My daughter Claire was asked to participate in a Cardboard Testimony project for our church’s Open House over the Independence Day weekend. We’ve lived here since Claire was born 7 1/2 years ago, 15 weeks too early and several pounds too small. My second pregnancy – twin girls – ended traumatically after placenta abruption and Claire survived but spent 115 days in the hospital before we could take her home. It felt like tiny Claire had read a preemie checklist of possible complications and did her best to attempt each one.
We are blessed to be part of a loving, supportive community that knows her well. Few people here stare at her limping gait and try to figure out what is wrong. They all know she has a mild form of cerebral palsy. Her teachers remember praying for her to live when she was an infant, so giving her a little extra help when math doesn’t come easily is no problem. But our collective heart does break for her when we consider the uphill battles she still has to fight; we all know that someday we won’t be there to offer a hand on the steps or to carry a lunch tray to the dish window.
These are the kinds of struggles I expected Claire to address when she was asked to write her testimony on two sides of cardboard. The Cardboard Testimony is a fairly popular experience in the modern church. The idea comes from the roadside signs of the poor or homeless who scribble onto a piece of cardboard the description of their greatest need: Will Work for Food or Hungry Please HELP. When Claire asked what a testimony was, I told her it was the thing that you need the most help with and how God helped you. With Cardboard Testimonies, we get to use the second side of the cardboard.
“So what do you think your testimony should be about?” I asked Claire after school one day.
I imagined she would come up with something about her weak leg or her sometimes clenched fist on her left hand. I thought she might say she needed help with the hard math like adding and subtracting numbers bigger than 5. I didn’t expect her to say,
“Oh, like, how I miss my sister Ellery who is in Heaven?”
I should have known my expectations that Claire would be most concerned about her physical body were shallow. These are not her deepest concerns. She’s better than that and more honest. Her deepest concern is relational. She has felt loss deeply, in a way I don’t even fully understand. But at the same time, she has hope. This is faith like a child. This is faith I want.
Here are Claire’s two sides for the Cardboard Testimony from this Saturday (click to get a better view). Imagine in the background her Daddy and his band singing “O, How He Loves Us”: