Preacher Miller walks the walk

Published 8:23 pm Friday, November 22, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving to all. It was Thanksgiving, 1997, when we first shared the following story together here. Including that year – and today’s – we’ve known each other for over 20 Thanksgivings. I’d say that is a special blessing, something else to give thanks for today. So, let’s turn back the clock this week and re-visit the story that helped teach me what true thanksgiving means.  

I think of this story every year around this time. It’s an account in the life of one of my heroes, my grandfather, Preacher Miller. The preacher preached thousands of sermons in his days; but one of the best sermons of his life wasn’t one he preached. It was one he lived!

In the mid-60s, Preacher Miller, Grandma, and Uncle Angus and Eunice Shelnutt got in a bad car accident driving home from a revival in Marietta, Georgia. Two cars were drag racing that fateful night on the two-lane Atlanta highway, and Preacher Miller met the car in his lane when he topped a hill.

“It happened so fast,” he later would say, “that we didn’t even have time to swerve.”

I still remember the phone ringing late that night at our little house on Juniper Street. The news wasn’t good for anyone, but the four in Granddad’s car were the fortunate ones.

Those riding with the preacher had numerous injuries, but Preacher Miller was hurt the worst. The impact was so great that his shoe melted to the gas pedal, and the workers had to pull his foot out of his shoe to get him and his broken hip out of the burning car.

The doctor did all he could for the preacher for several days, but one morning he walked into his second-floor LaGrange hospital room and delivered the news:

“Preacher Miller,” he said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t think you’ll ever walk again.”

The preacher didn’t buy it. He said, “Doc: you, me, and the Lord can do better than that.”

And they did.

In a month, he was walking — and preaching — on crutches. In three months, he was walking with a walker. In six he walked, period. Just with a limp.

While he was a man of great faith, he also became discouraged often during his rehabilitation. One day when he was really feeling sorry for himself, he started wheeling through the hospital, looking around. He was surprised by what he saw.

He saw a man who was missing a limb.

He saw another who couldn’t get out of bed.

He saw one he could tell wouldn’t see too many more sunsets.

So, he went back to his room, closed the door, and gave thanks.

He never took walking for granted again, and he reminded the congregation over at Murphy Avenue of this story many times – just to make sure they stayed thankful, too. From that time on — showing his thankfulness for being able to walk — he walked stairs almost every day of his life, back when walking really wasn’t the “in” thing.

Walking stairs, of course, isn’t something you can do at home. So, every day he’d go out and find one of the tallest buildings in LaGrange and walk the stairs there. It was a place he knew well. He went there every day in his daily visits anyway; and it was a place where he could go and never feel sorry for himself. He had already tried that and found it didn’t work.

He learned quickly that he couldn’t feel sorry for himself as long as he was able to walk the stairs up at this tall building: the LaGrange hospital where he once spent a week or two.