‘I slowly realised that being well meant being comfortable with who I am’

Cathy’s story | Finding the right shape

“My entire left side was paralysed, and my right side was partially paralysed, so I stayed in hospital until I was three years old. When I went home, I had two long-leg iron calipers, and a leather corset around my trunk, and four iron bars holding my neck in place. But I didn’t wear the calipers all the time. I’d take them off and drag myself around on the floor. Every day I felt like I was the wrong shape. I couldn’t play like the other kids. I couldn’t join in, so I sat against the brick wall, waiting. It continued like that. Later, I thought that maybe if I was a better shape, I’d be a better mother, or a better wife, or a better Christian. Maybe God would love me more. But then, when I was 42, I decided to retrain as a hospital chaplain. One day at the course, we had to read John 5, about the man by the pool at Bethsaida, who’d been an invalid for 38 years. Jesus saw him lying there and said, ‘Do you want to be well?’ (John 5:6) It’s such a strange question. Of course the cripple wants to be well! Why would Jesus ask that? But then I felt like I needed to ask myself that same question. Do I want to be well? What does it mean for me to be well, in my wheelchair? Can I live a full life, and use my gifts, in my wheelchair? I slowly realised that being well meant being comfortable with who I was … and believing I was no less of a person because I couldn’t walk. It was a turning point for me. After the course, I put away my crutches and calipers for good. I stayed in my wheelchair, and I applied for a job as the chaplain at Nepean Hospital [western Sydney]. I got the job … and I’ve been here ever since, for 16 years. The patients talk to me. They see me coming in this chair and they have an immediate sense that I understand suffering. They talk to me, and we share and pray and talk about Jesus. I’ve slowly started to see that my shape has purpose and meaning for the place where I am now. But I’m still looking forward to heaven. I’m going to say to Jesus, ‘Hang on a minute Jesus, I just have to run down the stairs …’”

Cathy’s story is part of Eternity’s Faith Stories series, compiled by Naomi Reed. Click here for more Faith Stories.

Bible verse John 5:6

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