Cripples and Crutches

My Maternal Grandparents. Ca. 1970

Lists, Leaning, and the Lord

“‘Pa,” I said, “I need a piece of paper.” I eyed the steno pad on his desk.

“What for?”

“Grandma and I are going to the store and I need to make a list.”

“Lists are crutches. Just remember what all you need–it’s good for your brain.” 

I slunk out of his office and returned to my grandmother, waiting in the kitchen.

“We’re supposed to remember what we need. That’s what ‘Pa said.”

“Oh for heaven’s sake!” Grandma said. “Did he give you that nonsense about crutches?”

“He did,” I told her.

Grandma scrounged an envelope from the junk drawer and we scratched out our shopping list on its back. We listed the ingredients for her special pork chops, which I was to learn to cook on this day, and added vanilla ice cream and sugar wafers, the standard dessert at their house. 
When we returned from the grocery store, we threw the list away before ‘Pa came into the kitchen.
My grandfather and I never did see eye-to-eye on lists. He maintained his opinion that memorizing was necessary mental exercise. I adopted the stance that using a list left more of my brain free for more important information, like the conjugation of -ir verbs in French. 
He insisted that lists were crutches. I said crutches aren’t so bad, if you can’t walk without them.  
I think about him when people tell me that religion is a crutch. It’s not, I tell them. Sometimes it’s a cane. Sometimes it’s a wheelchair. Sometimes it’s a litter, hoisting me up and out of a perilous situation. 
Canes, crutches, wheelchairs, and litters: they all help when my own strength isn’t enough to see me through. And truth be told, if I had to depend only on my own strength, I wouldn’t get much done. 
But when I lean on Jesus, when He carries me through a long hard day, I’m drawing on power far beyond what I could muster on my own. With Him, nothing is impossible. 

9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NASB)