Today in chapel, one of my co-workers told his life story. That’s pretty common at our ministry, but this was anything but common.
Doc [not his real name] came to us about three years ago, along with his new bride. Middle-aged and a recent Bible college graduate, looking for a beginning in ministry. Of course, one look at Doc and you know Doc is different. He looks like he survived a war, or a major car accident, or both.
One arm barely works. One eye is non-functional. One leg is almost immobile. He’s deaf in one ear. One side of his head is terribly scarred. He’s a soft-spoken, gentle man, but obviously life has not been gentle with him.
Doc is one of those people who loves to serve. He was a houseparent for a while, but some of his mobility issues hampered his effectiveness. Now he teaches in our tutoring lab, working one on one with students who have learning issues and need to relearn very basic skills in math and language.
Most men don’t like the tutoring lab work, but Doc does his job with joy. His wife is still a houseparent, and when he’s done at 3:30 he goes to the dorm and spends time with the boys till his wife is off work.
Last week, he stopped by to talk to me about ministry opportunities. I discovered that he was leading a boys devotional in the dorms on Friday night, and wanted to know what else he could do to serve. We discussed one of his loves- counseling- and I’m going to have him learn the job of one of our primary counselors who works with students with spiritual issues and questions.
I knew Doc, but I didn’t know his story. So I asked him to give his testimony in chapel. He said he’d be glad to.
So today he walked to the pulpit, with all his usual obvious difficulty.
The child of a Marine alcoholic and a loving Christian mom, he knew the good and bad of growing up in a home of mixed values.
When he was seven, a relative was using a power saw to build a porch. The saw slipped from his hand and ran across Doc’s body. It cut him through his intestines, across his ribs and chest, all the way to his arm
On the way to the hospital, he asked his mom if Jesus really loved him, as she’d always told him. She assured him that he did. he believed her, and years later, he gave his life to Christ and determined to follow and serve.
At age 23, Doc was deer hunting with a friend when he slipped and fell into a direct shot. The shot entered the back of his head and came out under his eye. The picture- which he didn’t show- is of a man with a massive head wound, obviously affecting the brain, vision and mobility.
He shouldn’t have survived, but he did. Multiple surgeries and major expenses followed, but God supplied his physical, financial and emotional needs. He not only lived, he walked and was able to return to a normal life. Now blind and deaf on one side, with immobility because of brain damage, he met and married another hospital patient. She had MS.
After ten years of caring for her, Lori, Doc’s first wife died. In the midst of grief, his pastor directed him toward Bible college, and he took the opportunity. Three years later he was graduating and married again to his current wife. Now both serve with us.
When I hear this kind of story, it is almost more than I can take. My faith is small and my tolerance for pain and loss is low. Questions of suffering and loss are not easy for me to contemplate. What would I do? Would God keep me? Would I despair, quit, abandon faith?
And here is Doc. Standing in front of our students, saying again and again that God is good. His suffering and loss can’t be measured, but his faith has grown every step of the way. In his gentle, Minnesota accent, he says over and over, “God is good. I’m so thankful.”
What is a testimony like Doc’s worth in this world? Maybe nothing to some. Maybe a priceless amount to others. I do not know. What I do know is that Doc is untroubled by the problem of evil. He is untroubled by the questions of theodicy. He doesn’t know the answers of the philosophers. If he has thought about the objections of the atheists, it was long ago. He isn’t a Calvinist and he won’t be lecturing on the comforts of various theories of God’s Will. He’s simple. He is, today, a grateful man.
Doc is the work of God in a world of absurd suffering. Whatever has been taken from him has not left him empty and bitter. He is full of the love of God, and bitterness is nowhere to be seen or heard.
He ended his talk by saying that where the human eye sees half a man, God sees a whole person. Made whole by Christ.