Of course we are all healed even on a day by day basis, throughout our lives, and subsequently, experiences might make us, even in the least degree, able to empathize with others, even in the simplest healing situations, thus holding to the Word; we are all called to be healers. But not all of us are brought to the ground, face down in the deep valley, facing consequences of health that shake the very fabric of our being and set to possible despair any chance of the life going forward even with a remote semblance of the one dreamed of thus far. Not all of us have our world destroyed by some health issue, or maybe eventual we do?
Case in study; I was a fifteen-year-old boy, somewhat athletic, more want, than ability, who happens to go on a hayride with his high school key club. A volunteer community service club, whose purpose is honestly more of a gathering for high school kids to meet than it is community service oriented, at least at the view of a fifteen-year-old high school boy.
Here we have our young lad, wide-eyed and heart racing, eager to see all of life’s thrills his world has yet to give. Who does he happen to find himself next to? No other than Debbie, not only the cutest and most popular girl in the freshman class but also star cheerleader, someone he is sure had no idea of his existence until this particular day. Greater gift upon gift; she happens to be sitting next to me, plus the added bonus of finding most of what I am saying so far quite interesting, at least she is laughing and smiling.
And while I may have been a rising star in the Key Club world, being somewhat of a hand at poster painting, nothing can I say or even imagine is deserving the honor being granted me today by Debbie. Nothing except possibly the fact that my best friend Don is also one of the most popular upper class-men at the school. Don not only talked me into joining the Key Club but asked me to come tonight to this already monuments event. Don is not only an undefeated wrestler of over hundreds of straight matches to date, three-time state champion but to date, the most honorable, humble, trustworthy person I had ever known, extra plus he happens to like me.
Shortly following the halt of the hay wagon and the even more cozy gathering around a campfire, I recognize that Don is taking on all contenders in one-on-one wrestling matches up on the hay wagon. While being no fool, I know full well even with maybe twenty or thirty pounds on the smaller 125 lbs. wrestler I have absolutely no chance. But observing the laughs Debbie is emitting at the various boys being flipped around like rag dolls, and knowing the wrestling champ is my friend, figures to grant me even more points than I have already accumulated tonight, so I step up to challenge my friend. Who is, by the way, not even breathing hard after disposing of another friend of mine twice his size and maybe a half bigger than myself.
After only minimal grabs and thrusts I quickly find myself face down in a bit of a double headlock, facing the laughing smiles of my friend in front of me. Not wanting to give up in quick time, less than a ten count, and hoping to use my weight and size to any advantage it might grant me, I decide to slide my legs more to the center and try to widen my position, to put on some kind of stalemate maneuver. Countering any move Don might pull out of his pocket, I hold on tight and just stall for time settling on a draw, at least to the eyes of anybody who might happen to be watching. This would surely impress princess Debbie who no doubts stand and watch in cheering joy.
How soft and perfected is the gift a Father, so many years ago given this young son, the creation of flesh, muscles, tendons, working in smooth unison formed in perfected functional beauty granting strength and ability…his knee. Strength and stability to take punishments and play over years, constructed in inner function combined with outer perfection that muscles clothed in soft skin demonstrate anything if only the masterpiece of a Father’s creation. So slides the knee across the surface of the wood and straw, unaware the lurking dangers set in place months if not years before, ahead waits is the fang of serpents bite. A splinter four or five inches long just split enough off of the dry wood and placed in just exactly the right angle as to wait like a dagger for the unprotected young flesh to slide by. The strike is no less unexpected, or less devastatingly ruthless as any snake bite, and long after awareness of the body jumps to your aid, far foregone is any chance to avoid its deep bite.
The immediate agony and the almost instantaneous jump to my knee, leaves not only my friend but everyone else around without doubt that something horrendously wrong had occurred. Before long, forgotten was my attention to Princess Debbie, even ignored were the inquiries of my friend Don, with my only attention on looking at the source of the pain trying desperately to shed the meager light of the fire on any wisdom it might bring to the injury. I begin working vigorously to remove the almost pencil thick stub of wood that had now not only lodged under my knee cap but also broke off only leaving a small stub sticking out, with it’s nearly too small of a remnant to grab and pull out.
