Beginning the Journey

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him – Apostle Paul

“Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” Yoda

We are all on a journey of some kind, and many of us call it the journey of life.  We believe this starts at the moment we are born, and ends when we are called home.  However, as you read this, I am hoping you can get to see a bigger journey.  It’s a journey that is happening right beside our journey, but it is mostly an unseen journey.  

I believe my journey started way before time ever existed.  It started before God even created anything, and really that’s where all of our journeys begin.  Our journeys begin in the beginning, where the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  This is where we need to begin because without this, nothing would have been made or created.  All of creation starts right here, and we have to understand that without this, we don’t have a journey.  

I know this is a little obscure and hard to grasp, but it’s necessary to understand in order for us to handle the curveballs life is going to throw at us.  If our life journey doesn’t start at the beginning of everything, how can we have a purpose when everything in our life falls apart?  

On a sunny June morning in 1973, my mother woke up knowing that this was the day she would give birth to her fifth child. She felt excited yet confident, having gone through the process four times before. 

Still, she had some last-minute preparations to take care of, and, being a woman of extreme orderliness, she promptly planned out her day. She told my father to take the day off work—not because she needed to go to the hospital right away, but because she needed to get a haircut first. In her mind, being on the verge of labor was no reason not to look your best, and she wanted to get her hair done before checking in to the hospital.

Following her hair appointment, feeling much more presentable, she had my dad drive to the grocery store, where they stocked up on a few necessities before driving home. At this point she was having contractions, but she felt they were still far enough apart that she could get some things organized at home before going to the hospital. At home my parents enjoyed a leisurely lunch and took care of some household chores. 

Around 4:00 p.m., Mom decided she was ready to go. She called her parents to come stay with the other children. 

At the hospital, Mom was admitted, and Dad staked out a spot in the waiting room. He had not been allowed in the delivery room for the births of his other children, and he didn’t intend to change that tradition for this one. Mom and Dad exchanged a kiss, and then he took a seat in front of the television while she was rolled into the delivery room, just as she had been four times before.

The doctors, too, expected an easy birth, yet it wasn’t long before extra attention was required. The umbilical cord was prolapsed. This means that the cord had entered the birth canal ahead of me, cutting off my supply of oxygen. In a race against the clock, the medical team tried to reposition the umbilical cord and get me out. 

My dad was still in the waiting room, with Walter Matthau on the television screen, when a nurse rushed in and demanded his signature on a sheaf of papers. He signed quickly before she bolted away without a word of explanation. Stunned, he wondered what was going on, and he clung to the hope that if things were really serious, the nurse would have said something. He kept his eyes on the TV screen, but his mind was in the delivery room.

Without time to put my mother completely under, the doctors gave her a local anesthetic before performing an emergency C-section. After 45 minutes, I was free of the cord and the birth canal, but I was blue and not breathing. One doctor began CPR, while the others had already given up. Twenty minutes later, the doctor stopped his compressions and wanted to call the time of death, but another doctor stepped in and continued the CPR. After 20 more minutes, I was able to breathe on my own.  

By the time my dad saw me, my color had returned, and I was crying powerfully. Since my birth had been so difficult, the doctors wanted to let me cry for a while, so my lungs would get the workout they needed. My parents were relieved and grateful to hear me wailing. Their son had survived. 

Later that week, as we left the hospital, my parents stopped to thank the doctor who had continued the CPR. “Thank you for not giving up,” they told him. His response surprised them—and still carries a sting of hurt— “In a few years, you might want to take that thank-you back,” he said.

But they shrugged it off and took me home to meet my siblings. “This is your new brother,” they said, “Christopher Jay.” They had chosen the name Christopher because it means “Christ-bearer.”

For four months, I was a typical baby. I slept. I ate. I pooped and peed. No problem. It seemed as though the trauma of my delivery was behind me.

But then my mom started to notice things that weren’t quite normal. For example, I always stuck my arm out straight when I sucked on a bottle. I couldn’t hold a teething biscuit or a toy by myself. My head tended to flop around like a rag doll’s. It was clear I wasn’t developing at the same rate my siblings had, but when my mom asked the doctor about it, he told her to be patient. “Chris went through a lot during his delivery,” he said. “He’ll need extra time to catch up.”

