken
just tell them
though it seems their world is shaken
Oh, tell them for me
tell them for me please
please, tell them for me
tell them that i love them
And i came to let them know.
Tell that lonely man who walks
the colds streets all alone,
Tell that crying child
who doesn’t have a home
Tell those hungry people dying
and lost in the desert
They don’t even know that I care
tell them for me please
Tell them that I love them
Oh, just tell them on the streets
and on the high ways
and tell them and even on the bi-ways
Tell them I can mend the broken hearted
and restore the ones who have parted
And I came to let them know.
I came to let them know
And I came to let them know
They must know
they must know
So I told her… and this is when boldness is mandatory…
“Shawna, I am going to leave, and you can ponder why you’re so angry with God, but I would like to pray for you.” She just stood there. I knew better than to place my hand on a strange lady, so I just prayed out loud. “Father, I pray that Shawna would know that you are a good and loving father…not one that would walk out on us and leave us to fend for ourselves. Not a father that would only show us, love, when life was perfect. Help Shawna to know that You love Cody and that if she will only believe, and leave the results in your hands, she will see your goodness in this life. Please let her know you love her. In Jesus name, Amen.
I thanked her for letting me pray and walked back to my truck. I heard her calling Cody as I approached the truck. I started it up and drove to the end of the parking lot to make a U-turn and on my way back toward the exit, Cody and his electric wheelchair sat near where I had been parked waving. I stopped and rolled down my window. His mother was walking quickly up behind him as he spoke to me.
“Thanks so much!” he said smiling broadly. “Thanks for getting my plane!” I told him he was welcome and I said, “God bless you, Cody.” That is when the boy with spina bifida looked at me and said, “God bless you too”… his mother had arrived by that time and looked down at him as I began to drive away and she asked, “What did you say to him?” Cody said, “I said, God Bless you!” Shawna looked up at me with a tear in her eye, and I said, “Out of the mouths of babes, God has reserved praise for himself” Cody took her hand and said, “don’t cry momma, everything’s under control!” Tell her Cody…Tell her!