David Burchett Christian Blog and Commentary

Faith Learns To Walk

As I watched the news this morning I marveled at the maturity of our elected representatives. A t-shirt from the good folks at despair.com came to mind.

Now is the time for senseless bickering.

So I went in search of something a little more uplifting. And I found it. It was a story about Faith. Regular readers of the humble ramblings know that faith is a regular topic of discussion here. This time faith is the name of one of God's creatures. The Associated Press tells the story. 

Born without front legs to a junkyard dog around Christmas 2002, Faith the puppy was rejected and abused by her mother. She was rescued by Reuben Stringfellow, now an Army E-4 specialist, who had been asked to bury other puppies in the litter.

"Can we fix her? Stringfellow, then 17, asked his mom. "No, but maybe we can help her," she said.

So Reuben turned Faith over to his mother, English professor Jude Stringfellow. At first the family had to carry Faith to keep her off her chest and chin. But with peanut butter and practice, Faith learned to walk on her two hind legs.

Today Faith is a brisk, upright walker. When she runs, every so often she adds a hop or skip to her step, but she stumbles less often than most humans. Since her first step in 2003 has made dozens of appearances every year, including stops at veterans' hospitals across the country to cheer injured soldiers. That mission is special for Stringfellow, whose son left Iraq in September and is stationed at Fort Wainwright in Alaska. He is scheduled to get out of the Army and head home on January 1st.

For many, Faith brings a powerful message about overcoming adversity. "Faith has shown me that different is beautiful, that it is not the body you are in but the soul that you have," Jill Salomon of Montreal, Canada, wrote on Faith's Web site.

That sense of hope is especially important for Faith's visits to Army bases. Last weekend she headed to Washington state, where she met with as many as 5,000 soldiers at McChord Air Force Base and Fort Lewis. Some of the soldiers were headed to war, some were coming back.

"She just walks around barking and laughing and excited to see them all," Jude Stringfellow said. "There is a lot of crying, pointing and surprise. From those who have lost friends or limbs, there can be silence. Some will shake my hand and thank me, some will pat her on the head. There is a lot of quiet, heartfelt, really deep emotion."

Faith never fails to bring a smile to a soldier's face, said Patrick Mcghee, general manager at Fort Lewis. "To see the children interact with Faith is simply priceless," he said.

I thought about the decision to adopt this dog that could never be "normal". They had no idea when the decision was made that Faith would learn to walk upright and have such an impact. They just wanted to help her.

I wonder how many gifted people I marginalize because they don't fit my "profile" or because they don't fit my "normal". I turn away because I determine I can't fix them. But God is asking me to fix them. He is just asking me to help.

My nature is to look at a person's outward appearance and make my decision. You don't look the part. You don't fit my preconceived notion. I am looking for someone better looking or more outgoing or more engaging. God has given all of us a vital role in the body of Christ. Lord, forgive me that I have judged your people before I took the time to see how you have gifted them to serve You. Paul realized that every part of the body is vital.

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.  Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12, NLT)

Later in the passage Paul summarizes his analogy.

If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ's body, and each of you is a part of it.

It is so easy to value the wrong things. So natural to gravitate toward the funny and the attractive. I am guilty. I am sure that God has put people in my midst that I could help and I looked right past them to someone that is more in my image. I pray that I will be sensitive through His Holy Spirit to look for the gifts and talent in every part of the body of Christ. You will never know how God has gifted one of His Children by simply judging their appearance. Straight-shooter and toe-stomper James says it this way:

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, "You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor"—well, doesn't this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?  (James 2, NLT)

Feel free to be direct, James. But I need to hear that straightforward truth.  I pray that I can begin to see the body of Christ and those He puts in my path as God sees them. Valuable. Worthy. Precious in His sight. A two-legged dog is cheering up soldiers and inspiring people all over the world. I am going to try to remember Jude Stringfellow's insight as I head into the New Year. I don't need to fix other people. I just need to be willing to help.

Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com

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