A few more months passed, and I was still far behind developmentally. By now my mom was finished being patient. She demanded real answers from the doctor, so he put her in touch with a neurologist.

The diagnosis: Cerebral Palsy. 

Specifically, I have athetosis or athetoid cerebral palsy, which means my muscles are constantly moving. This affects my ability to speak, feed myself, and do other normal daily activities.

As I grew up, I started to understand that I wasn’t going to be able to achieve the goals I set for myself.  I had a dream to be the best athlete, and play sports, but that wasn’t going to be possible.  I wasn’t able to run or play like the other children, but I also needed help for everything else too.  I couldn’t dress myself.  I couldn’t feed myself.  I couldn’t take myself to the bathroom without help.  My dream of being an athlete was gone, but what was I going to be?  Did I have a purpose in life? 

I know I’m not the only person that struggles with this question.  When we hit a bump in our journey, we often question what our purpose is in life.  This isn’t an abnormal thing to happen.  In life, we all have to face adversity, and how we handle that adversity affects how we go about our journey.  

My bump has been my physical disability.  It would have been easy for me to give up and pout.  I have had every opportunity to do that, but somewhere inside of me something told me I had something greater to give to this world.  

When obstacles arise in life, we question whether or not we can overcome them.  I am no different than you.  I had a disability, and it was an obstacle that I had to decide if I was going to overcome.  For the longest time, I complained about my disability.  I felt like God gave me a raw deal.  He could heal me.  Better yet, He could have stepped in and prevented my disability.  

I could understand if I did something to deserve my disability.  If I made a bad choice, or put myself in a bad situation, there should be consequences for those types of things.  However, it’s really hard to love a God, when it seems like He is abandoning you at the time you need Him the most.  

I know some of you reading this feel that same way.  You have an obstacle in front of you, and you feel it is unfair or unjust.  It isn’t like you did something to deserve it, so it would be easy to give up on God.    

Now, I’ve had my whole life to think about why God would allow cerebral palsy to happen to me. I’ve spent many days and nights wondering where He disappeared to for those 85 minutes on the night of my birth. My parents struggled with this too.  My mom felt like it was somehow her fault, and she blamed herself for my disability. It didn’t make sense to me, and I wanted to question God.  I wanted answers, and I wasn’t getting answers.  I started reading scripture to find answers to my questions. 

I’ve read a lot of thought-provoking books, talked to a lot of fellow Christians, and prayed a lot of agonizing prayers.

The more scripture I read, the more questions I had.  We are taught about a loving God that wants to provide for His people, and yet we are living in a world that would suggest He isn’t all powerful.  How do you love a God that allows these awful things to happen?  It is the sole question that I have been asking all of my life. 

Throughout my childhood, in church, at school, and at home, I was told that God could cure illness, disease, and disability. I read stories in the Bible about how Jesus healed the lame, gave sight to the blind, and cured “incurable” lepers. I longed to run with my friends and live a normal life. I longed to be healed by Jesus.  Where was this Jesus?  I looked at my life, and I didn’t find the same Jesus.  I found a Jesus that wasn’t fair, and the more I read about Jesus’ miracles, the less I wanted Him to be a part of my life.  

I grew up in a Christian home, so I was taught about this all powerful God, and all that stuff.  However, people would tell me my disability was God’s plan for my life.  As a younger child, I kind of just accepted this talk because I didn’t totally understand what they were actually telling me.  I knew they were trying to comfort me when I was frustrated about my disability.  They thought they were helping me, but what they were doing was putting more doubts about God into my head.  

I know I’m not the only one with this problem. I know there are others who have suffered pain and loss that seemed unnoticed by a loving God. A freak car accident kills a young mother. Cancer slowly destroys a friend who used to be so vibrant. An earthquake rattles a highly-populated city, killing thousands and leaving the rest homeless.

