Luke doesn’t think he’s anything special.
Remarkable people rarely do.
I met Luke on Wednesday night. My friend Brad and I arrived first, followed by another member of our church, Joe, and then a member of another church, Hardy, arrived. Brad introduced me to all of them–I knew who Joe was, but we’d never been introduced–and then Luke came into the room.
I can’t tell you too many personal details about Luke, because I don’t know them. I don’t know how old he is. I don’t know where he went to high school. I don’t know his shoe size or his favorite brand of hot dog. One of the first things I noticed about Luke is he doesn’t talk about himself all that much.
Luke is a quadriplegic. He’s confined to a wheelchair, with no use of his legs at all, and very limited use of his thumbs. He controls his wheelchair with a small thumb-operated controller he held in his hands the whole time I was there. He has no other usage of his arms or legs. He moves his head very little, and talking appears to be a bit harder for him than for most people. He lives with his grandparents, who help take care of him.
Brad introduced me to Luke. Luke sized me up as Brad told him I’m a computer expert. I felt myself blushing. Luke told me about his new Compaq Pentium 4 and the difficulty his people were having in getting mouse emulation software for his gamepad working. Then Luke turned, recognized the other two men immediately, and greeted them.
Joe led a discussion on forgiveness. He’d recently read a magazine article on it, so he read the article to us, aloud. We went around the room, talking about the article. Luke was anything but a passive participant. He asked questions, answered questions, and quoted scripture. I never asked his age, but I estimate he’s in his early-to-mid twenties.
The core of the study lasted for about an hour and a half, and remained lively. That in itself impressed me–I’ve seen Bible studies half that length just drag and drag and seem like they’re taking forever.
As the Bible study wrapped up, Luke looked straight at me. “What are you thinking?” he asked.
I’d spoken a fair bit during the study, maybe not as much as the others, but enough. So I assumed he meant he wanted to know what I thought of the group and the study. After confirming that, I said what I saw here was a group of men who cared about one another, who listened to one another’s concerns, challenged one another, and built one another up. Any group that does those things is likely to be successful.
Then one of the others spoke up. “What about your other question?”
Luke told me the other thing he likes to know about someone, besides a name, is their story. In evangelical Christian circles, “your story” means how you became a Christian. So I told him my story, of starting off with a bang with five good years growing up, followed by three really bad years in churches in St. Louis as a young teenager, deciding in high school that I didn’t have a problem with God but I really didn’t like His people very much, and going to church a couple handfuls of times during college (but I usually missed Christmas and Easter). Then, a few months out of college, someone introduced me to a Christianity that pretty much worked. She faded from the picture pretty fast, and a picture of ideal Christianity formed in my head–hers wasn’t it–but I was afraid that didn’t exist and I even told God so. Within a couple of months, God led me to a church that practiced that form of Christianity.
I kind of felt bad for talking so much, because I think there’s more for me to learn from Luke than for Luke to learn from me. But he looked attentively my way the whole time I talked.
“That’s a great story,” Luke said.
No, I’ll tell you a great story. The great story happened when we started taking prayer requests. Luke started asking questions. How’s Brad’s business? How’s Joe’s dad? How are Hardy’s kids? How’s Hardy’s pastor? Most of the questions quickly became stories of answered prayer. New requests came out in the discussion. Then Luke turned to me and asked if I had anything.
I told him a little about a coworker I’ve been praying for over the last 14 months. I’ve seen positive answers, and I shared the story of the most recent one, but said there are still unmet needs. Luke smiled as I told the story. I sensed he understood.
Brad asked Luke what he needed. Luke talked about his brother, getting injured on the job and having problems with his coworkers, and asked if we’d pray for him. Then Brad asked, “But what to you need?”
“What do I need?” Luke asked. “I don’t need anything. Praying for yourself feels… weird.”
“It’s OK to pray for yourself,” Brad said.
“Jesus prayed for himself,” I said.
Everyone stopped for a second at that, flipping through the story of Jesus’ life in their heads. Then they started nodding, all except for Luke, who said, “You’re right.”
Luke told us about an input device that exists for a PC, one that would allow him to use his computer, and didn’t require any weird software. It uses standard drivers, so it should just work. But they’re expensive. (It sounded to me like a custom-made trackball.) He said one of the ladies who works with him may be able to loan him one, and she could help him apply for a grant to get one. He explained how the computer is his gateway to the world–his grandparents can’t take him out very much–so this is something he’d like to have.
So we prayed, and it was powerful. Five men prayed fervently, often for people they’d never met. Luke’s prayer for everyone else mentioned was every bit as passionate as his prayer for his own brother. In his prayer, he repeated details of my coworker, whom he knew by first name only, celebrating my coworker’s triumph, and feeling my coworker’s pain.
I thought about that for a while. Here was Luke, praying fervently for someone he’ll probably never meet–at least not on this side of heaven–and who has nothing to offer him. But he didn’t care about that. What he cared about was this person’s well-being. Here was someone who needed a better life, and he couldn’t do anything about it besides pray, so he was going to pray with everything he had.
I thought of myself earlier that week. On Monday and Tuesday, it took next to nothing to set me off. Why? Well, my wrists hurt, things hadn’t gone my way over the weekend, and then on Monday I really let down a friend I didn’t want to let down. And the difference between me and Luke? Luke’s body let him down. His difficulty wasn’t the direct result of any of his actions. But I let my body down. Yes, I had a lot to learn from Luke. Then I realized I was comparing my worst moment to what was probably one of Luke’s best moments, so I let myself off the hook. But I’d do really well to follow Luke’s lead and try to model Christ’s love and attitude. Both Brad and Luke had commented about my knowledge, but it was clear to me who had the bigger and better heart.
And I noticed Luke never did pray for himself, but the rest of us petitioned for him.
As we were leaving, Luke called me over. He looked me straight in the eye and told me my coworker would be fine.
After seeing that slightly imperfect reflection–Luke’s human just like the rest of us–of God’s love and realizing that God cares for all of us even more than that, then remembering the last time I saw God’s power, there wasn’t any doubt in my mind either.
Yeah, there’s something special about Luke, and I really hope it’s contagious. I look forward to the next time I study with him.