Decisions, decisions

Since it first started over two years ago, I have always felt that I’m not very good at this whole “being sick” thing.

My skill set doesn’t seem to match up too well with the difficulties my illness has presented me with. I often wish that there was some sort of class I could take (or being more honest, Youtube video that I could watch) that would teach me the things I need to know to make my life easier and help me to deal with my declining health.

One of the obstacles that I run into a lot is that I now have a constant need to learn to adapt, and I have to balance that with my stubborn resistance to change. What I often fail to see during these situations is that every problem is a new opportunity for God to show me how He provides for me.  I rarely see it as it is happening, and sometimes even in hindsight it might take a while to see it, but that doesn’t mean that He’s not there.

He is always there.

I have found myself thinking a lot lately about a time almost two years ago when I started using a cane.  I didn’t want to, I can tell you that. I first started having difficulty walking in mid-2012 and it became serious a lot quicker than I thought it might.

When people first started suggesting that I use a cane I didn’t really give it much thought.  I had confidence that as soon as I went to a specialist, he would know what was wrong with me and would be able to fix it and things would be back to normal in no time.

Plus, there’s no way I could be seen around town using a cane, it would be too embarrassing.  People would make fun of me. The sight of a thirty-one year old man using a cane would attract too much attention and I didn’t want any part of that.

There were a couple of facts that I couldn’t deny though. I had a terrible limp and it wasn’t getting any better. I prayed often for God’s healing and direction, things that I continue to do today.

The weeks rolled by and it became harder and harder for me to get around. At this point, concern from others was coming on an almost daily basis and the topic of the cane kept coming up.  Eventually I ended up talking to my employer about it and he echoed the concerns that everyone had about my health and well-being.  His exact words escape me, but I still remember the tone of his voice being one of genuine concern and a true desire to help me.  We talked about the pros and cons of it for a few minutes until I just felt a peace about the idea that I hadn’t felt before, the kind of peace that can only come from God.

I left work that day knowing 100% that I needed to start using a cane.

I arrived back home and I went to find a roommate of mine that was a bit older than me and used a cane.  Who better to know where to get one than someone who already used one?

When I found him I didn’t even have a chance to say a single word before he handed me my first cane (I’ve stopped counting but I’ve got to be on about number 10 by now, they don’t last nearly as long as you’d think). I asked him how he knew, and he replied “Knew what?” No one had told him that I was going to come ask him where to get a cane, no one had any time to as I’d just made up my mind about it less than an hour ago. He just had one waiting for me because he thought it would be useful.

God had given me this sudden peace about using a cane and then provided one for me.

He took care of me and helped me to make a very difficult decision. Adaptation has become an increasingly necessary skill the worse my health gets.  A few months after I started using the cane, I started falling.  It changed everything. My reliance on God and other people had to increase as a result and it has but not without some major struggles along the way.

I am very grateful for the people who God has put in my life. My employer has supported me every single step of the way, going as far as to completely change what my job is so that I can continue to collect a paycheck. I have been blessed with co-workers that genuinely care for me and do their best to ensure that I can keep working. My family and friends have likewise been extremely supportive  and helpful and given me a great example to follow when it comes to faith.

I draw on all of their strength and the never-ending love of Jesus as I face a situation that is extremely similar to what I faced two years ago, only this time it’s with a wheelchair. My concerns are largely the same as they were before.

I’m still a slow learner too, as until recently it seemed as if maybe I’d forgotten what God had taught me when He gave me my first cane.  I learned that peace from God is one of the greatest gifts a person can ever receive, and to not squander it but to use it to do whatever God’s will for me might be. Maybe it’s having the courage to use a cane or a wheelchair or perhaps it’s having the courage to tell someone about what Christ has done for me.

As if it wasn’t enough that He rescued me from dying in sin and forgave me for my sins, He continues to care about me in a way I’m only beginning to have the smallest grasp on.

Every one of us has difficult decisions to make and I pray that you would have the peace and love of Christ to guide you though them. James 4:8 says “Come close to God and God will come close to you.” It’s one of my favorite verses in the Bible and also something that I sometimes find myself not doing like I should. It’s funny though how adversity and tough decisions can show us the true character of God and bring us closer to Him.

Take care everyone.

Truth, Honesty, and all of that fun stuff

I feel like if this column is going to be anything worth reading, then it has to be honest.

After all, it would be a waste of my time and yours if it was anything else.  So in that spirit, I would like to talk about why you see my name by the title of this blog and not a fake name

I didn’t want to use my real name, at least not until I’d been doing this for a while.  There are a few reasons for that.

The first is that I’ve never really been comfortable with attention.  I don’t crave it, or enjoy it, or seek it out. I used to go out of my way to blend in, but in the last few years I’ve lost that option.  I’m 32 years old, use a cane, and live in a small town.  The way that I walk is very awkward and painful and as a result, I get stared at everywhere I go.