Is this God’s plan for our lives?  We hear and get taught about this all powerful God, so when things like these happen in this world, we either blame God, or we say this is God’s plan.  These two answers didn’t satisfy me.  These two answers shouldn’t satisfy you, either.  How could you love a God that harms you?  I don’t believe you can. 

As I continued studying and pursuing God, John 1:1 gave me some insight on this subject.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (NIV John 1:1-3)  

I began to understand that creation started with a love affair.  It was a love affair between Father, Son, and Spirit.  They desperately wanted to share their love with others, so they hatched a plan to create the universe. 

Jesus had to be at the beginning because God knew He needed a redemptive plan in place.  All things are made through Jesus, and all things hold together inside of Him. 

Can you picture it?  Can you picture God holding this universe inside of Himself?  Actually, go get a ball and stick it under your shirt. That’s the picture of the all-powerful God holding the universe together, even when it’s crumbling apart.  

Christians have made Jesus so small that we think we have to explain everything about God.  However, we will never grasp how big our God is.  John explains to us that before creation, Jesus, the Word, was with God, and He was God.  Then, he says through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made. This is so vital to understand because we need to understand that Jesus is there at the beginning of this journey, and He is going to be there at the end of this journey.  He is going to be there in the midst of this journey.  However, that doesn’t mean God planned for Chris Klein to have a disability.  

This was about changing the way that I viewed God.  If my disability was really a plan of God, why would I want to be a follower?  I wouldn’t, and I know some of you reading this wouldn’t want to follow a God like that, either.  However, God created everything perfectly, but the world didn’t follow His perfect plan. This is why Jesus is at the center of creation.  He has restored everything back to the Father.  We are now His brothers and sisters, and the father hears our cries.  He gives purpose to everything, whether it’s a disability, or some other obstacle, He gives purpose to it.  

In Psalm 139 of God’s Word I read these facts:

For you [God] created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am 

fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me were written in your book

before one of them came to be. (v13–16, NIV)

This is a passage that gives some people comfort, and gives other people more questions.  For myself, I have struggled with these verses still because questions arise from these verses.  Did God plan for me to have a disability?  When you look at these verses set apart, you can read into that idea God planned for me to have a disability.  However, we wouldn’t be looking at the bigger picture.  God made me in His image.  He knit me together to be an image of Jesus.  I can honestly say He didn’t plan for me to have a disability.  He fearfully and wonderfully knit me together.  He knit me together to have a God given purpose, and yet He allows me to choose the direction.  

In the beginning, God did have a plan, but His original plan was messed up by humanity’s bad choices.  This is why we need to see Jesus in a bigger way.  When we are able to do that, we see everything has a purpose, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made by Him.  

I know you are in the same boat as me. You don’t feel like God has given you a fair shake, so why should you give him a fair shake.  You want to know why sometimes.  You don’t understand everything, and I know life seems to be falling apart.

God is bigger than the universe, and knows a whole lot more than I do. There are things that we won’t understand, so we have to decide to either embrace the love of the Father, who is all knowing and bigger than any circumstance, or reject God.  I have chosen to embrace God. I cling to His word, mining their depths for the diamond-like truths I know are in there. I catch a glimpse of those truths every once in awhile.

My family had a choice to make.  They could have sent me to a home for the disabled and washed their hands of me but they decided to be obedient and faithful knowing God had a purpose in all of this.

All this points to Chris Klein having a God-given purpose for his life.  I would have the same purpose whether or not I was disabled.  I have a God-given purpose to serve God wherever I am, and whatever I decide to do.  

When we can broaden our view, and grasp this bigger picture of who Jesus is, it opens up a lot of possibilities.  

We have all this crazy stuff going on around us in this world, and it’s the easy thing to say God planned it this way.  God has this planned out.  He wants us to suffer with cancer, disabilities, dementia, and etc., but I would say we’re making God tiny saying He has this planned out.  

The reality is God will use any circumstance for His purpose, if you are willing to be faithful and allow Him to do so.  I’m the perfect example of that fact!  

My hope is to take you on a journey.  It’s a journey of perseverance and faithfulness.  It’s a journey of finding God in the midst of living, both in the good and the bad.  

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