“Lord, I offer this post to you, not a masterpiece, but a broken piece, to honor those, who through their broken gift, offer back a grace they cannot live without.”
In my memory, I am trying real hard to coax a single word out of my voice box. The patient lady with the long jowls had asked me to repeat it, but someone had soldered my vocal chords. The little room with no windows was there to help my disability, but it felt instead, suffocating. After an hour, I trudged back to class, and felt ashamed, as though every eye had seen my struggle.
But to my surprise, Mrs. Stumpf announced to the class that my essay was interesting, and well written. When I heard that, it awakened me. She had chosen my words to honor. My first emotion was terror. Would she ask me to read it? No, instead she swept over, and dropped the one pager on my desk. Her voice floated like a feather, lighter than air.
To this day, I trace a love for writing to that moment. Disabled in my speech, I would invent worlds with words.
In seventh grade English class I learned grace often comes on wings of pain. Here was my magna opus on why I loved soccer. It gave me such joy to write, but I had to recite it before the class. Everyone I knew and cared about, including my crush, Dawn Daddio, watched and winced, as words collided into a chaotic logjam. On and on I tried, hoping my teacher Mr. Grace, would come to my rescue. He didn’t, and so I died up there for the entire class period. When the bell rang, I ran from the room.
In high school I wrote a short story about my dog Buff, who had to be ‘put down.’ In my family that meant staring into the barrel of a twelve-gauge shot gun. In anger I wrote…. not a perfect piece, as a writing instructor told me from Rutgers University, but a ‘daring rough hewn masterpiece.’
I’ll never forget reading it to my senior English class. Mr. Sully knew all about my stutter. He was just one more in a long line of teachers, coaches, therapists and friends, who silently adjusted their patience whenever I needed to speak. He handed me the story, and whispered, “I know this won’t be easy.” I rose before my peers. Some had been there that fateful day in seventh grade. They knew what was coming. Others knew me only as a popular, but shy athlete. Today, they would go to school. A couple days before, my therapist had thrown up her hands and said, “don’t get a job where you have to speak!” How many more times would I have to watch the embarrassment on the faces of my audience, watch them fidget in their seats, and look away? I grabbed the sheets of paper with both hands, took a deep breath, and tried real hard to speak.
Paul quoted what Jesus told him, in 2 Corinthians 12, when he discussed his own frailty, a thorn he called it. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” My grace, the disability I asked so many times to go away, has been God’s gift to turn a proud heart in His direction.
To this day, whenever I’m asked to address a crowd, a redemptive wound begins to ache. It lies hidden, this gift of grace; a gift I would never wish I didn’t have. What I offer Him when I speak is never a masterpiece, but a broken piece, a much sweeter love to His heart.
That heart of His knows suffering. He knows your suffering, too. He feels the pain you feel, this Son of Man. Thank Him for the gift you wish you didn’t have, until you know the grace you cannot live without.