Pain is my Closure…I’m Alive!

Over the last several weeks and months, I’ve been thinking a lot about today. How will I feel when I wake up? What does this day hold? Will I be sad, grieved or worshipful? Will I rejoice, celebrate or praise? Will I be angry or resolved? If my shoe choice is any reflection of my emotional condition, I could be in trouble. In reality, none of the above is going on right now.

Exactly one year today me, my wife, youngest son, brother-in-law almost lost our lives in a bad accident(See “Grace” Post). With the exception of some final medical & legal matters, the major stuff is behind us, and for the most part Becky, Chris and I are as healed as we are going to be.

Of course Chris being 16, he seems to have not missed a step in his physical development. He started his second year on varsity football and had a very good season. He is gearing up for soccer in a few weeks and track in the spring. With the exception of some scar tissue on his neck, arms & knees you wouldn’t even know he was on the injured reserves for almost 6 months of the last year. It was prophesied over him, while still in the womb, that he would have the build of Samson, so I’m not surprised.

Becky has bounced back with a vengeance. She began walking as soon as she was physically able, sporting a designer piece of titanium headgear, but walking daily and doing 5K’s none the less. The week after the halo was removed, February 2012 – 12 weeks after she broke her neck, she began running again. Today with several 5K’s and 2 half marathons, she is almost back on target with her pre-accident pace. Next month, she will continue her heart for missions as she embarks on her second trip to Port au Prince, Haiti to care for orphans. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to continue my life journey with her by my side. She is the most remarkable woman I know…Proverbs 31 in action.

As for me, the road to recovery was less about getting back to my pre-accident physical condition because frankly I was in bad shape. Of the three of us, I was the least injured, but endure the results of the accident more. Each day I wake up not knowing what kind of discomfort I will have to navigate through…sore ribs, painful breathing, stiff knees, neck or back. My chest pops where my sternum was cracked, my lungs gurgle and I sound like a famous breakfast cereal any time I move. Ironically, I get the most relief when running with Becky. That is until I stop.

I guess I had naively hoped for some divine symbol of closure today, which is surprising since I’ve never really defined my life by a single event. We humans, especially Americans, demand things to be wrapped in nice packages, but life is really too messy for that. Do we ever really find closure? I have scars on my body that no longer hurt, but I remember the pain that caused them. I have painful memories that replay over and over, but I no longer shed tears over them. I see the results of my decisions, good and bad, all around me defining who I am, but not who I am endeavoring to be.

Someone told me a while back after the accident that “pain means I’m alive”. This truth is so profound. It is in this very simple statement that I have found comfort, compassion and courage. In two weeks, I set out for my fourth mission journey to Kenya to oversee our orphan and widow project, and set our course for the future. It is for this purpose I survived. It is for this purpose I live. It is for this purpose, my daily pain is all the closure I need.

I’m Alive!

Don’t be fooled by my weakness

Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” ~ Matthew 26:38

When I was a young Christian, I grew up in the “Word of Faith”/”Prosperity” movement. At times it seemed almost cultish, everything you said had to be tempered with positive, faithfilled promising scriptures. There was virtually no tolerance for negative talk, doubt or transparency. When ask “how are you”, anything less than the proverbial “I am blessed” response was met with an indicting, condemning judgement of “where’s your faith?”.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe God’s Word, cherish the promises and blessings, and exercise my unconditional and unwavering faith daily. My question and concern is when did truth, transparency and the human experience become taboo, vain and faithless? The reality we live in is a world full of depravity, pain, suffering, grief, disappointment, defeat, sorrow, trial and misery. Yes, it is often accompanied by life, love, joy, praise, excitement, blessing, reward and fulfillment.

The human experience is filled with both, even more so the Christ follower walk. To walk out the fullness of God means to walk through the passion of His love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, discipline, wrath, judgment, redemption, sanctification and salvation. We see this evidence throughout the scriptures particularly in the Psalms of David, “the man after God’s own heart”, and Christ, His Son, in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Why is it we can’t handle the truth, despair and transparency of our brothers and sisters, yet we tolerate the toiling rhetoric of David and Christ, as well as almost all the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Bible? Why are we so compelled to speak in positive cliches, platitudes and quotes, we don’t really believe or practice, and demand everyone around us to do the same. In my experience the last thing anyone who is hurting wants to hear is something positive, inspiring, encouraging or spiritual.

What they truly need is someone to listen, cry, grieve, understand and pray. Just because we have of weak moment where we express our human experience doesn’t mean we lack faith. On the contrary, we may be battling to exercise our faith, agonizing between our natural pain and our supernatural spirit, on our way to that moment of divine victory.

How we respond may be the catalyst to someone winning in Christ or falling prey to the enemy’s attacks. Don’t be so quick to condemn and judge someones perceived expression of weakness, it may be they are stronger than you are.

“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:10

Relentless

In recent months, I’ve come to realize my entire life can be summarized by one word…RELENTLESS. Simply defined as unyielding and unending.

When I was a young man, my pursuit for the “American Dream” was relentless. It came at a high cost and sacrifice to my ChristIan walk, health and family. I felt there was nothing to lose and everything to gain. After my inevitable corporate train wreck, God brought about a refreshed spiritual awakening, awareness and purpose. He restored my health, family and ministry call. Little did I know, this too would come at a high price.

You see…the devil, my immortal enemy, has nothing to lose, as well. He is fully aware of his pending eternal doom. He knows his future even better than I know or can even begin to understand mine. This is why he is relentless in his endeavors to deceive, distract and destroy the followers of Christ. Like the wounded animal he is, backed in a corner, with no way of escape, he attacks with vitriolic anger and no regard for humanity.

As I sit in this hospital room, once again, watching my wife battle and endure another attack, I am fully aware of how equally, if not more, relentless my enemy is. He has been unyielding and unending in his pursuit to destroy me and my family. After 46 years of assassination attempts on me personally, and 26 years of trying to destroy my marriage and relationships with my children, I continue to press forward with unwavering love and faith in my Lord.

Many have questioned how I can continue to follow Christ, serve humanity and give my life to mission after all we have endured. Honestly…it would be so easy to just quit. Be like many other “Christians”, content with Sunday morning and Wednesday evening services, giving my token tithe time, and satisfied that I have a ticket to heaven. The attacks would surely disappear, for me and my family would no longer be a threat to the kingdom of darkness.

Frankly, a life like that would be worse than death. An unfulfilled spiritual life would simply destroy us, and our enemy, with his relentless attacks, would win. GOD FORBID!

Instead, I choose to continue my unconditional and relentless pursuit of Christ. With every attack, I am more resolved to mission, sharing my testimony, and rescuing humanity from darkness. I have overcome my greatest fears…losing my wife, kids and even my own life. I have given it over to my Lord, its not mine anyway. Therefore, I no longer have anything to lose, and everything to die for. He can’t take what I freely give. How about you?

Have you given over your greatest fears to Christ? Has your enemy’s relentless attacks paralyzed your walk, mission and purpose? How relentless are you willing to be for your Lord to advance His Kingdom?