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S he stood in line at the mall, waiting for her turn to talk to Santa and tell him her wish. Every year, she asked for the same thing.

“Ho! Ho! Ho! Hello, little girl. Come here and talk with old Santa Claus.”

Every year, she would drop her crutches at his feet, and he would lift her carefully onto his lap.

“Have you been a good girl this year, sweetie?”

She would reply affirmatively with an exaggerated nod.

“Very good, then tell me what you want for Christmas.”

“I want a bicycle,” she would reply.

“Oh, um, er, ah, what will you do with a bicycle?”

“I will ride it.”

“Oh? Ho! Ho! I am not sure Santa can make your legs better enough for you to ride a bicycle.”

“That’s okay, Jesus will heal my leg. I know it’s not your job. I ask Jesus to help me to walk without casts and braces and crutches. But when he makes me ready, I want a bicycle waiting for me.”

For 12 long years, her family, cousins, and relatives far away, her church family, and Christians she never met all prayed for her healing. She was on church prayer lists for those 12 years, and for 12 years she was told, “Pray and believe God will heal you.”

At church, in Sunday school, and reading the Bible, she learned about miracles and healing. And, like the psalmist, she pondered, “How long, O Lord?” How long does it take for a miracle to occur? Does it happen in a moment, or does it take a lifetime?

After 12 years, she was pronounced healed. She could walk without casts and braces, yet she walked with pain and with a limp. She learned to ride a bike, but her foot was misshapen and her leg scarred. Her femurs were two different lengths and her feet two different sizes.

Is this what healing looks like?

The girl on Santa’s lap, of course, was me. The disease, Neurofibromatosis I, was the name of my disability at birth that in time necessitated 17 surgeries before braces, casts, and crutches were left behind. This is a disease that I still live with now, 30-some surgeries later. It causes tumors to grow throughout my body, inside and out, too many to count. Some of the growths can be removed, most cannot. These growths disfigure me more and more as the years go by.

For thousands of years, God’s messengers told of a promised Messiah who would come and save his people. God prepared his people. He gave them examples, prophets, and priests who foretold of a healing that would come for all people. Generations were born, lived, and died, yet the healing didn’t come. Until one night in Bethlehem when a Savior was born.

Jesus, the Word, was born into this world, into human flesh, a baby. He lived and grew—a boy, a son, a man, who was just like any other human.

Then he died a most barbaric, torturous death. But that is not the end of his story. He rose again to life, and many saw his scarred, resurrected body. They recorded what they saw: his scarred, perfect, resurrected body. Those scars of crucifixion remain with him still, in his flesh, for all eternity.

When I was a growing girl, the grown-ups in my life would tell me about heaven and having a brand new, beautiful body that is free of disease, pain, and scars. Yet, I read in Scripture of a risen Savior whose ascended, glorified body bears the scars of his crucifixion.

Our God loved us so much that he became one of us, a human child. He took on affliction, torture, pain, death, and scars. Why? It’s all part of the salvation story. The love story of a Father God for us, his children. God loved me so much that he even looks like me, scarred and disfigured. All this so I can know him, love him, and come to him for all of my hope and salvation, now and forever.

I wait, as I did for Santa, for Christ to complete his work on my body and in my soul. For me, and the rest of humankind, he limited himself. He became one of us. For each of us he suffered, in order to bring a gift better than a bicycle, or even better than walking. A life free from fear and filled with his love. And the promise of a life to come.

This is why I ask Santa for bicycles and God for miracles.

a man and woman stand side by side in front of a red barn
Rev. Dr. Andrea Godwin-Stremler

The Reverend Doctor Andrea Godwin-Stremler is a pastor in the ReformedChurch in America (RCA) and a licensed therapist. Currently, she serves as CEO of New Revelations College Ministries, a ministry of Central Plains Classis, which she and her husband, Ted, are planting in Northern Texas, forming leaders actively engaged as Christ’s presence in the world.

She pastored churches in Michigan and Nevada before she and her family moved to Germany for her husband to serve as Army chaplain. During the Army “chapter” of their ministry life, she served in senior executive positions with families and soldiers in the Army Chaplaincy in Europe and the USA, provided counseling services to soldiers and their families, supervised chaplains trainingas counselors, and pastored a Filipino National church in Hawaii.

She currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Western Theological Seminary, the RCA/CRC Disability Concerns Advisory Team, and the RCA Restructuring Team. She is married to retired Army Chaplain COL TedGodwin-Stremler. They have two daughters and four granddaughters.