I was born with a clubfoot. My left leg is shorter than my right leg, my left foot is two sizes smaller than my right foot, and my left calf is half the size of my right calf.
However, in my lifetime, I can only remember three times when someone even noticed something was different about my leg. When I was born, the doctor said that I wouldn’t even be able to walk correctly. I was one of the faster students in my grade, played multiple sports, and really never seemed to miss a step. Up until this point of my life, this is how I saw God gifting me through the two surgeries I had on my leg. I had gone farther than the doctors had ever thought I would go.
Two truths and a lie
This summer, I am serving in Kaohsiung, a big coastal city in southern Taiwan. I am assisting with English clubs at local universities and helping lead English camps for elementary and junior high students. One of the activities we use to introduce ourselves in two truths and a lie. For one of my true statements, I tend to say, “I have two different sized legs and feet.” I have done this activity multiple times in our team introductions, but one time, I felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to share a little more.
I said I was born with a clubfoot and demonstrated how it was bent inwards to the class. I told about my two corrective surgeries and how I really could walk just fine. Finally, I described how my Mom started calling my left leg my “lucky fin” after the movie Finding Nemo came out.
There didn’t appear to be any big reaction and honestly I asked God: “Did I hear that correctly? You wanted me to share that?” We went on with our presentation like normal, and later in the class, I told some students about how my parents encouraged me to find truth and that led to me to following Jesus. It led to some good conversation about truth and choosing to follow Jesus. I thought, “All right God, thank you for letting me talk about my parents and their value for truth in our family.”
Model of unconditional love
The professor who leads that class attends the congregation, Hope Bilingual Church, where we are assisting this summer. Her name is Jennice, and she hugged me and exclaimed, “I am so thankful that you shared about your leg.”
She proceeded to tell me she and several of her students were touched by the way my parents loved me despite my physical imperfection. Jennice continued to explain that in Taiwan’s honor-and-shame culture, my clubfoot would have been seen as shameful for the family. Conventional wisdom here would say more than likely, someone had done something to earn my clubfoot. However, upon hearing that my family went on to make sure that I felt special because of it by calling it my “lucky fin,” they were amazed at the love my parents displayed for me. Jennice even shared that as a believer, she knew we should love everyone just as God does, but her mind has a tendency to follow the leanings of the culture. I could completely relate to her about that.
I was completely taken aback and just humbled at the way my parents have modeled the unconditional love of Christ for me. They would have gone to so many more lengths for me to walk properly, just as God went to the greatest length so we could walk with him again.
‘God knits our stories together’
I was taken aback and in awe of the way God knits our stories together and uses them for his glory. Honestly, if someone were to ask me about my clubfoot, I have my next few sentences in the conversation memorized with a couple of jokes here and there and my story is tied up in a cute, little bow. I did not expect God to pull something from my story that I thought I understood as fully as I could and use it to show his glory and his love. My imperfect leg is nothing compared to the imperfection my sin brings to my relationship with God. He is the one who has loved me in my imperfection and sent Jesus to earth so I could have a restored relationship with him.
The healing we have access to in God is greater than we ever could imagine. I am reminded of the story of Jesus in the crowd and the very sick woman who had spent lots of time and money to be healed. She thought to herself, “If I touch even his garments, I could be made well” (Mark 5:24-34). If we were just to reach out and touch the clothes of Jesus, what healing we would experience. Christ came and brought spiritual healing and unconditional love. Through the gospel, we have full access to our Father, who has done everything so that his children can be with him. The spiritual healing we have access to through the gospel is relentless. God is seeking to restore people to himself and to love them deeply and abundantly.
Right now in Taiwan, God is teaching me to point others back to the unconditional love he already has for them. He is teaching me he loves in abundance and he loves in greater ways than we could ever imagine. God is teaching me he has brought me to tell my new friends how when I reached out and believed, I experienced a spiritual healing that I never could achieve on my own. So here I am in Taiwan with my lucky fin and a heart that is asking my friends to reach out and to touch the clothes of Jesus through prayer and his word so they can know the one true God.
Katie Burkhead, campus ministry intern at the University of Texas in Austin, is serving as coordinator of a Go Now Missions team in Taiwan this summer.