I am forty-five years old and I still jockey for the window seat on the airplane. My wife sometimes laughs at me as I press my nose to the window of the aircraft like a kid visiting the Orca tank at Sea World.
The very fact that a 300 ton piece of metal (that's about the weight of 30 African elephants) can fly through the air at 500 mile per hour will never cease to amaze me. I am astounded at people who actually choose not to sit by the window, or those who can sit in their seats with their nose in a magazine during take off.
I want to commandeer the flight attendant's microphone and announce, “People, we are leaving the earth in a giant metal bird! We are going to fly six miles in the sky at over 500 miles per hour! Look out the window for crying out loud!”
Sometimes I think I must be strange.
As amazing as sitting in a chair 35,000 feet in the sky with a peripheral view of the planet seems to be, there is something else that stuns me as I gaze out the window: God has used the story of a severely disabled, non-verbal, autistic boy to reach so many different people with the good news of His hope, that I have to fly on an airplane to go see all of them.
Last week, Jake’s story lead me to Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn Alabama, where a group of gospel determined ladies came up with the idea of bringing together as many families touched by disability as they could possibly find in their immediate community. But they didn’t stop there. They also sought out teachers, educators, administrators and pivotal leaders, inviting them all to an elegant candlelight dinner in an extremely welcoming environment.
When all was said and done, the count was over 200 parents, educators, leaders and children. I have never personally observed so many people from one community, in one place, at one time, with the commonality of disability. It was emotionally overwhelming for me to look out into that room and watch families--so often secluded by disability--talking, laughing and connecting within a community of special needs. It was also moving to see so many volunteers giving, serving and sacrificing for these special families.
As dinner was winding down, they set up a podium and wired me to a microphone. After introducing me, my family and my book, they asked me to say something inspiring to this large, eager, motley crew. What a daunting task!
I began with these words:
“I’m here to tell you a story about a father and his disabled son. It’s probably not the story you are expecting me to tell. It’s not from the book I wrote. It’s from another book--the most important book you will ever read. My hope and prayer as you leave here tonight is that this story, which is God’s story, will become your story too.”
I then proceeded to tell the story from Mark Chapter 9 of a father who brings his disabled son to Jesus. I was a little shocked at the fact that I spoke for nearly an hour. I was even more shocked that no one even flinched at the time. No one left early, and no one fell asleep (even after eating a huge dinner late in the evening)! As I spoke I had a powerful sense that these people were hungry, not for the food they just ate, but for the hope that God’s word was providing.
The more opportunities I get to tell my story, the more it becomes clear that it is not my story that people need to hear. Although it is good to have a personal illustration of hope within the presentation of the gospel, it is the gospel alone that gives true and lasting hope.
On the flight back home, thousands of feet in the air, I gazed out at the beautiful night sky. The lights of many cities were shining like stars on a giant crystal lake. I held the hand of my wife and thought of all the dark, difficult and impossible trials we had faced in the past and how God had strategically used every one of them to prepare us for the present and point us towards future grace.
I have heard parents say that living with disability is often like living with a huge weight around your neck. Sometimes that weight is unbearable. But even if that weight were as heavy as a Boeing 747 (or a flock of African elephants), the gospel of grace takes impossible weight and lifts it heavenward, speeding us towards the destination God has sovereignly ordained.
Many of us are on this flight together. My story is just one window on this massive aircraft. Perhaps you have a window seat too. Our calling then is to rouse the passengers, rescue them from their magazines, Iphones and Kendles, and encourage them to look out and see the magnificent miracle of the gospel of hope.