The last three months have been challenging in our household.
It is my sincerest hope that clincher is also the greatest understatement of my lifetime! And yet, God’s Will be Done unto me.
Most everyone I know (and a good chunk that I don’t!) knows that I was struck by a falling tree on my head. It broke my neck and caused serious damage to my soft tissues in the neck and upper back. After narrowly escaping Death’s grip by the Grace of God, I was confined to a neck brace. For nearly eight weeks I wore that brace and healed. Eventually, a Neurosurgeon cleared me from needing any surgeries and told me to put the past behind me.
WHAT! Let’s put this into perspective. I was hit by a huge tree in the head! It knocked me out flat. I woke up from that injury and am WALKING AWAY from it with a pass from the doctors…ladies and gentlemen, that right there is the Awesome Power of God. He spared me, but no traumatic event is endured without its side-effects. This is why we are human. We fall; we heal; we live by Grace.
I am trying to do that a little every day. I am still wounded deep inside, traumatized, from the incident. Now I deal with anxiety issues, and the triggers vary greatly. Being a newcomer to having to deal with anxiety on a regular basis has been a demoralizing and difficult burden -Certainly it has been a burden that seems so easy to allow myself to get lost in despair. It’s one thing to have a physical ailment, but it’s entirely another to have a mental or emotional one. Truly those issues are the ones that can go so easily unnoticed in others around you. For example, of those who commit suicide, they were suffering greatly and quietly…verily, utterly, in miserable quiet. We pray for those souls. We pray that another would step up and be like Christ to the ones despairing. Indeed, it is our Christian duty to be a Light for one another.
Friends, I do not want to mislead you; I am not claiming to be depressed. For that, I am thankful. Rather, I am anxious, and it makes me want to jump out of my body and run for the hills. Alas, I cannot and should not because I am not alone. I know that none of us suffer without the comfort of our Lord who shares in our sufferings.
One of the most beautiful and unique Truths of the Christian Faith is that God Loves us personally such that we can get to know Him personally. That is quite the claim, I know, but listen to His Saints, read Scripture, and talk with those who have been saved by Him. Afterwords it would be a hard Truth to dismiss. So, He shares in our Life’s experiences; this is true also of our suffering, quiet or no. He is there with you always, as He promised in the Gospel.
As sad as it might be to admit, knowing that Christ is with you is not a always a comfort if you are not in a place to see His Loving Presence as a gift. That place is exactly what I would describe despair as – a dark, horrible, and hideous place where you de-pair yourself from Christ and take misery as your companion. In this dark place I will sometimes find myself now and again. So now, at times, I suffer quietly among friends, coworkers, my children, my wife, and at Mass. Being in such a state of mind, body, and spirit is agonizingly resigning, but it is not truly hopeless. There is Hope in our Lord, Hope in His Promises, Hope in His Redemptive Cross.
So, just like I know that He is with us always (even if I don’t always allow that to be a comfort) I also know that He is a God who has consistently made Covenantal promises. In fact, He made me promises the very same day when my light was nearly snuffed out.
As is my usual way of handling His stark and sometimes ambiguous Approaches, I share them with others so that they too can foster an understanding of the Unimaginable Love that God has for each of us…singularly. This, my friends, is why I write. I write for Him. I am compelled to write for Him. I write about Him through what lens God gives me to see Him. In Truth, I have a limited sight-range, but I believe God can take what little I know/see and multiply it to His level. So, yes, God made me a promise as I lay helpless on a hospital bed. He promised that He still has plans for me. Those were His sweet words to me. In a moment when the outlook looked so bleak and my hopes were nearly shattered, the God of the Universe beautifully crafted the phrase that He still has plans for me. God’s words are life-giving. This is how we know they come from Him. Indeed, in that moment of misery in the hospital bed His words filled me with new life, renewed purpose, and great Hope.
And yet, much like Peter, who started off with great Faith, slowly I started to sink into the water…forgetting that God is with me, that He has plans for me, that He spared my life for His Designs. Daily, I continue to struggle with keeping that Hope alive because of the oppressive nature of what anxiety can do to Hope. The Good News though is that Christ did not leave Peter to perish beneath the waves in his unbelief. We know that God pulled Him back up from the depths of despair. And that, my friends, sets the stage for yet another of God’s promises to me.
My new nightly routine is to try and carve out some time to read God’s Word and some readily accessible Reflections. It is easier lately to slip into sleep when I focus on reading, rather than watching a show on Netflix. A couple of evenings ago, I was ready to drift off into sleep, but hadn’t read my daily Scripture. I didn’t feel like I needed to that day. Yet, as is His way with me, I felt a stirring in my heart. He told me that He had something very important to tell me, and that He needed me to read my daily Scripture. I relented to His calling. This is what I read:
Job answered the LORD and said:
I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be hindered.
I have dealt with great things that I do not understand;
things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know.
I had heard of you by word of mouth,
but now my eye has seen you.
Therefore I disown what I have said,
and repent in dust and ashes.
“Thus the LORD blessed the latter days of Job
more than his earlier ones.
For he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels,
a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she-asses.
And he had seven sons and three daughters,
of whom he called the first Jemimah,
the second Keziah, and the third Kerenhappuch.
In all the land no other women were as beautiful
as the daughters of Job;
and their father gave them an inheritance
along with their brothers.
After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years;
and he saw his children, his grandchildren,
and even his great-grandchildren.
Then Job died, old and full of years.”
When I read these Words I could scarcely believe my eyes. The appropriateness of each word in relation to the storm raging in my soul was nothing short of astounding. When I got to the end of the reading, I could tell God wanted me to pay particular attention to each word. Job lived, met even his great grandchildren, and then died FULL of years. At that moment, when reading those final Words, God said, “This also I promise you.”
Tears poured down my face.
I earn nothing in this life. Nothing that I do is overly amazing or beautiful or inspiring. I am a simple man. I am no one. And yet, by Grace, God lifts me up and gives me great gifts that I do not deserve or ask for. We all want to live a long life, but what is longevity without God. Nothing. I will embrace a long life, but the greatest Joy from a long life is not the years. It’s the intimacy we grow with Our Lord. That is the meaning of Life.
If God was super hip and did mic drops, then He would have done one in that moment when He revealed yet another promise to me. To heIp set the stage when those words were spoken…I have been in varying states of anxiety for weeks. Despair was tearing me apart. I was drowning in unbelief and misery. From that place of utter darkness, God called upon my heart to tell me exactly what I have always wished for – To live a FULL life and witness the birth of generations of God-Fearing Niotis’. A full life to me means a life partnered intimately with God, walking side by side, and garnering generations of littles who Love the Lord.
I once told my Spiritual Director what my understanding of Heaven is like…
Heaven is a small unassuming barn in the middle of the woods. In this barn sits our Lord, waiting for His Children. I walk up to this barn and open the door. I don’t open it for myself. I open it for my wife, her family, our children, our friends. They all go and sit with the Lord. I just keep leaving the barn and going to get more people God has placed in my life to take them to Christ. When eventually my body becomes old and tired, I walk one last time to this barn…only this time Christ is standing at the door. We embrace. He holds the door open for me. I enter a small barn crowded with those who I helped bring to Christ. I join them in this place.
This is what I see my life is for here and what Heaven will be like. For God to tell me that I will live a FULL life reinforces the same ideals that God has painted for my Heaven. This is consolation beyond consolation.
My God, My God, how can you be so Good to a wretch like me? Let it be done to me according to your Will.
May this Story of Hope be a reminder that God doesn’t just Love me this much. He Loves YOU this much, too. Are you open to His Loving Presence to know it full well?