Running Without Legs

A Boy Without Legs

On January 2, 2008, one of my favorite bloggers posted this short anecdote to his site:

On the final day of a trip to Disney World with my family last month, I saw something remarkable: a boy, 4 or 5 years old, with two artificial legs, running around Mickey’s Toontown Fair in the Magic Kingdom. Running. If he had been wearing pants instead of shorts, you’d have simply thought he had a bit of a limp.

He was born without legs, but yet there he was, galloping across the playground on a warm, sunny December morning, every bit as happy, excited, and carefree as every little kid in the world ought to be.

His legs — sleek, lightweight, and impressively dexterous — were inspiring and beautiful. And they were made using technology that simply did not exist when I was his age, one generation ago. Focus solely on current events and it’s all too easy to despair at the state of the world. But science and progress march ever forward, and the world is a better place today than it used to be.

Happy New Year.

This post caught my attention for several reasons – not the least being a shaking of perspectives about this world we live in. On many levels, this world is not “getting worse by the day.” I really think that sometimes we have grown very fixated on the negative aspects of this physical life to the detriment of our spiritual life. In a sense, a hopeless and pessimistic attitude can impair our spiritual walking in a way this child’s disability fails to impede him.

Breaking Free of Obstacles

We often go to Ephesians 5 to discuss our Christian walk, and in verse 2, Paul instructs us to walk in love. If we skip to verse 8, he encourages us to walk as in the light, and the apostle concludes in verse 15 that we should walk with wisdom. Love, light, and wisdom should guide our lives. In other words, we should be able to clearly see what matters, should be able to make good choices based on what we see, and compassion for others and for God motivates every step we take.

Unfortunately, there is so much around us to tear us away from this walk. So much in the world could potentially cripple our Christian journey if we allow it to consume our energy and attention, leaving us sitting along the side rather than progressing toward our goal. We can grow discouraged at crime rate statistics, at political figures, at business decisions, at stock market trends, at individuals or groups who somehow offend our own special interests. We argue these issues over the dinner table. We complain about them around the water cooler. We blog about them. We yell at the TV about them, and, in so doing, we are sitting down and giving up. We are forgetting how to walk. We are failing Christ. We are failing our brothers and sisters. We are failing those toward whom we should be examples – over what? Over things that are temporary and insignificant in the bigger picture.

Matthew 6:19-21 reminds us that the things of this world are temporary and warns us about letting them take hold in our hearts. Also, I John 2:15-17 warns us against loving the things of this world, which are transient and will pass away. Often, we apply these passages to outward temptations and covetousness, but we fail to apply these at a deeper level. When I argue with and berate you because my politics don’t agree with yours, am I not putting worldly cares first? When I mope and complain about credit card bills (which I am good at doing), am I not allowing money to rule my life? Is not a thing of this world consuming me? In these cases, I have stopped walking that Christian walk of light, wisdom, and love, and I have allowed myself to become a helpless cripple along the side of the road. Back in Matthew 6:31-34, Jesus concludes that we should not be overly concerned with the petty details of this life, relying on God for what really matters, and Paul, in Philippians 4:8 reminds us to concentrate mainly on those things that are virtuous and encouraging.

Additionally, I can permit my own sense of helplessness disable my journey. After all, I am apparently powerless against sin (Romans 3:23). I cannot earn my salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). I deserve death (Romans 6:23), and every sin I commit reinforces the torture Christ went through millennia ago (Hebrews 6:6). I may feel myself a hopeless case. I am expected to walk the narrow path. I am expected to walk in light, love, and wisdom. I am expected to walk hand-in-hand with my Lord, yet I find I have no legs to stand on.

James 4:10 tells us that we should humble ourselves before God, and He will lift us up. I Peter 5:6 reiterates this sentiment, encouraging us to cast all worries and doubts upon Him who cares for us. In every passage that recounts our helplessness before God, his grace and mercy is described as negating those obstacles between us and Him. The imagery of God’s hand is replete throughout the Old Testament, and the prophet Isaiah encourages God’s people that His hand is able to save them from their helpless state in Isaiah 59:1 if they would but take it. We may be unable to walk on our own. We may be unable to make the Christian journey on our own legs, but remember Jesus in Mark 2 when He was helping a paralyzed man. He asks the scribes around Him which is more difficult, to make him walk or to forgive his sins. With this man, Jesus does both, and today He gives us the ability to walk with Him because of the forgiveness He offers.

Conclusion: Running Toward the Goal

The child at Disney World was not content to walk, though. Even on his artificial legs, he wanted to run, and he ran so well, he could have fooled those around him had it not been for the shorts he was wearing. Likewise, I Corinthians 9:24 encourages us to run to obtain the crown. Hebrews 12:1-2 encourages us to run with endurance toward Christ, but to do so we have to be willing to deal with and/or lay aside anything that burdens us or weighs us down. This does not imply carelessness in our journey. I’m sure the child who ran with artificial legs had a certain learned carefulness about him that was so automatic and natural it permitted him to run without fear.

I personally like the story in John 20, when Mary Magdalene tells Peter and John of the empty tomb, and both race to see it for themselves. John makes it first, but Peter runs right past him and into the tomb itself. For all intents and purposes, these two should have been strangers to each other by now – the disciple possibly closest to Christ and the one who verbally denied and denounced Him. Still, they had set aside their differences, and now, regardless of any other cares or concerns, they ran toward Christ. We can do likewise. Though we have no legs of our own, through Christ we can run.