Sunday, February 21, 2010
Sometimes I pick up people that I know, or knew at one time, but maybe haven’t seen in the past ten or fifteen years. Ronnie was one of those. Back in the day when I was still involved in the church, my family and I were part of a large congregation on the outskirts of Salem. People tend to always sit in the same general area, when they regularly gather, so we always sat in the same area that Ronnie sat in. I remember hearing stories about arguments over somebody sitting in the wrong seat, but I never actually witnessed it, since the days of buying your pew space are over, for the most part.
Ronnie has cerebral palsy, and is confined to a wheelchair. He is able to talk well enough to be understood, but is nearly paralyzed from the chest down, but can use his arms and hands to a degree. He can move himself into the cab, and can even hold communion in his hands, and put the elements in his mouth. The church we were all attending was a Pentecostal denomination, so they believe in healings, tongues, miracles and the whole shebang as listed in I Corinthians 12:10. Every Sunday at the end of the service they would invite people to come down to the Alter for prayer and the laying on of hands with an anointing of oil for healing. Ronnie would ask whoever was next to him, to push his wheelchair down to the Alter, so he could be prayed for.
On occasion, the Pastor would have us form prayer circles, of 3-6 people, where we would pray for each other’s needs, as we voiced them. Ronnie would almost always be in my group, and he would always have the same prayer request. “I want to be healed, so I can be normal, like everyone else.”
I haven’t attended that church in over 12 years, but when I first started to drive taxi, I was on the day shift, starting at 4:00 AM. Sunday mornings were as busy with people getting drunk on the Holy Spirit as Saturday night was with their alter egos imbibing liquid Spirits. I got a time call for 10:00 AM, at a residential address, where Ronnie was wheeled out in his wheel chair, by an elderly man, who was his father. After we helped him get in the cab, I collapsed the wheel chair and put it in the trunk of my sedan, securing it with a bungee cord. The elderly man told me that Ronnie was going to the church that I used to attend, for the 10:30 AM service, then he turned and went back into the house.
On the drive there I found out that Ronnie had a baseball card collection that he loved second only to Jesus. He said that he was wrestling with the idea of destroying the entire collection, because it might be the reason why God hasn’t healed him. Then he started to tell me some of his most prized cards. He had every card of Topps 1960 baseball card series, as well as cards from as far back as 1942. His prize was a signed Al Kaline 1959 card. When I told him that I was from Detroit and used to go see the Tigers play in the 50’s his mouth dropped. You’d think that I told him that I had Al Kaline and Harvey Kuenn over my house discussing how many home runs they hit in Briggs stadium.
“What do you think that I should do?” Ronnie asked me.
I decided to tell him the story of how, when I first became a born again Christian in 1971, I wrestled in my own mind whether or not my record album collection of around 300 classic 1960’s albums was getting in the way of my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
“By the Spring of 1972, I destroyed all my secular albums by beating them into fragments with a hammer,” I told him and continued, “I felt an immediate ecstatic release, however, in retrospect, destroying them didn’t bring me any closer to God, but maybe doing it was necessary for being able to focus on the path that God called me to follow. Today, I wish that I had those albums, for their historical worth, plus now that I write album reviews and music history, they would be invaluable. I had all 6 Fugs albums, along with Alice Coopers first 2 releases, before they got recognition with their 3rd,” I excitedly told him. “Then I had both Rotary Connection albums featuring Minnie Riperton, and of course all the Beatles and Dylan, along with local Detroit Bands like Iggy and the Stooges, The MC5, SRC, Bob Seeger System, Third Power, Amboy Dukes, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and The Frost, to just name some.”
“Faith is a funny thing,” I told Ronnie. “Even people who don’t believe in God, believe in faith, because it requires you to believe in some sort of power or energy that you are part of, that is greater than you. The author of Hebrews, whether it’s Paul or Priscilla, said that ‘faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.’ (NASB) I know stories of people who have achieved incredible goal by using faith. I don’t think that I could have achieved half of what I had to, if it were not for faith, faith in God and faith in myself to do it. However, the kind of faith that you’re talking about is more than a mental change, it requires the direct touch of God, on your physical body, to reverse your disease. So I don’t think that destroying your baseball card collection would get you healed any more than keeping it would prevent it. But then that’s my opinion, you have to do what you feel the Lord wants.
When we arrived at the church, Ronnie looked at me like he was in a daze. After I took his wheel chair out, and told him that it was $8.70, he snapped out of it, and opened his hand which contained a folded square of bills including a five and four one’s. After I helped him into his wheel chair he told me. “I just want to be normal, like everyone else.”