So with my limited experience and absolutely no training, all I was left with is the inherent knowledge and pain that this intruder must be removed. Pressure on the opposite side of the knee seemed to cause the end of the stick to push out just enough until I could securely attach fingernails like a vice to the dagger of wood. Then with one burning and painful pull, I dislodge it from my precious knee. Long and almost stiletto-like, this bloody two and a half inch long piece of a wood splinter from under my knee cap inside my knee slid out, like a dagger from a sheath.
Immediately I almost instinctively knew that this was not going to be the end of my new problem, for as the knee increased in pain so did it increase also in swollen size and stiffness, to the point where I could hardly place any weight on it. Long gone are the teeth of the serpent, but the venom and damage still seemed to be doing its work.
The ride back has faded from my memory, and while I vaguely remember still sitting talking to Debbie and maybe assuring my worried friend Don everything was going to be fine, my mind can hardly remember doing much other than constantly looking to the now injured knee. The injury had reduced my entire world from one of joy, laughter, campfires, cheerleaders, coyotes, Gods blessings, and dreams, to an area of view slightly larger than the scope of a view including only a few inches that surrounded my knee. My world had become my injured knee.
After a rapid visit to emergency room with it’s overworked and under-rested doctors, who granted their own portion of wisdom find nothing, and then an even more rapid revisit only three days later, (four days before recommended by the previous Dr., I might add) to an orthopedic surgeon who seemed to be granted much more wisdom than the previous doctor, I found myself quickly being rushed into the operating room. I was too young to understand the diagnosis, but not so to witness the shocked look on the doctors face, and frantic orders the moment he barked them out at everyone around, as he drew a syringe of green pussy fluid from my now extremely swollen and bright red-purple knee.
I am not sure where I heard those dire words; in all of the two or three operations that followed, or the almost one month of lying on my back in the hospital. Not being able to hold down any food and losing nearly forty pounds, whether it being a reaction that also erupted making me deathly sick and vomiting to any antibiotic being used, or the shock of the trauma on my young body, made the choice of any antibiotic all but sidelined, result; my knee had been peeled like a banana and the only treatment that remained a washing with clean saline (water with a hint of salt) pumped run through a tube over the now exposed tissue of my knee. In all this frantic chaos somewhere I did hear the doctor try to console my mother as he was urging her “If we couldn’t get the infection under control and out of my knee they would probably have to take my leg off?”
I wasn’t a particularly fast runner, but if I did participate in any athletics, something I always had an enormous interest in doing, running seemed to be the only skill I could come close to demonstrating. Plus being raised pretty much from the south side of the tracks, I always knew that if I was going to get through college, getting into some kind of program where a scholarship was involved seemed to be a must. It so happens that the same friend Don, I wrestled on the hay wagon, was also to a degree helping me with application and qualification into the Military Academies. There being one point that was necessary for admittance into any such schools, a student must letter in Varsity sports all four years of his high school career in order to even be considered. That single fact was rushing through my mind as a foregone conclusion from the very moment I was sitting by the fire to even with every word the doctor spoke.
That was not going to work well into my plans of possibly getting into an Academy. As the doctor left the room with my mother, I remember there was another man who stood near and looking at me said; “You want to run again? Do whatever you can, hobble if you must, first a little, then a lot, then miles, and before you know it you will run.” “If you want it bad enough you can get it back.” That statement even if far down the road, and contrary to what the doctor said did give me hope, if even only a very little bit.
Months of walking with crutches followed, little if any progress as the knee swelling reduced, it remained stiff an painful to put even a little weight on, and if you asked me anything about that time in my life, all I think I could remember is images of my knee, bandaging it, carefully lifting in and out of a car, and walking with crutches. That is all! I had become reduced to my knee injury, no longer participating in clubs, sports, or any activities I can remember, as a matter of fact, I remember pretty much being alone.
One memory comes to mind although; I remember one particular day at school, with two crutches and fumbling horribly at my locker as I wrestled with books and papers and those two ridiculous crutches. Suddenly I get hit with a can or a wadded up piece of paper in the head, causing me to drop my books or papers all over the ground, and the almost immediately the eruption of laughter behind me, as I realize one of the upper class-men football players was not only the instigator of the teasing but now was making his way over to press his fun over his new found victim. I vaguely remember him making comments like “poor little cripple boy” or something as he gets closer and kicks my book to push them even further out of my now pathetic attempts to reach.
