By: Cynthia Butler and Hannah Melvin
It had been a week since she had kissed a guy; a month since she had touched a piano; a year since she had tasted bread. And she was finally ready to have a talk with God.
Hannah had broken away from the horde of peppy campers for some moments of quiet. There in the shade of the pine trees she heard God’s invitation: “Let’s take a walk.” Honestly, it had been a long time coming. She knew she had been disobedient. The break up with Lincoln had been a tough one, but it’s what needed to happen. The arguments and failed hopes had taken their toll. God had instructed her to take some time off. No dating for a year. She agreed; at least at first . . . until she met Matthew. He seemed like the perfect guy for Hannah: gentle, kind, committed to Christ. But God did not approve of their relationship, and they both knew it. “I can’t do this any more,” he finally determined. “I can’t date you if God isn’t in it.”
Hannah’s relationship with Matthew wasn’t the only thing that had been taken from her during her rebellion. Hannah had visions of becoming a virtuosic pianist. She was studying music at Lone Star Montgomery College and becoming classically trained when she began to sense that this was not the path God had planned for her. It was God who had gifted Hannah with her musical abilities, God who had provided a piano for her so many years ago at no cost. It was God who had inspired her to write songs and perform them for anyone who would listen. Certainly it was His will, then, for her to invest her talent and increase her skills. But playing Chopin and Rachmaninoff was not what He had in mind. She had heard His instructions clearly. Yet she did not have the heart to quit.
As Hannah continued to devote hours to her classical study, slaving over difficult passages of music, her hands became more and more uncooperative. They would cramp up and refuse to play. Finally Hannah was forced to give up the instrument she loved. But she couldn’t see what was happening. Her fellowship with God was broken, and now she was broken, too.
Still, she was at church each week, and now at camp leading youth in Bible study. Part of her knew she had no business teaching while she herself was unrepentant, but she had yet to admit it.
Now she was alone with God, though. No pretense. Hannah strolled through the carpet of leaves in the Lord’s presence until she arrived at the rear of the chapel, and stood in front of the door. “Open it,” God said. But the door had been locked for the duration of the camp. Why had God led her to a locked door? “I open doors that no man can shut,” He reminded her. So she reached her hand out and twisted the knob. It opened. The room was filled with rows upon rows of metal chairs. But she could see among the clutter, in the corner of the room, there was a piano. She sensed God drawing her toward it. He encouraged her to lay her hands on it and assured her, “I will restore you.”
Hannah’s tears poured out as she finally let go. She had missed this feeling of release in her Father’s arms. She felt clean and unashamed. There in that room, time seemed to stop, but Hannah knew that soon the campers would be gathering for their evening worship service, and she would be expected on stage. She stood up and wiped her eyes, trying to calm herself. Casey could see as Hannah arrived at the microphone that she was emotional. “You need to sit out tonight?” he asked. “I can do this,” she determined.
That night, singing to Lord was a natural outpouring. Even if her voice was trembling, her worship was heartfelt. After the song set, Casey placed a large piece of bread in Hannah’s hand. It was time for communion, a fitting expression of Hannah’s newly revived devotion. But Hannah held the bread hesitantly. Being gluten intolerant, she knew what wheat products would do to her, especially a chunk the size of her whole palm. So Hannah apologized to God for not taking the Lord’s supper, broke off a negligible corner and dipped it in the communion cup as it passed. She felt God urge her, though, to eat the rest. She winced at the notion. She had already come to accept that she would never be healed of gluten intolerance. She was ready to live her life “disabled”. So she argued with God about the bolder of bread in her hand as if he didn’t know what He was doing. Suddenly, Hannah heard the audible voice of her mother, “You will eat what I put in front of you.” In that moment, she felt God fill her with confidence. She smiled wryly at the bread and consumed the whole thing. She savored the taste. The soft, spongy bite felt good going down her throat. But it didn’t take long before her stomach protested. Just a twinge at first, the pain escalated until her digestive tract was on fire. But Hannah was sure that God was working in her. She felt God holding her up through the pain. “I’m healed,” she said to herself. “God has promised this to me: I’m healed.”
When morning came, she felt refreshed and more energetic than usual. Something was different. The campers and counselors packed their bags and boarded the vans. On their way back to Houston they stopped by Whataburger for breakfast. Hannah searched the fast food menu for the few gluten-free items served there, but she heard God’s voice again, “You have a long drive ahead. Eat a biscuit.” Bread had led to pain the night before. Still, she had to trust Him; biscuit it was. And this time, the inevitable cramping never came. Not after the next meal, or the next, or the next, even as she continued to include gluten. She was no longer intolerant.
Over the next few weeks, Hannah eased herself back into an unlimited diet. She had to get out of the habit of scrutinizing labels and going hungry while her friends were eating. She had to retrain herself on how to live with no disabilities. Looking back, she finds it funny that retraining was necessary: “You have to train yourself to live under a burden. You have to: burdens are heavy! But then when you lose the burden, you have to train yourself to walk with your spine straight. You have to remember that you walk in freedom rather than bondage. You aren’t confined to the worn path in the grass anymore: there’s a whole meadow to romp in! Sometimes I forget about the meadow because the path is so easy. But I am one without chains; I ought to dance more often. I don’t have casts on my wrists anymore; I ought to play my piano more often. Bread doesn’t make me sick anymore: I ought to eat a sandwich.”