My neighbor across the street has been through a lot of adversity lately. He just returned home a few weeks ago from yet another long hospital stay where he lost another portion of his second lung. He has been on the edge of death several times. He has two very bad lungs and uses an oxygen tank to help him breathe. He never smoked a day in his life. He served our country as a marine and spent a good portion of his duty preparing troops for chemical warfare which unfortunately exposed him to nasty chemicals that destroyed his lungs. We talked about the traumatic events of his latest hospital stay and the horrible things his hospital roommates were going through as well.
We talked about how trauma changes you. It makes it hard sometimes to carry on superficial discussions. So many of the things we used to think were important have no importance at all. When you face your own mortality it changes your perspective. Things the culture and media spew that they think is important is nothing but trivial dribble. We talked about substantial stuff like legacies, God, suffering and death. It was a deep and meaningful discussion that went beyond the superficial. It made me grateful that we could share something other than, hey, how about that game. It’s easier connecting on a much deeper level with another human who has endured a traumatic event if you yourself have gone through life altering trauma.
Another neighbor, whom I recently met, shared the story of their 23 year old son in law. Last year, he had not been feeling well and returned from the gym unable to catch his breath. They gave him a breathing treatment thinking perhaps it was his asthma flaring up. When the problems persisted they took him to the doctor who ran some tests and discovered a large tumor wrapped around his neck. He was referred to a doctor at the City of Hope where emergency surgery was performed. Thankfully, he survived that extremely delicate surgery. Not long after, he survived yet another critical procedure. With physical therapy he was able to regain much of his mobility. After radiation, there was uncertainty that he would be able to have more children. This young family has had a much different start of life together than what they had planned. His mother in law explained to me that he is a Christian who maintains his faith and credits God for getting him through all he has endured instead of blaming God for his perceived predicament. He recently got a customer service job with Microsoft which allows him to work from home. He and his wife are now expecting their 2nd child.
A week or so later, I drifted into yet another dismal malaise, which is so easy to do when left alone with your thoughts. I put on my Grateful, Thankful, Blessed t shirt and went for a walk. I happened to meet yet another neighbor who recently moved into the community. She commented on my shirt and proceeded to share with me her testimony and I was awed by God’s redeeming grace. The lifetime of pain and suffering she endured was off the charts.
As a child she was repeatedly raped and assaulted by a family member. She left home only to get into a horribly abusive relationship. She was beaten, assaulted, demeaned, held captive and treated as a slave by her husband and his family for years. Nine months into her second pregnancy he intentionally shoved her down a set of stairs severely fracturing her ankle and breaking several vertebrae in her back. Instead of calling for an ambulance which would alert authorities, they dropped her off at a hospital. By a miracle, she and the baby survived. She went through several horrific procedures and has permanent injuries to deal with as a result.
Some time later, her now ex was critically ill. She went to visit him in the hospital since he was the father of her children. He awoke from his coma literally scared to death and long enough to apologize for everything he did to her. He asked for her forgiveness and plead to speak to her pastor. She obliged and brought her pastor to the hospital. Immediately her ex, accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, got baptized, fell back into a coma and died.
Through it all she maintained her faith in God. She is adamant that God is the one that got her through. I am in total agreement. I pointed out to her the irony that she is the vessel that God used to bring her ex to salvation, something she had not even considered before. The very person he tormented all those years was ultimately the one who helped lead him to eternal life. I will let you know when her book comes out.
Inspirational stories, like the ones that I have been privileged to hear, can completely change your mood as well as your entire outlook on life. You don’t have to look far, sometimes those inspirational stories are right next door. I am truly grateful to God that he led me to these “chance” meetings and meaningful discussions. I didn’t just meet and talk to anyone. I met these individuals, who whether they know it or not, helped me when I needed it. I am constantly awestruck by God and His handiwork. He knows what we need and never ceases to provide for us. Praise God.
Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Copyright © by Brian Dietz