The Measure of a Man

Freedom comes in many forms, and immediately after my injury I was at a complete loss of understanding. These included things like understanding what life would be like from a seated position, how to get from place to place, how to go to the rest room, how to get dressed, how to find a job, and how to be attractive to the ladies. Most thoughts basically entailed who I was as a man now since I could no longer do some of what society says "men do" (i.e. move furniture, fix things, lift heavy weights, etc.). I relied on friends and family to be driven any and everywhere I had to go. I had to completely revamp who I was and how I would approach life.

I grew up in the 80's with the stereotypical understanding of what a "man" was; a John Wayne, take charge, make decisions, save the day, kind of understanding. Not to say that is all bad, but now that I was injured, I no longer fit that mold. Up until my injury, I had done all those "manly" things. I played contact sports (mainly football and baseball), worked manual labor jobs, been a police officer, a heavy machine gunner in the Marine Corps and loved to hit the weights (at one point benching almost twice my body weight). But the point of this blog was not to define what a man is or to insinuate that being in a chair makes us lesser men. In fact, it is the complete opposite. I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that God allowed my injury because of my reliance on self and my small minded concept of strength. "God's power is perfected in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me". (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Over the years, I've learned to rely more on God's strength when mine has failed me and to give thanks in all situations. I've seen His power endure, met some of the most courageous MEN (in feeble bodies) and heard true testimonies of endurance; experiences I know I would have never appreciated in my former years. Wheelchair life is not easy by any stretch, but the sitting, rolling, and pushing is not the hard part. It is the unseen issues that cause the most torment such as: bladder infections, pressure sores, the bouts of autonomic dysreflexia and the muscle spasms (where you are unable to voluntarily move your extremities but powerless to stop them from violently moving on their own). The thorns of the flesh; constant, annoying and at times overwhelming, remind me of the promises that are mine. "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak". (Isaiah 40:29). "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope". (Romans 15:4).

Limitations shouldn't stop or define us. We've got to find new ways to do things, challenge ourselves, and break stereotypes placed on us by society. One way I've found to do so is in driving. It has opened up freedom and a sense of "hope" with the turn of a key, the spark of combustible fumes and an open road. To get up in the cab of my truck, drop the windows and turn up the radio, is beyond a stress reliever for me. To drive across town to meet a friend for lunch, down the interstate to the beach, run errands or to hook up to a trailer and haul thousands of pounds of equipment to an event is beyond humbling (especially after spending the first five years of injury dependent on others to be driven everywhere). The look on people’s faces when a quad pulls up to a traffic light towing a tractor, trailer and bush hog is priceless. The "stink eye" I get from little old ladies when I pull into a handicap parking spot at the grocery store (that look of "who does he think he" is and the instant transformation on their face to "OH!!" when the doors open and I roll out) still makes me chuckle.

I say all of this to encourage. Anger after an injury is understandable. Frustration on the days things are compounding is to be expected. Bitterness and hate are tools of the devil, so never give up hope. I HAVE TO BELIEVE better days are ahead and I want to help redefine new ways we continue to "roll". New technology and advancements in vehicle modifications are happening daily. This quad wants to learn all I can and enjoy the journey. Tough roads may come, "but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint". (Isaiah 40:31).

Mike

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