Healed beyond her boundaries
“I don’t have it anymore.”
Shakeya Britton, a sophomore at Nyack College (Nyack, N.Y.), has heard people try to explain why she no longer suffers from cerebral palsy (CP): “It’s the change in the environment” (“It’s not that!”); or “You just outgrew it” (“When people are born with CP, it lasts a lifetime”).
But her experience is crystal clear. “I don’t have it anymore,” she states firmly. “They don’t understand the power of my God.”
Shakeya was born several months premature in a breach position and weighed just shy of two pounds. When she was about a year old, her grandparents took her to a doctor because they noticed that she wasn’t able to hold her head up like other children her age and didn’t respond to stimuli. A specialist diagnosed Shakeya with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that permanently affects body movement, coordination and muscle tone. It is often the result of brain injury during or shortly after birth.
Shakeya had a lot of upper-body strength from pulling herself across the ﬂ oor. She didn’t start to walk until she was about three years old, and even then she lost her balance easily and fell often.
Shakeya found school to be the most difficult aspect of growing up with CP. She wore braces on her legs, and the buildings were not accessible for the handicapped. Teachers helped by giving her extra time to climb the stairs or assigning another student to walk with her, but the most painful experiences involved the reactions of other children. On the playground, Shakeya was always “it” in games of tag, because she could not run. As a result, she would often retreat and play by herself.
She lived in fear of stares or laughter and quickly learned to avoid large groups. “If I walked into a room and people started laughing, even if they weren’t laughing at me, I assumed that they were,” Shakeya recalls.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Be Disappointed
In November of her freshman year, a friend told Shakeya to attend a healing service facilitated by Ron Walborn, now the dean of Alliance Theological Seminary. A woman at a local Costco had been healed after Ron had prayed for her, and Shakeya’s friend thought she should go.
“I’m very sensitive to things like that,” says Shakeya, “because that’s what I always wanted. My church has healing lines all the time and I would go—and then sit back down unchanged.”
Nonetheless, she went to the service in Nyack’s Pardington Hall, and as she listened to the sermon, Shakeya thought, OK, I’ve heard this story before, but will He do it for me?
At the end of the sermon, Walborn told anyone who wanted healing to stand in the aisle. “The students will pray for each other as a Body,” he said. Shakeya went forward and asked other students to pray—for her grandmother, who had been ill. “I figured God is not going to heal me, so I’m not even going to ask.”
When Chris (a friend who was also healed of CP) laid hands on Shakeya’s legs and started to pray for healing, she protested. “I’m OK, I’m OK. I don’t want it,” she repeated.
“But deep down in my heart, I knew I really wanted it,” Shakeya recalls. “And God knew my heart.”
As her friends Chris and Rebekah continued to pray, Shakeya felt her back straighten, and her friends immediately saw a change in her posture. “You’re straight,” they said. “Open your eyes!”
But Shakeya kept them tightly shut as her friends continued urging her to look down at her knees. “Why don’t you want to look?” they asked.
“Because I’m scared,” Shakeya confessed. She had lived in fear her whole life and didn’t want to be disappointed if her friends were mistaken, even though she felt a difference in her body.
Shakeya finally opened her eyes, and her friends convinced her to walk. She took a few steps and then stopped in the middle of the aisle as she became aware that her spine was no longer curved. She pulled up her pant legs to look at her knees. They were no longer “scissored” (a common characteristic of CP).
“I’m straight,” she yelled. “I’m straight!” Students began crying as they realized what had happened. She took off her shoes and socks and wiggled her toes, something she had previously been unable to do. “I was in shock—everyone was in shock.”
Immediately after the service, Shakeya called her family with the news. They drove to Nyack the next day. That same night, Shakeya received more confirmation of the healing when she had calmed down enough to try to sleep. “I used to sleep curved. My spine was curved, so I slept curved,” she says. “But when I laid down, I was uncomfortable because my back was straight. I knew I was healed.
“When I was younger, I wanted healing for all the wrong reasons. It was about ‘Lord, fix me so I can feel good, so I won’t have to hide or have to be made fun of, so I can walk like everyone else and do things like everyone else.’”
But Shakeya thinks God waited to heal her until she was ready to give His Son the glory. “That’s when He started working—when I came to the realization that it wasn’t about me.” She felt the Lord say to her, It’s not about you; it’s about what I can do through you to help others.
Shakeya had another challenge to overcome. Through the healing she learned that God loved her regardless of whether she was “crooked or straight.” But accepting His love has been difficult.
Although Shakeya was happy God healed her, she admits that she also felt fear. As a person with a disability, Shakeya would often cross the street rather than risk walking through a crowd of people on the sidewalk. Since being healed, she has had to “retrain” herself to have the confidence to keep moving forward. “I don’t have a ‘crutch’ anymore,” she says. “If I claim my disability, I would be denying my healing. But if I claim my healing, I don’t have anything to hide behind anymore. I don’t have any excuse, so that means I have to get up and face my fear of people and most importantly the fear of myself.”
As Shakeya’s comfort zone disappeared, she realized that she was going to have to start participating more in physical activities, something she had always avoided because she didn’t want people to stare. “If someone asks me to do something, what am I going to say: ‘I can’t do that because I have a disability’? That’s not true anymore. That’s what I’m learning—to be free.
“I constantly have to keep renewing my mind.”
Shakeya’s experience has convinced her of the Lord’s healing power. “If He can do it for me, He can do it for you.”