Did you know in that moment when you chose for your life to end, that you would ultimately be saving mine?
But I'm still here and you're gone. And that fact that I'm still alive is what...your gift to me?
The ideal gift is from someone who knows you...what you like...what you need. And they give of themselves to give it to you...be it time or money...or their life.
You gave me a gift of great price...one that cost you everything...one that had I been given a choice, I would have rejected and pushed it right back at you before it was too late.
But I can't return it now. All I can do is circle around it...inspect it...push it away in anger and then clutch it in desperate hope...
Hope that you knew what you were doing when you entrusted it to me.
When I am in pain I do one of several things...eat...which is not "eat like you're supposed to eat"...but "eat like food is a drug and God knows I need a drug to dull the pain."
Or, I grief-walk...pushing myself outside the comfort of my home to walk/hike/rant and rave as hard as I can...the more it hurts the better it feels. I can say what I want...scream what I want...stop and sob, bent over in pain...and no one is the wiser.
Or, in my more sane moments, I duke it out with God until I'm so exhausted I let go and let Him in.
And that's what I've been doing this week. All of the above.
I have always struggled with depression. If you've read any of my previous blogs, you should know that. I wish I didn't. The problem is that I just feel pain too deeply. While others can say, "Oh well...whatever" and move on, thoughts and images stay in my mind and I feel...I swear...I feel the pain of whatever that animal or person was going through. Some people say it's empathy. I call it a curse.
My friends and family know it's the reason I can't volunteer at Rescue Shelters or be on the front line of Battles of Suffering or Loss. I wish I could. I have beaten myself up for years with the idea that good Christians should be able to do these things. Which, if taken to the obvious conclusion means that I am not a good Christian. I have come to realize that that is not true. I am a Christian who cares deeply, and who can pray and give, but whose calling is elsewhere.
But there are weeks when I let my guard down...when I hear too much or see too much...and I start to crumble. Weeks when I think I just can't live in this broken, shattered, sick world anymore. That it's all too much. And God knows I'm tired. And Heaven looks so inviting.
And for me, that is a dangerous place to be. Was a dangerous place to be.
Because over the past several months, two friends have entrusted me with gifts...gifts that I see now are literally saving my life.
Gift number one...
Recently a forever-friend, for reasons still not disclosed, made the choice to end their pain and leave this world. And it about broke my heart. I still have dreams of sobbing and asking, "Why?!"
It wasn't until this week, when the clouds of darkness were swirling around and life was so heavy I could barely breathe, that I received a belated gift from this friend...
The gift of remembering the horrible pain this death caused...and knowing that no matter how hard life I got, I could never, ever, do that to those I loved.
I choose life. No matter how hard it gets. Did you know that's what your death would do for me?
Gifts come wrapped in many packages.
Gift number two...
I can name this person, whereas I am not free to name the other...Sandy. Sandy Perry. A man after God's heart...probably the most vested in Christ, "love 'em and love 'em and love 'em again no matter what the cost" type person. A former biker who spent time in prison but emerged with a passion for Jesus that burned 24/7. I am honored to have known him.
We first met through Chuck Colson's Centurion Program over 10 years ago...he was the closest participant to me...in nearby SC...so I naturally felt a tie to him. Whenever we went to DC for training, I would hover near him, so enthralled with his passion.
He and I were about as opposite as could be! Me, from proper New England, reserved, quiet, and unpretentious. Him...well, picture a biker gang member! Bigger than life and not afraid to live it...or share it... with any person in need. He's the reason I got involved in prison ministry years ago. I remember walking into the prison that day and thinking, "Sandy Perry, this is all your fault!"
He brought out the best in people. And the worst? He just loved 'em to Christ. He and his precious wife, Vicki, went on to found and run Zaccheaus House...a safe place for those emerging from prison to come to and be loved on and taught and sent out. Everything was super-sized with Sandy. And I loved him for it.
This past week he had an option for a liver transplant, but time and conditions dictated that he would no longer need one. Instead, he would be going Home to Jesus...the One he had loved and served for so long. And last night, his body finally went where his heart has been...Heaven.
And in his death, Sandy gave me the second gift....
The gift of knowing that we only have one life. And it is a gift. And we need to live it...
To do as much damage to Satan's kingdom as we can.
And that gift makes me want to fight...against the lies that blind us and immobilize us...that keep us half alive...that keep us with one foot here and one foot in Heaven.
Two gifts...from two friends...both screaming,
Someday I'll see both my friends again. I have no doubt.
And I will thank them for giving me gifts of pain...pain that caused me to fight...to live...to not give in or give up.
I am alive...and more alive...because of them.