This has actually happened to me twice in the past ten years. The first time was in the North so we can’t blame it on the tenacity of the Bible belt. However, the second time was in North Carolina and it sounded strikingly the same but with a drawl.
Within the first couple of years of getting adjusted to all of the different approaches people take to a wheelchair, none had quite as much impact as this comment. If you believed in God, you’d be walking. When I was younger, I had my doubts, concerns and questions as to what God meant to me. But by the time of my injury, I was very comfortable with my beliefs and that the Bible was the true story of Jesus without doubt. But I had no reply to this statement because all I could hear was, that since I’m in a wheelchair, it’s apparent that I didn’t believe in God. For years, I stayed away from the church and places where openly religious people would be but it never changed how I felt about God.
Over the years, I became much more comfortable with my faith and these people had far less impact. A few years ago in a Greensboro, NC Kmart, a stock lady had been working the shelves of an isle I was in. She was relatively short and rounded woman with thin-rimmed glasses that sat halfway down her nose. She asked me if I needed help. So being a guy and displaying my real handicap, which is shopping. I said that I had no idea where the stuff I needed was. She gave me some direction and paused for a moment staring right at me. Then it came out and I could have finished her sentence before she did. “You know, If you believed in God, you could walk.” I could feel my blood boil and my face turn red. You see in her world, she was the perfect picture of health and God didn’t discriminate against those with glasses as he does those with mobility needs. I questioned whether she had reached that part in the Bible about Job and all he went through without faltering his faith. But as quickly as I wanted to rip her red apron around her neck, it made sense that she needed me to help her feel good about her faith. I just said, “Thank you. I appreciate your help.” This way I could find what I needed and I pray she found what she needed.