When Bill Maher was born in 1928, the midwife assisting his mother thought he was dead. He was laid in the crib while the midwife and doctor turned their attentions to his mother, who was having severe complications. Bill was not dead, however, he was diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy. His parents were advised to put him away in an institution and forget they had him. The shocked mother refused. His parents sought any help and advice they could find to help their son while trying to treat him as normally as possible. His neck muscles were too weak to hold up his head, his arm and leg and tongue muscles were contracted and had to be stretched out daily. The therapy had both mother and son in tears, but it worked.
When Bill was two, he developed mumps and measles at the same time and lost his hearing. Yet he somehow learned to lip read. By the age of five he still could not talk.
Other children and even adults would taunt and tease Bill if his family was not around. Sadly, some of those people were even Christians — who would then ask Bill if he wanted to become a Christian! Neither he nor his parents did. Bill writes later in his autobiography, Beyond My Dreams, “Apparently these people had never read Leviticus 19:14: ‘Thou shalt not curse the deaf, not put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the Lord.’ In other words, Christians should realize that God made the afflicted the way they are for a purpose and no one should take advantage of them because of their afflictions.”
One Christian lady knocked him down into the mud to get him out of her way and then told his mother he should not be allowed to walk where other civilized people did; he should instead be taken into the woods where the other animals were. Bill did not want to walk outside any more after that, but his mother told him, “Giving up is not in our vocabulary.”
Bill’s parents made him do chores and work hard. One time when he got out of a job his grandfather paid him to do by paying another child a lesser amount to do it, his mother was angry, but his grandfather realized he had to use his brains to figure that out. Bill had a wonderful sense of humor, manifested throughout his book.
Bill attended a regular school until fifth grade, when he failed because he could not keep up. The school felt they had taken him as far as they could, but the principal recommended a school for the deaf 30 miles away. His family made the daily commute, and Bill began to learn more.
When Bill was about 12, one family that was kind to him invited him to their church. There he saw many of the kids who picked on him, as well as the lady who had pushed him down. Yet he enjoyed the service and came back that evening. He misunderstood something the pastor said, and asked to speak to him afterward. Bill was ignorant of what the Bible said, and the pastor patiently explained Bill’s need for a Savior. Thankfully he did not let the failures of some of God’s people keep him from the one and only Savior who could meet his deepest needs. He accepted Christ and experienced immediate changes. He writes, “When I had walked into church that night, I had seen people I hated. When I left, I couldn’t hate them any more.”
When Bill completed the tenth grade at the school for the deaf, he was told he needed to face the “real world” and go to the public high school. He did passing work, got involved in extracurricular activities, held down part time jobs, got his driver’s license. But on graduation night, as he walked across the stage to receive his diploma, the man handing them out said, “It is amazing that you’ve graduated. You work hard, but you will still not amount to anything. If you can get a job, all you’ll ever be is maybe a janitor.” Bill was stunned, his mother was in tears, his dad was angry. Yet Bill was more determined that ever to prove this kind of thinking wrong.
Bill got a good job, but began getting into some of the activities of the unsaved coworkers and backslid. One day at work he had a heart attack, at the age of 22, and was told he only had a month to live. He asked his parents if he could stay with the pastor who had led him to the Lord at the camp where the pastor now ministered. They agreed, and over time Bill confessed his sins to the Lord and surrendered to do anything the Lord wanted him to do. The pastor felt Bill was called to preach. Bill didn’t think so because of his impediments. As he studied his Bible, he came across II Cor. 1:3-4 about comforting others with the comfort wherewith God comforted us, II Cor. 12 about God’s grace being sufficient, Phil. 4:13, and God’s answers to Moses’ objections. He surrendered to preach. His parents were upset and his dad told him not to come home.
Eventually his father did overcome his objections, Bill became a preacher, married, had two children, traveled all over the United States and then the world, preaching, ministering to the handicapped and afflicted, helped to start Christian schools for them, became a police chaplain, and received a honorary doctorate. He went home to be with the Lord in 2002.
In Dr. John Vaughn’s forward to Dr. Bill Maher’s book, he writes, “God is to be praised for the wonderful way he has worked in and through this man’s life. Bill Maher is to be commended for the wonderful way he has served the Lord under circumstances that would have discouraged most others from the start. As you read, you will probably ask yourself the question that comes to me so often when I am with this man who is like a father to me, ‘If he has done this with the Lord’s help, what could I do if I would really trust Him myself?’”
Luke 14: 13-14: But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.
(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)