I remember saying something back, almost challenging the almost twice as large boy, but such comments were only met with more laughter from not only him but his friends who sat nearby and laughed him on. The boy moved towards me with a sneer and I was sure that at least a knocking to the ground was the minimal I could expect from this exchange coming. This was going to hurt my knee.
Then suddenly there was an almost immediate silence, lifting my eyes up from my now mangled book, I see that my provoker now laid in the clutches of John, who must have come suddenly around the corner. John was not only the star of both the basketball and football team being that he was at least six foot five and every bit as strong as he was tall, a mammoth of a man by anyone’s standards. He lifted my large, but seemingly light to John’s standards, assailant off of his feet and slammed him quite forcibly against the lockers, and said; “You pick every piece of those papers, and if you ever touch my friend again, it’s going to be you on those crutches!”
Not a word from my assailant except a fearful head nod, nor either from the friends who were moments before laughing, because the minute John went into action, they all ran like they saw charging lion! John releases the boy who scrambles to pick up the papers in such a frantic state, it was clear to me he was much more frightened now then I had ever been even moments before. He said “sorry” as he handed me my books, and quickly left the scene. Tears were now running down my face, and for the life of me I don’t realize why, or maybe now after all these years, I do. John softly says; “Are you all right?” “I don’t think those guys are going to bother you ever again.” He smiled and turned to walk away.
And all I could say was “Ya.”
A month or so later I would be picked out of the crowd at church and would experience what I would for the rest of my life remember as the time I thought I was healed. Mario Marillo picked me out of the crowd, a seemingly impossible task seeing that I was standing all the way in the back and way over to the side, well out of view of not only the pastor but anyone else who might see us kids talking and socializing during church. He called out “And there is a boy, they told him he’d never run again, he’d never jump again, and he’s right there!” turning his arm to his side and pointing his finger right between my eyes, while not even looking at me, I was shocked to see him continuing to look forward at the crowd and not even look at where he pointed. All my friends around where urging me to go down saying; “That’s you, that’s you!”
After hobbling down on my crutches, he looked at me and said; “They told you; you will never run again, they told you; you would never jump again.” “But I will tell you not only will you run and jump again, there will come a day when you run faster and jump higher than anyone you will ever meet.” He touched me on the head, everyone cheered and I hobbled back to my chair. After being prodded by my friends and those around me, I admitted that maybe I felt little different, maybe, and life went on.
Years later, after hobbling turned into jogging, and jogging into running, first laps, then miles, and making not only the varsity cross country team, but going to State and our team winning the state championship twice. Track team pole vaulting, with later 440 sprinting and our team winning the state championship twice. Getting nominated to not one but all of three of the military academies, Annapolis, Colorado Springs and West Point, and getting accepted into Westpoint, just to pass on them all and go onto Oral Roberts University, because it was were I believed at the time God wanted me to go. Then walk onto their NCAA Class One cross country team.
For all those years when I would infrequently think back or only rarely give credit to the healing, finally at this later stage I began to. I finally and more often would tell the story of Mario Marillo and his pointing me out of the crowd, the crutches, and hobbling, and God being faithful to his word. But now as I ponder and think more clearly about things, I realize Mario was and is a profit, merely pointing out for the edification of the body that which God already had done, quietly and softly months before.
Because at one moment there was a boy and his whole world had reduced to that simple injured knee. Then Jesus showed up in the body and form of John, and picked up that enemy and rebuked it, driving it away once and for all, issuing in healing, renewing a spirit, bringing precious water on dry and parched dreams. And it was at that very moment I realize now, thinking back all those years, I no longer thought of myself as a knee, but as a friend of Him. That I know now is why I cried all those years ago; when Jesus steps in and helps us, heals us, opens the prison, scares away the devils, one can not help but cry.
Years later I started feeling that which manifested in the physical, it began with my hands getting warm. The first physical sign I could remember experiencing that told me something was different, something supernatural, something that left no doubt in my mind, my life and path had forever been changed all those years ago by a sliver of wood.
By Peter Colla
“Dear Lord Jesus, thank you first of all for every and all of the healing given me so often in every day of my life, and I pray you show me where, and when, and finally what capacity You would honor me in assisting You in the healing of Your children.”