We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of pure joy.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu
A few days ago, I received some sad news about a dear friend from a member of his family. Doug Faulkner has died. My wife, Karen and I, had the blessing of knowing him for over 20 years.
Many he dealt with saw him as weak. They focused on his advancing cerebral palsy. They saw only his wheelchair. They saw struggles with his health, but I remember Doug saying to me, “Kevin, I don’t want people to see me as a disabled man. I’m much more than that.”
He was seen that way by some, but not by those who loved him. Doug was made stronger because of his challenges.
He was strong in his character and faith in Christ. He taught us what it means to be joyful in times of trial. The kind of joy I am referring to is believing the presence of God is with you in every circumstance. That did not mean Doug was never depressed. It was through dark times that he cried out to God like the Psalmist, David, for help in his time of trouble. Doug knew our Father was there in all he was going through. He never stopped believing that.
Whenever Doug laughed his whole body shook with it. We could not help but to laugh with him. We will always treasure those moments.
I was struggling with how best to describe Doug to you. Karen, I am grateful for your help with that. She said I should say Doug had faith and joy larger than his physical body. This made Doug unique. He did not contain his joy and faith; it burst out of him like fireworks.
Reflecting on the spiritual call on Doug’s life, I am reminded when my parents bought me a G.I. Joe commando figure. You remember you would pull the string on it,. and it would speak out different commands? One of them is, “I have a tough assignment for you.”
God gave Doug a tough assignment from the time he was born. He was called to shine Christ’s light in the darkness of attitudes of many towards those with disabilities.
Doug was institutionalized for many years. He told us that many of the people caring for him did not treat him with dignity. Those people viewed Doug as a weight to society, not a contributor to it. Only God knows the full measure of the suffering he endured. God and those who loved Doug saw his potential. Obstacles that would have caused many to give up did not stop Doug from becoming the man who God wanted him to be.
He learned to read with the help of adult literacy tutors. I came up with a way for him to remember words ending with the sound ar, er, or, ur, and ir. The memory aid was this: “Party fever forces furry tapirs to fart.” I showed it to Doug. He roared with laughter. This is one of the things that impressed us about Doug. He could get into the spirit of the moment.
Doug had a voice-activated computer program that would show his thoughts on the monitor. Then, he would have them printed out for people to read. He had a gift for sharing deep spiritual truths in a simple way. This allowed Doug’s writing to reach a larger group of people than most.
He was a poet, writer, a very good listener when people came to him for help, artist, and advocate. He fought for the rights of others with disabilities, no matter what the cost. Doug inspired us to do that.
For several years we lived in the same supportive housing apartment building as Doug. He spoke God’s truth with boldness to the comfortable; he was gentle with the afflicted.
He encouraged me to apply to be a Board Member at the supportive housing complex. Okay. He kept at me until I did it. He was kind about it. He did give me time to relax before taking on such taxing work. Doug said one of the reasons I was there was to be a representative for the disabled community members. The role also called for someone who would address policy and operational issues.
Without Doug’s persistence I would most likely have not applied to be a Board Member. I would have preferred to take a long break from doing social advocacy work. It takes a lot of energy to hear the struggles of the hurting and speak for them.
Doug, thank you for nagging me until I gave up. I am grateful to you for the stretching opportunity I received.
No matter what struggles he was facing, he always made time for us.
I had just received my electric powerchair. I got on the elevator and went to Doug’s floor to show it to him. I said to Doug, “I’ll race you down the hallway.” He smiled. Doug said, “Kevin, that would be so cool!” I said, “Get ready, set, go!” We raced down the hallway at top speed. He was Mario Andretti senior. I was Mario Andretti junior. Doug never cared about winning; it was all about having fun.
Whenever I think about Doug, this Scripture comes to mind. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4, NIV).
Your brother, Charlie, niece, Charlene, niece, Tammy, friends, and Karen and I, will miss you terribly.
Doug, you have graduated from this world to Heaven,.where you have no more sorrow or pain. You are present with the Lord.
God will enjoy your larger than life joy. We sure did!
I will let Doug have the last word. I quote from one of his pieces of spiritual prose in his book They Shall Mount Up With Wings Like Eagles.
My children, I will not let you fall underneath the earthly worries, because He that is in you is stronger than he that is in the world.
For GOD, which is in you, will have you mount up on wings as eagles.
He will not let the cares of this world weigh you down, because He loves you so much that He will provide a way for you to escape.
He will let you live victoriously above your circumstances, if you allow Him to take full and total control over your life.
GOD loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for you, so that His victory upon the cross would allow you to soar above each and every situation.
My child, I will never leave you nor forsake you.
Even though people may leave you, I will never leave you, for you can always trust in Me,
and I will always be there for you.
Even though some of you have lost your family, I have already promised you in my Word, that I would be both your Mother and your Father.
My child, I ask you not to think of Me as an earthly father, because I do not condemn my children as I do the fathers of this world.
I desire to have a loving relationship with you because I am not your accuser.
For I am a loving Father, and I do not want to see my children destroyed by the Enemy.
When my children do fall away from Me, I lovingly bring them back, for I love them so much,
that I will leave the ninety and ninth, and go out to find the lost ones.
I ask you My children to go out into the highways and the byways to look for those lost ones according to the commission I have given you.
When you find the lost and broken ones, I ask that you receive them not in condemnation,
but in the love I have shown you. I ask you to impart the love I have given you, for it is not meant to be kept, but to be given away as freely as you have received it.
As you impart the love into the lost and broken ones, I ask you to show them how to mount up with wings as eagles above their circumstances.
Prove me in your own life and actions, that My Son’s love for them lives within you.
By My grace and mercy I have sent My Son to die on the cross, so He can establish a place for them in My Kingdom.
For the cross of Jesus has given them the victory over the accuser, as they allow My Son’s death and resurrection to put an end to the death within them.
So I ask all my children to choose life, and life more abundantly through My Son, Jesus Christ, so that His victory will overcome in all their circumstances.