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Magazine > Content

Solitary Refinement

Christopher Coleman talks about the unconfined life.

By Tonya Stoneman

 

When he was born, doctors declared Christopher Coleman dead and placed him on a steel table at the back of the delivery room, in order to tend to the birth of his twin sister. But when she was delivered 15 minutes later, the doctors heard two babies crying: Coleman was very much alive, and he wanted everyone to know it. The traumatic birth left him with cerebral palsy—a fact that has led to a deep sense of alienation from the surrounding world. Learning to embrace the solitary life has been key to his emotional and spiritual survival. But it hasn’t always been easy.

Visit Coleman at home today and you’ll have to look down to greet him: when he’s not seated in a wheelchair, he moves around the house on his hands and knees, positioned in a constant posture of humility. As a child, the injustice of his condition was too much for him. Only a dog moves around on all fours, he told himself. And when his siblings’ friends looked at him strangely, he barked at them as a way of dealing with the embarrassment. But the now-38-year-old sees his experience differently: “Most people stand, but when I get up in the morning, God brings me to my knees,” he said. “He reminds me there’s nothing I can do without Him.”

Classified as mentally disabled at birth, Coleman attended a special school, but his teachers did not instruct him there. Instead, they parked his wheelchair in a corner and ignored him all day, every day. When he was thirsty, he dehydrated. When he had to use the restroom, he soiled himself. If he had questions about life or school, he answered them himself.

During those lonely hours, he began hearing the voice of God. He knows the connection was real, because when his conversations with the Lord began, he was far too young and spiritually unaware to construct the thoughts that came into his mind. He still remembers the voice that resonated in his head and heart, moving him, even then, toward where he is now: You’re going to be okay. I have a plan for your life.

As time went on, he talked to God more and more. “I shared with Him the feelings I had when I saw everyone around me—they were mobile and able to communicate, but I wasn’t,” he recalled. “I didn’t understand what made me different. But He kept telling me, ‘It’s okay. It’s not always going to be like this. Things will change.’” Gradually, his prayers shifted from asking God, “How will You get me out of my body?” to “How can I serve You with my body?”

For Coleman, the purpose of his suffering came into focus bit by bit with each passing year, marked by surprising victories. Hidden away behind the barrier of his disability, he watched how his siblings lived and, when they were asleep, crawled into their bedrooms, took their books, and taught himself to read. During the day, as he sat for hours in the corner of the classroom, he would visualize in his mind the words he’d read the night before. This ritual continued for nine years before anyone discovered his aptitude. “They gave me an IQ test and found out I was reading and writing at a ninth-grade level. I was 15 years old and had never been taught by anyone in my life,” he said. Coleman graduated from high school with a 4.1 GPA and went on to college, where he earned a degree in communication.

Today, he’s an author and professional speaker, and his message to others is one of kinship with God that defies circumstantial limitations. It’s a process he calls “solitary refinement,” and it begins with knowing that it’s okay to ask God “Why?” Since our Father in heaven can easily create us all to be healthy and prosperous people, it’s acceptable to question why He chooses to let some people suffer instead.

“If we’re afraid to ask God why He allows things to happen in our lives, we risk missing His purpose for us,” Coleman said. “Even though we cannot see what lies ahead, we can receive spiritual vision from God by spending time with Him and understanding the objective He has for our life. When we understand the ‘why,’ we get the vision.”

Spending a lifetime in intimate conver-sation with the Lord has given Coleman wisdom and strength to overcome daunting challenges. “I think my time alone with God has resulted in clarity,” he said. “I recognize His voice more now than I ever have before.” He can’t say precisely how his experience in prayer is different from someone else’s, but he’ll tell you that it’s grounded in an uncom-plicated relationship with Christ. “When I talk, I pray God will help me pronounce words that leave my mouth. When I eat, I pray He will help my hands move food to my mouth. When I brush my teeth and get dressed, I pray. Most people come to God and say, ‘I need You for big things.’ But God says, ‘You need Me for everything.’”

To pursue intimacy with Christ, Coleman advised that we start by reading Scripture and asking the Lord to give us insight. From there, we can begin asking questions. Ultimately, this leads to a relationship. He said that loneliness, more than anything else, has fostered his bond with God. “Loneliness is a very real feeling that we cannot ignore. God did not ignore it when He created Eve for Adam—He made us with a need for companionship. It’s okay for me to look for significant relationships, but no matter what happens, God is sufficient. That loneliness I feel inside can be filled by Him.”

