Editor's note:

In Fearfully and Wonderfully, the book from which this excerpt comes, Philip Yancey writes in the first person voice of Dr. Paul Brand.

Dr. Brand (1914–2003) grew up in India, studied medicine in London, and practiced orthopedic surgery in India and the United States. He achieved world renown for his innovative techniques in the treatment of leprosy. He wrote Clinical Mechanics of the Hand, still considered a classic in the field of hand surgery, as well as The Gift of Pain (coauthored with Philip Yancey) and God’s Forever Feast.

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from Fearfully and Wonderfully

Mahatma Gandhi, one of the busiest and most famous men in the world used to set aside Monday as a day of silence. He scheduled no appointments and said nothing all day. He needed the stillness, he said, in order to rest his vocal cords and to promote an inner harmony in his soul amid the turmoil of life around him. I wonder what power would be released if all Christians devoted one day a week to listening to the voice of God in order to discern the coded message for our lives. The Counselor can only direct us if we tune in.

My Grandmother Harris lived to age ninety-four, and I never saw her walk unassisted. Poor health confined her either to bed or to “Grandmas chair” in a quaint room with lace curtains and dark, Victorian furniture. My sister and I would visit that room for about an hour or so each day. Of Huguenot descent, Grandma had us read the French Bible to her so that we could practice the language and also learn the Bible by discussing the passage we had read.

Grandma was bent and wrinkled, and she suffered severe headaches. She rarely laughed and could never comprehend our jokes, yet her quiet joy and peace somehow reached even us play-minded children. We never resented our daily visits to her room. She radiated love.

When Grandma had trouble sleeping, she sometimes lay awake half the night softly reciting chapters from her storehouse of memorized Scripture and praying for her eleven children and scores of grand­children. My aunts took turns sleeping in her room, and often in the middle of the night Grandma would suddenly call on them to write down her thoughts. She would say, “I sense that Pastor Smith in Ipswich is in need of help just now. Please write to him like this ..She would then dictate a letter and ask my aunt to enclose a check.

Days later, when the mail brought a letter of reply, Grandma would beam with joy. Invariably, the letter expressed astonishment that she should have known the precise timing and amount of a need. She would laugh with a pure sense of innocent delight. We children marveled at the conspiracy of intimacy between God and Grandma. 

In the spiritual Body, I picture her as a nerve within the sympathetic nervous system, a sensor that God entrusted with the moment-by-­moment responsibility of sensing need. Pastor Smith had sent cries for help to the Head. My grandmother heard the transmitted impulse from the Head and supplied whatever resources were needed.

Grandma had prepared all her life for that behind-the-scenes role. In her youth she had physical energy and beauty. During those busy years of rearing eleven new lives, despite constant demands on her schedule, she had taken the time to know God. She had saturated her mind with the Word of God, storing away in memory whole books of the New Tes­tament, as well as all of the Psalms. Later, when her body grew old and withered, she became a clear channel for Gods grace.

In the human body, a minute amount of the proper hormone can guide the transformation necessary to produce new life. In the spiritual Body, the still, small voice of God, when heard and responded to, can change a person, a community, and perhaps a world.

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Taken from Fearfully and Wonderfully by Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey. Copyright © 2019 by Philip Yancey and the Children of Paul and Margaret Brand. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426. www.ivpress.com

Originally published August 2019.