Every time Ellen walks through the door I'm blessed. She always comes bearing the gift of a smile and an aura of peace. There is something special about her smile that exudes joy and contentment. When I look out the window of the coffee shop and see her approaching I can't help but smile, too.
Ellen's effortless smile radiates everywhere she goes but it might go unnoticed if it weren't for her most obvious attribute - her walker.
Ellen was born healthy with full functioning of every limb and organ. She was adventurous and outgoing all throughout her growing up years. As an adult she enjoyed friendships, romance and a life full of dreams for the future. But one motorcycle ride changed everything. One summer night's drive turned Ellen's world upside down.
The accident happened in an instant. One moment Ellen was on the back of her boyfriend's motorcycle and the next she was hanging on for dear life. The future looked bleak but Ellen pulled through. She spent months in the hospital and celebrated multiple birthdays in a rehabilitation facility but she survived.
Doctors didn't hold out much promise for Ellen but she defied the odds. They warned her family not to get their hopes up. Ellen would never walk again and might never talk. At least that's what they thought. But Ellen proved them wrong. She didn't let defeat stomp on her determination to begin again and start over. Ellen refused to be defeated by pessimism. She didn't give into pain and suffering. She persevered and she did it with a smile.
Today Ellen walks and talks. She enjoys friendships and grabbing an afternoon latte at the local coffee shop. With the help of a walker her paralysis-afflicted left side is kept upright while she browses store isles and makes her way down sidewalks. And she does it all wearing a smile.
For years I have watched Ellen come into the coffee shop and order her favorite green tea latte and for years I have marveled at her courage and contentment. She has an unspeakable peace that I would have missed entirely if it weren't for the cumbersome walker she pushes. I would never have recognized the joy on her face if it weren't for the paralysis of her body. It is because of her struggle that I have been blessed to see the spirit in her smile - the spirit of sacred suffering.
A smile is easy to wear when there is no pain and suffering. There is no need for a supernatural indwelling to wear a happy face when life is trouble-free and the body can move with ease. But when the going gets tough, life takes a dramatic turn toward tribulation, that's when a smile is more than a facial expression. It is a expression of the heart and soul. A struggling smile is a sacred expression of the spirit's trust and assurance in Christ.
Every afternoon I look forward to looking out the window so I can see Ellen and her smile. She is my daily reminder to wear a smile on my face and, more importantly, a smile in my heart. Whether my life be overcome by struggles, suffering or pain, Ellen reminds me that I can smile from the very core of my soul because it comes from Christ and His indwelling. It is by the power of my suffering Savior that I can claim a life of joy, peace and unshakable faith that radiates in a sacred smile.