Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Happy Anniversary To Me

Happy anniversary to me. 10 years. Some anniversaries are to be celebrated with dinners out and gifts. Some are for simple, quiet, reflection. This one falls into the latter category.

It was February 2001 when, out of the blue, I got sick in a way I've never truly understood. Today, ten years afterward, I still have difficulty explaining what happened. The evil lasted from February 10 until September 8th. On that day it went away. It simply ... vanished. I don't know why. 211 days.

Life had been throwing fastballs at my head for a while. The world of teenagers in our community had been rocked multiple times. Suicides. Car accidents resulting in fatalities. An accident at a bus stop claiming a young life. A few severe child abuse situations. As one of the few youth pastors in the community it fell to me each time to minister to hurting families. I suppose that somehow in the midst of the chaos I forgot to deal with it all myself. Internally. I knew I was tired. I never knew that it was more than that. I worked out at least 5 days per week. I found great relief at the gym. A few miles running on a treadmill and nautilus weight machines helped burn the stresses and make them easier to forget. Or at least ignore. I wasn't looking in the rear view mirror of my own life to see if it was all catching up with me.

And then one morning I woke up and before I could even get out of bed I knew I was in trouble. The world was spinning. I guess it was like vertigo. That was not the worst part. There was pain. Deep internal pain. I couldn't point to anyplace and say, "It hurts here." It hurt everywhere. My body felt like it was turning inside out. And that first long day the pain and sense of detachment from reality lasted until about 6PM. Then it eased away and left me alone for the evening and all night. Unfortunately it came roaring back with a vengeance the next morning. It did that for 211 consecutive mornings.

Doctor's could not really figure it out. Everything checked out fine. God spoke though and told me clearly and in ways that I could not deny that I was not alright. He told me that I had lived myself into this mess. He told me that He was there. He told me that He would take care of me and walk me through the evil. And He did.

I could write a book about that year. The pain. The dizziness. The sadness. The desperation. The quiet and yet consistent "bread crumbs" that God left me to remind me that He was with me. Our church loved us through it. They gave me a nearly 3 month sabbatical. They sent my wife and I to a retreat for "hurting pastors" in Marble, Colorado. They flew us there, rented us a convertible Mustang, and picked up the tab for the whole thing. When I came back and stepped into the pulpit on my first Sunday they stood and applauded. I have never felt so loved. I will always have a deep gratitude to them for that.

Over the next 2 years I experienced a closer walk with God than I ever have in my entire life. He showed up so many times and in so many ways. I found myself in a love affair with my Savior. I miss those years. Such a gift.

Well, as often happens, the world blew apart again one day. This time it was not my fault. I just found myself locked in spiritual warfare the likes of which I had never previously experienced. Very unfortunate circumstances captured my attention every minute of every day for several years. I should never have allowed myself to get that deeply mired in emotional pain. I should have known better. But I was trying to follow Jesus as best I could. Honestly I was. I will go to my grave knowing that I was obedient. If I am wrong, He will tell me. But that is the only thing that will convince me that I had stepped out of line. Long before that battle ended I was sick again. Blessedly, the pain was absent but that was the only part of the old warfare that didn't return. I blame nobody but myself. Still, that doesn't mean I understand it. How can you follow God and wind up sick? I have no answer for that.

I am grateful that on this anniversary of "the lost year" I am living life on level ground once again. I celebrate the goodness of my God and I praise Him in the wake of the storm. I love what God is doing. I love how He loves me. I love how He has blessed me. I love Him.

I suppose I have made a lot of vague statements in this late night musing. Some things never need to be spoken of. Some truths don't need to be shared. It is enough to say that I am the only one who ever made myself go through these two seasons of sickness. And God is the only one to have brought me out of them. To reach the 10 year mark and not publicly proclaim His praises would be inexcusable. So let me just say it this way.

When you look at my life, anything good you see ... that is Jesus in me. Anything questionable or bad you see ... that is me. There it is. My life in two sentences.

Isaiah 41: 10 "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."


Brad Dearborn said...

When I look at your life, I see a whole lot that is right, my friend. (And also a fair amount that is funny). God bless you!

Ron said...

Thanks, Brad. We will have to spend a day sometime soon poking fun and laughing at each other. I have a feeling we've both been through our share. I'm glad you are my friend.