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Alan Oliviera
Alan Fonteles Cardoso Oliveira at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships. Photo from 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships via Wikimedia Commons.

Lame changer

Alan Oliviera stood on the medal stand with his gold medal firmly between his teeth, flashing a winning smile as broad as the Amazon River of his homeland, Brazil. He had earned the title of fastest double amputee in the world by running the 100 meters in 10.77 seconds.

His journey to this golden moment began when, at 8 days old, to save his life from a spreading infection, both of his legs were amputated below the knee.

At 8 years old, though, he was racing kids in his neighborhood and winning, running on two prosthetics that were as rudimentary and crude as a pair of logs. The “blades” he now runs on have competitors with two good legs complaining about an unfair advantage that science has given Alan.

His advantage has never been external.

Alan Oliviera has had an advantage in his heart since he first lined up to race the boys in the plaza of his hometown. What is a lame man doing running in a race? It’s absurd. It’s wonderful.

In the Bible, a man with a defect such as Alan’s couldn’t be considered to minister before God regardless of whether his heart desired it or not, as we see in Leviticus 21:18-21a:

For any man who has a defect shall not approach: a man blind or lame, who has a marred face or any limb too long, a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, or is a hunchback or a dwarf, or a man who has a defect in his eye, or eczema or scab, or is a eunuch. No man of the descendants of Aaron the priest, who has a defect, shall come near to offer the offerings made by fire to the Lord.”

This was to show that whoever would serve in the Lord’s presence had to be perfect. With a last name like Handloser, I guess I am excluded! With the rest of me, for that matter, I am excluded. I am so lame! My heart is the worst of it.

As wildly absurd as a legless man running in a race is the fact that the God who made Earth and everyone in it became one of us in humble fashion, a baby born in a manger to poor peasants in a nowhere town. He is the opposite of Alan Oliviera who, through science, has put on a strength that threatens the strong. Jesus put on our weakness to encourage the weak. In fact, Jesus tells a parable beginning in Luke 14:15 that shows the Father’s desire, in the light of the Love that Jesus has for the world, that He would give His life to save.

“Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, ‘Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!’ Then He said to him, ‘A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’

“So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”

You can make excuses for not starting the race of faith. Or you can have the heart of a champion and follow Jesus in spite of your weaknesses. In the Olympics there is only room for one on the winner’s podium, but in God’s Hall of Champions, He says to you, “There is still room,” and His desire is that “my house may be filled.”

Rick Handloser

 

— by Rick Handloser

Handloser is an author, a coach and a pastor at Calvary Chapel San Diego where he oversees the Children’s Ministry, acts as the AWANA Commander, writes and directs VBS, and any other possible activity that involves capturing the hearts of kids for the Kingdom.

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