My freshman son, Benjamin, plays sax in his high school band. Once every four years during spring break, the group will go on a big trip somewhere in the United States. This was that year. We found out just before the start of school that the students selected to go to Hawaii.
We were excited for Benjamin but also had our concerns, because my son has several medical challenges that must be dealt with on a regular basis. We sent a note saying that Benjamin would be allowed to go as long as my wife or myself could serve as a chaperone. It was determined by the planning committee that I should go, and with that, I found myself packing bags for a mid-March trip to Oahu.
A couple of weeks before we left, the travel guide gathered us all together in the band hall to explain the parameters of the trip. Before the meeting got started, he spoke with me directly about Benjamin. He knew about my son’s condition and said “The first full day of the trip will be to Diamond Head for a hike up to the top. It’s too steep to use a wheelchair. Would you like me to schedule something else for you and your son?”
Quite a few thoughts raced through my mind as I searched for the right words to answer him. He was talking about Benjamin, who was born with significant challenges from birth, who endured a half dozen surgeries in the first year of his life alone, and well over a dozen surgeries in his fifteen years. A toddler who figured out a way to walk when most doctors thought he would never do so. A young boy who shocked me, his Y-Guide pals, and other dads alike when in the first grade he hiked up Johnson’s Peak at Possum Kingdom without any help. A young man who could choose to be mad at the world, his lot in life, and at God instead says every day, “I’m just happy to be here!” and chooses to be a light for the One Most High every day.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Benjamin, it’s not to put him in a box. I think we’ll just go on the trip with the rest of the group and let him see how far he can get.”
Two weeks later the challenge was before him. Benjamin vs. Diamond Head. I felt sorry for the mountain.
His strategy was simple: use his wheelchair to roll as far as the paved pathway would let him, use his crutches to traverse to the upper third of the path, then finish off the beast step by step over sixty flights of stairs.
When he reached the end of the pavement, I gave him his crutches and thought about Paul’s letter to the church at Phillipi:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things . . . . I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:6–8, 12–13)
I rejoiced with God as I watched Benjamin continue the climb, remembering the time my wife and I claimed this same promise when Benjamin was in his mother’s womb.
Just past the midway point when we took another break, I reflected on Christ’s promise of rest to all who are weary. I praised Him for surrounding our family with prayer warriors who lifted us up in the dark times of our journey.
Reaching the final set of stairs, Benjamin’s steps weren’t always perfect, but they were going somewhere with a purpose. That got me thinking about my life. Was I walking with a purpose? Was my purpose just to raise this boy and his sister?
It was then that I realized that, in all Benjamin does, his purpose remains the same: to worship Him and be a light for Christ. It’s what we are all called to do in whatever walk of life God has led us to. You—yes, you!—have been uniquely equipped by God to reach people that I can’t reach. Benjamin was made to reach people that I can’t reach. We all have a purpose: to be that light in this world of darkness and to tackle everything with a peace that passes all understanding. Benjamin’s rise to the summit on that beautiful day helped me remember, and for that I’m truly grateful.