Lynn Wheeler

The Rest of the Story

Lynn WheelerCovenant
Presbyterian Church: Fayetteville. GA

Interviewed by Sue Jakes, Education Specialist, PCA

On Christmas morning 2005 Lynn was on her way to church with children and grandchildren when their car was struck by another car. Lynn, riding in the back seat, was the only passenger with serious injuries. The Wheeler family learned soon after this incident that Lynn was paralyzed and would live out the rest of her life as a quadriplegic.

Lynn Wheeler with Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves

Lynn with one of her biggest fans – Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves catcher and Major League All-Star Games’ Most Valuable Player 2010

MNA SNM: Please share with us a little bit about your story. What was it like when you were first coming to terms with your disability?

When I first understood that I could not move, I knew that I had crossed a line into a life that would never be the same again and on the other side of that line I would be different from everyone else. One of the first verses I ever learned was Ps 139:16. “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” I had to keep that focus in my mind through all that was happening to me. I was confused as I began the hard work of living with this disability. At night I was afraid to fall asleep, knowing the “sip and puff” mouthpiece was the only way I could communicate with anyone. What if it fell out of my mouth? Who would know if I needed help? Because of the helplessness and inability to communicate, I could only hope that this condition would not be permanent. Everything had changed for me and I often felt very alone.

Lynn with Rain

MNA SNM: What was/is your greatest challenge at first/ongoing?

I had to learn to eat. I had to learn to talk. And, all of this was very hard work. Occasionally my emotions would take a nosedive as the reality of it all set in each day. Spiritually, I was OK. I would tell family and friends, “It is well with my soul.” I was not just saying that to encourage them. It was really true. I also found myself with an ever increasing longing for heaven; not a desire to die, but looking forward to heaven.

MNA SNM: What was/is the most difficult thing to accept?

The most difficult thing to accept was the permanence of my condition. Except for a miracle from the Lord, I will live this way as long as I am here on earth.

MNA SNM: In what area of your life do you find that you need the most assistance?

Emotional support is my greatest need. Fellowship with family and friends is invaluable.

MNA SNM: What do you wish that others understood better about your life/the life of your family?

The big things in life are the same, but the life experiences that were simple before are now major ordeals. Sometimes just talking takes such a great effort. To go to church every Sunday is an event. What I did before with very little thought now takes hours of planning and preparation. (The reader needs to know that Lynn and her husband Doug rarely miss worship or any other ministry activities at their church.)

Lynn with child

MNA SNM: How has your local church ushered in the power of the Gospel—in word and deed—into your life/the life of your family?

The Gospel is “God with us” and our church family is “with us”. Just by being there they produce word and deed every day. There are volunteers who clean and cook, ladies in our church who share their gifts with us on a regular basis. One of the men in our church learned to drive our special van so that he can take me and his wife to run errands and shop. Most of the time, he even shops with us, (unless we wander into the lingerie department!) There is a meal prepared for us every Sunday after church and we know that if we have a need of any kind the Body will make an effort to meet that need.

MNA SNM: How have you seen “the work of God displayed in your life” through disability?

The opportunity to tell my story is an opportunity to tell His story. Everyone who sees me wants to know what happened and if they ask, they hear about the God who keeps me. My grandchildren have learned compassion and service as they see it all around me. Watching my journey is to know that God is at work in my life and in lives that touch me each day. When we are weak, He is strong.

MNA SNM: What have you learned?

  • God is a faithful provider and He loves me.
  • I am stronger than I thought and I am weaker than I thought. However, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” His Word is true.
  • People are funny and don’t understand. But, when they do understand they are kind and God’s people have been given amazing servant’s hearts. I make new friends all the time when they begin to understand me and my disability.

Lynn and family

MNA SNM: How does the care of the local church free you/your family member up to minister to others?

We love to practice hospitality and a man in our church who is an excellent cook regularly prepares a meal in our home so that we can invite friends over for food and fellowship. It was his idea and has been a blessing, not only to us, but also to the many who have been invited for dinner. Most of my life has been spent teaching children and my disability has not prohibited me from continuing to use my spiritual gifts. I am presently teaching the Shorter Catechism to the older elementary class at my church. I have also taught them the books of the Bible and the Ten Commandments through music and fun activities.

MNA SNM: If you could share one message with the Church about the subject of disability, what would it be?

Love those with disabilities like Jesus loves them. Don’t treat them any differently. We are all image bearers who need love and who will love back as the gospel works in and through us.