I receive lots of comments about my prosthetic left arm. Some are kind, encouraging, inspiring. Some are borderline, awkward, puzzling. Some are irritating, mouth-dropping, even abusive—like the comment from a stranger in Target that crushed my teenage heart.
I had just finished my four-hour shift in the shoe department. I was feeling good. It was pay day and I had a date in a few hours. I decided to try on the pair of purple heels I had been eyeing all morning. They would perfectly match my new purple skirt. I slipped on the right shoe and admired it in the floor mirror. As I bent down to put on the left shoe, an older woman suddenly appeared next to me. I glanced up at her and she began to speak.
“What happened to your arm?” she asked bluntly.
I smiled and answered, “I was born with one arm.”
The woman didn’t smile back. She just stared at my arm as I straightened up. When she finally spoke again, she said bitterly, “Well, someone in your family must have done something really bad for you to have been born with an arm like that.” Then she turned quickly and strutted out of the shoe department.
I stood motionless in the purple heels, watching her walk away. My arm a punishment? That idea had never entered my mind. My parents had always told me I was special, that God had made me the way I am for a reason. I had never questioned it. How could that woman say such a horrible thing?
A few weeks later I was reading my Bible and stumbled upon the most amazing story. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It was as if Jesus was speaking directly to my crushed heart. Here’s what it said:
As Jesus went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” John 9:1-3 (NIV)
Wow. Jesus set the record straight for me. I defiantly tossed that woman’s poisoned words out of my mind and never allowed them to hurt me again.
Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. Proverbs 18:21 (MSG)