According to Coleman, his relationship with the Lord is based on one fact: He knows that Jesus knows him. There’s no room for pretense or conjecture. When God initially told him to share his story with others, he asked his Creator frankly, “Can’t You see my hands? My feet? Look at me. I can’t even talk properly!” And God answered, “I don’t have to look at you. I made you.”

With God, Coleman can always be himself. “My time alone with Him has allowed me to separate other people’s opinions and my own emotions from truth, to confirm what I’m hearing from the Holy Spirit,” he said. “Today, I can say that nothing can take the place of His voice in my life.”

 

You can read more about Christopher Coleman in his book Solitary Refinement or by visiting christophercoleman.net.

Copyright 2014 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.


33 comments
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  • March 19, 2014 06:04 PM

    by

    He is truly a messenger from God! Showed this clip at our Share Home Group and it was very moving!!! Thank You so very much In-Touch for sharing Christopher's story so we could share him with others!
  • March 08, 2012 05:22 PM

    by

    I want to meet you someday, Christopher. The power of the Holy Spirit shines from within you.
  • February 05, 2012 04:24 AM

    by

    I've been touch by your testimony, I've learn a lot from it, thank you for sharing this. God less you,.
  • November 18, 2011 03:52 PM

    by

    wow there is no words to describe the love of God
  • November 07, 2011 12:39 PM

    by

    Was feeling sought of in the dumpies because my I have a problem with my car
    but hearing your message and seen how well you come across I can now remember
    what's important in life,Thank you sooo much Christopher.Keep doing what you do
    because you do it so well.May "God" continue to bless you and that "Mom" of yours
  • November 02, 2011 09:02 PM

    by

    You are perfect Christopher. I am so thankful that God made you, and that you are willing to share with us, and follow Him so obediently. Thank you, I praise the Lord for your life. :)
    in His love
    for His sake,
    Sue
  • November 02, 2011 12:34 AM

    by

    This article is so powerful! Ms. Stoneman conveys such powerful words of hope in the article. I often feel so alone and need to be reminded of the intimacy that can be found in solitude
  • October 24, 2011 08:19 AM

    by Sister Living for Christ

    PraiseGod for He is a great and mighty God. Christoper you have inspired me this morning.There truly is no failure in God. All of us were created with divine purpose.Continue to share your testimony .I am crying but not tears of sadness but tears of Joy,Praise and thanksgiving. Be blessed of the Lord.
  • October 21, 2011 12:48 PM

    by

    What a reality check. His story hit home with me because I have felt everything he felt without being in his physical condition. His story is so inspiring to me that it broke the chains in my crippled mind.

    His is physical and mine is mental, but we both share the same loneliness and rejection. I have never identified with a person as much as I just did with Chris.

    This article ripped out my heart and gave me a new one. It’s as if God was talking to me through him. You have no idea what this article has done to and for me.

    I needed that word he testified about his life so bad. I’m sure everyone will get a different message for their own need and God will speak to them in this message for their need just like he did for me.

    I’ve seen and heard other stories of people with disabilities accomplishing unbelievable goals in their lives, but this was anointed in a way that it gave me new hope and new life. I can’t explain it but it touched me in a place where I
    Never thought I could be reached.

    Only God and Christopher knows where that place is in me. For this, I will never be the same.

    God is real and never doubt that ever….we may not be able to feel him or touch him or even enter his presence but he has always been right there in all we go through. Wow. Thank you Chris for letting God use you. I am encouraged for the Lord our God is with us and your are his anoited.

  • October 19, 2011 09:38 PM

    by mommiller

    What an inspiration you are to our special needs friends. I read this to our grandson who is a twin and also has cp. He said that he'd like to read all of your books! Zach has just completed a book about how people have encouraged him and how he wants to encourage others too. It is called "God Is Walking With Me Through My Disability". Thank you for showing us all how God can use anyone that He chooses to.
  • October 17, 2011 07:09 PM

    by

    My granddaughter, Elli could not talk, due to a brain injury at birth. When she was about 3, she received a Dynavox, a computer-type device with pictures to help her communicate. How that opened up a new world for her! She passed away at 8 yrs. old 3 yrs. ago this week. Her parents have founded the Elli R. Bennett Memorial Fund called "Find a Voice" through the Perlman Center at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. This fund helps to purchase communicative devices for children who cannot talk.
  • October 17, 2011 05:19 PM

