Stuart Cureton – Shades of Grace | Natalie Nichols- Shades of Grace | Natalie Nichols

Stuart Cureton

cureton1I stooped over from the waist to get my ear as close to Stuart as possible in order to decipher the words of his whisper. As I leaned over I caught a glimpse of his bright blue eyes rolling up and over to see who was bending near his wheelchair. His head permanently bent and turned slightly to his left, Stuart depends solely upon the movement of his eyes to change his line of vision. Those radiant, humble…and slightly mischievous eyes roll up to catch mine. “How are you,” I asked. “Good. How are you?” He replied in the loudest tone his voice can make—a whisper.

Easing my ear next to his face, I saw hands once strong and able now pulled up in a palsy position, fingers tight and curled. I saw a back that bends inward above his waist causing him to gradually slide out of the seat of his wheelchair. I saw his right foot strapped tightly to its rest, keeping it in position no matter how far ahead of it his knee would slide as his body inched out of the seat. I saw Stuart’s left leg extended straight, unable to bend at the knee and bring his foot to the rest. Instead, his ankle met the footrest and a twisted left foot hung off the edge of the footrest. Those attending him must frequently nudge his body back in the seat of the chair and bend his left leg enough to temporarily get his foot back upon the footrest.

I saw a miracle! An absolute miracle of God! How could that be? How could it be a miracle—Stuart remaining in his wheelchair, his body in such a twisted state and his voice barely audible? Read his story and see if by the end you do not agree.

The Accident

cureton2As a teenager, Stuart perceived his life in a way teens frequently do, feeling invincible and immortal, almost daring life to prove him wrong. In his hometown of Tomball, Texas, a suburb in a rural setting North of Houston, opportunities to accept the challenge of the dare abounded, fueled in part by Stuart’s passion for cars and trucks and the mechanics involved in customizing them not only to look exceptional but to perform exceptionally as well.

In January 1980, friction between fellow high-school students was fueled when they found themselves together on the road, one driver refusing to let the other pass. One met a vehicle and collided head on. The other left the scene. Stuart Cureton, the 16 year old driver of the passing vehicle, was thrown through the windshield, hitting the hood of the oncoming car with the back of hiscureton3 head. His left collarbone and three ribs were broken. But the most debilitating injury was the one to his head, causing paralysis and reducing his voice to a whisper. However, Stuart doesn’t see the loss of his mobility as the worst tragedy of the accident. “The worse thing about it,” says Stuart, “was that it killed a good friend of mine and the person in the car I hit.”

The Response

Yet, instead of immediately changing Stuart’s behavior in a positive way, he says that the accident seemed to send him reeling the other direction. “I became more wild and rebellious from a wheelchair than I ever was when walking. I began drinking heavily and became somewhat involved with drugs. The way I saw it, God couldn’t kill me; He only crippled me. I was still indestructible. The first two years of college were when I was at my worst. During my junior year I transferred to a university, but my crazy ways didn’t stop. God had a different idea in mind, though.”

The Result

“My life started to change when a girl that worked for me asked me to go with her to the Baptist Student Union. I refused to go and had planned on drinking beer and watching baseball that night. Then she told me she wouldn’t cook dinner for me unless I went with her. I went. Believe it or not, I had a good time, and asked if I could go back. I met some future friends there that showed me the love of Christ. They also showed me that you can have fun and still be a Christian. I always pictured a Christian as someone wearing a three-piece suit and only going to church. That soon changed. By the way, I have since learned how to cook, but praise God, I didn’t know how at the time.”

“Then my life took a turn for the worse. My attendant suddenly quit, leaving me with no one to help take care of my basic physical needs. I also felt she misconstrued several situations which falsely placed me at blame. There were unpaid bills I was suddenly responsible to pay. I had two D’s and two F’s for my first semester at a new college. It seemed like my life was falling apart. Looking back, it was all part of God’s plan to bring me to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I was looking for a way out of the life I was leading. After seeing Christ’s love for [several months] I finally made the best decision of my life. One night in November 1984, as I lay in bed, I prayed and told Jesus I couldn’t make it any further by myself. I wanted to turn my life and situations over to Him. My problems did not end but I knew there was someone to help me make it through.”

The Relationship

Stuart is thankful God worked through his adversity to give him a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, something he had not experienced though he had attended church from an early age. “During my childhood years my family and I attended the Church of Christ. When I was six years old, my Dad stopped attending and my mother, brother and I soon followed his example and ceased our attendance as well. Then, when I was thirteen, my mom began taking my brother and me to the Lutheran Church. There I was confirmed and baptized, but for the wrong reason. I got involved with ‘church’ in general to please my mom, because I deeply respected her and wanted to honor her. Although I went to church and made an external commitment to Christ, my lifestyle didn’t change. It only became worse. I needed a personal touch that only Jesus Christ could give…a touch He did give when I turned my life over to Him.”

cureton4The Blessing

“God has blessed me in countless ways. For example, in 1980 the rehabilitation doctors told my mom not to expect me to finish high school. Not only did I finish high school but I was able to finish college and graduated with two degrees, 195 college hours, and a teaching certificate. I have taught for the past ten years, both in the classroom and out of my home. I [humbly] thank God…He can bless [any one’s] life just as he has and continues to bless mine. God can make the impossible, possible.”

Stuart’s humble nature prevents him from describing the many ways in which God has gifted him. His two college degrees include a degree in Horticulture, with a double major in Horticulture and Botany, and a degree in Secondary Education with a minor in Physics. His intellect, skill, candor and constant humor make him an excellent and well-loved teacher with both classroom and home-school students. In fact, his ‘van’ was donated by a private high-school and its affiliated church. The students enjoyed Stuart’s ‘improvements’.

The Transformed Response

When asked about his daily routine, Stuart responded, “Sure my daily routine is completely different than it was when I was able to walk. I know God is in control because between Jesus, my attendants, and friends, I manage just fine. I must confess that probably the hardest challenge for me is to make time for God on a daily basis.”

cureton5When asked about his feelings of living life confined to a wheelchair, Stuart responded, “I’ve never accepted being in a wheelchair, but most people who know me think I have…I just put up with it. It is my way of life now and with God’s help I am determined to make the best of it…I have never been mad at God for the car wreck. Just the opposite, I am very grateful.” Why does Stuart say he isn’t mad at God for what happened? “There is a purpose,” he says, “a purpose of encouraging others and showing them what they’re missing…especially those who don’t know the love of Christ.”

Stuart loves to share the encouragement found in Jesus Christ to the people of Mexico. “I’ve been involved in Mexico mission work since 1987 and will be until I die, by going, supporting, or praying. Christians are not asked to share the love of Jesus in one way or another, but we are commanded to do so. Jesus’ last words before He went to heaven included a directive to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. I have a love for the Mexican people and want to see them and others come to know Christ, joining me one day in heaven before His throne.