    by

    What a tremendous testimony of faith and power! The greatesty of all faith is that faith that remains though tested by fire! The three Hebrew Young Men said "our God will deliver us but be in known to you o king: even if he does not deliver us, we still will not bow to your idol! Christopher will someday be delivered when he meets he Savior in heaven. But in the mean time, he refuses to bow to the idols of resentment and unbelief! THATS FAITH!
  • October 17, 2011 02:32 PM

    by

    Christopher, I was so moved by your article in InTouch! I am a school teacher (my 50th year) of inner city children who are challenged on every hand and you article just reinforced my desire to make sure every child I work with daily knows for sure just how much God and I love them. Of course, they can make it. I'm going to share your story with my colleagues. Thank God for people like you who accept His challenge to tell your story and let others know how much they can do. I am deeply appreciative of your testimony. I will get your book very soon! God bless you!! Martha Maple, Shreveport, LA
  • October 17, 2011 11:00 AM

    by

    THis story touched me deeply. Thanks for sharing your story and showing what GOD can do when we keep our focus on him and not the circumstances. What seems impossible from the world's view is a chance for GOD to show that with him all things are possible. You are an inspiration to let us know that GOD has equipped each of us with everything we need to do what we were created to do. May GOD continue to use you to share the gospel. Be Blessed!
  • October 15, 2011 10:24 PM

    by

    Thank you IT for sharing this story with your readers. I so long for this deep commitment and relationship with my Creator. This encourages me to commit myself to "solitary refinement" and listening more to You and less to the thousands of voices around me. My oldest grandson has been gifted with challenges that make it doubly difficult to relate to the world around him. Our Creator God's influence, direction and provision in your life, Christopher. encourages me God does have a plan for his life! May God richly bless and encourage you Christopher.
  • October 14, 2011 11:50 PM

    by

    Awesome! i used to hate this word- LONELINESS, being alone always is not easy, but now, just like Christopher, i can consider it a great privilege, a great opportunity to talk and commune with God, the Creator of the universe! to feel Jesus by my side, without being disturbed by anybody.. God bless you Christopher, you're such an inspiration to all of us!
  • October 13, 2011 03:07 PM

    by

    very touching story. I REALLY enjoyed reading it.
  • October 12, 2011 09:48 PM

    by

    What a wonderful witness. I am a pediatric physical therapist in the schools. Many of my students can not communicate with me, and I do pray daily that God will use me as his instrument to help them function as he designed. Many times I have to be their voice as I have seen many times others not recognize their special gifts or give them a chance. Many times they do not have support of their family and school is the only attention they receive. I can see your mother was wonderful and God did provide for you. It hurts me to hear of your early experience in school and makes me even more accountable after hearing your story to make sure that does not happen to any students in my schools. I have sent your video on to my coworkers to continue your witness. Praise God for working such a miracle in your life since birth and keeping you open to his direction.
  • October 12, 2011 12:10 PM

    by

    Amen.. it was really overwhelming. Praise the LORD. GOD bless you more Christopher!
  • October 12, 2011 08:46 AM

    by

    I needed to hear this. Thank you Lord and thank you Christopher.
  • October 12, 2011 08:43 AM

    by


    Why are we so afraid of brokenness and pain when it can bring us so close to the heart of God?
  • October 11, 2011 09:58 AM

    by

    WOW!!!! There are not enought word to express what I just read but WOW!!GOD IS GREAT GREAT GOD. Thank you so much may GOD BLESS YOU MORE AND MORE
  • October 09, 2011 07:08 PM

    by

    WOW! This article brought tears to my eyes. How incredible that God let you know at such a young age how He had a special purpose for you, and that you could hear Him! Your life is such an inspiration to me, I'm going to email this to everyone I know. Thank you sharing this and God bless you!!!
  • October 08, 2011 05:33 PM

    by

    God Bless you, I read your testimony outioud to myself, and gave me hope and some tears, happy tears. Linda
  • October 08, 2011 05:29 PM

    by

    I'min awe.You have a gift that very few people have. I envy you.God has blessed you. I needed to read this today. I thankyou so much.

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