I’m not comfortable with it at all, but it’s also something that I can’t really do anything about.  Being sick has brought so much attention my way and it’s something that I’m still not used to.  The thought of going on the internet and talking about it while using my real name isn’t all that appealing to me, because I feel like I already attract too much attention.

But a while back, God put a thought in my head that I’ve been trying to make sense of ever since, “What if God doesn’t want me to blend in?”

What if instead of me trying to hide in the shadows, God would like attention called to me so that I can direct it back to Him?

What if when someone asks me about my struggles, I tell them about how God provides for me?

The only problem with that is that I’m not very good at it.

Not that long ago I felt like the Lord gave me a calling to go forth and be a light in this world, to spread the love of Christ to everyone that I meet and be a beacon of peace and understanding.  So I prayed and truly felt the Spirit within me and I set forth and…. didn’t do so good at it.

It turns out that it’s not easy to do that sort of thing, at least not for me.  The truth is that I didn’t want to use my real name on this column because I feel like a lot of the time I’m not a good representative of what a Christian should look like.

I don’t have a halo.  I get mad about things, and the more pain I’m in from falling down all day the worse it tends to get. I’ve done things that I’ve been ashamed of since I’ve become a Christian and behaved in ways that I wish I could take back.

I’ve learned a lot about God’s forgiveness because I need that forgiveness EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I’m not perfect, or anything even close to it. I don’t feel like it’s okay to pretend that I am, so I don’t.  I’ve talked about this subject with other Christians, and they have assured me that they share this same struggle.

I want to be so much better for my God than I actually am.

I don’t feel good about failing but I know that when I ask Him to forgive me, He does.

What I have learned recently is just how difficult it is to forgive myself.  I’m not proud of the way I behave sometimes, and it’s probably safe to say that I beat myself up about it much more than anyone else does.  I’ve always been told that I’m too hard on myself, and I know that there is some truth to that, but when I know that I have acted in a way that is displeasing to God it just crushes me.  I want to be perfect for Him, but I’m not.

He is a God of mercy though. He forgives me and so I have to do the same. If I don’t forgive myself, then it’s like I’m saying that I know better than my creator does.  So I pray that God will help me to do that, because all forgiveness has to come from Him. I can’t do it on my own.  I can’t do any of this on my own.

So there it is.  If you’re looking for a column written by the perfect Christian, this isn’t it.  All I am is someone who God had mercy on and rescued.  If there is anything in my life that I have achieved or any success that I have had, it is because God made it happen.

The times that I actually am able to be a light, a beacon, even just a decent guy doing the best he can, it’s because I serve a merciful God that loved me long before I loved Him.  That’s why I desire to serve Him and why I pray and ask for forgiveness and why I try again when I fail.

I really don’t feel qualified to have any sort of calling from God, but when I read the Bible it is filled with stories of  underqualified people doing things that are amazing. They are able to do these things because they trust God and He enables them to do whatever He needs them to do. That’s the person that I want to be today, the one that trusts in God enough that I want to do His work even if it looks impossible.  So for today, I choose to trust that He would not have given me a calling if there’s not a way to accomplish it.

I was hoping to work some sarcasm and bad jokes into this column, but I’m sure that I’ll more than make up for it the next time around. Until then, I pray that God will bless you and guide you throughout your day and into tomorrow.

Walking with Faith

Hello, and welcome to the very first edition of my blog.

I have to say, I never really thought that I would be writing a blog, and if it hadn’t come at the request of my pastor I probably never would have.  Not long ago we where having a discussion about what kinds of ministry I might be able to do and this column is one of the things that he suggested. Writing a column as a form of ministry sounded just a tad strange to me but when he explained the purpose of it, I started to see that perhaps it wasn’t so strange at all.

The purpose of this is to share the experiences I have as I try to live a life that is pleasing to God.  I intend to talk about my successes, my  failures, and whatever lies in between.

The title of this column. “Walking with Faith,” is a gimmicky one.  In fact, I put off writing this for a week because I knew I needed to have a title and couldn’t think of a better one.

The reason that I call the title gimmicky is because usually when I hear Christians refer to their journey with Christ as “my walk,” I can’t help but think about how I actually walk.

The way that I refer to the health problems I have is to simply say that I am “sick”. Sick with what, I don’t exactly know yet, though there are some theories given by doctors and countless others.

The most noticeable thing about me besides my stunning good looks (and blatant use of sarcasm) would probably be the way that I walk.  When I walk, it usually doesn’t take more than a few steps before my knees give out.  This happens hundreds of times a day. The most common questions I get about it are “Does it hurt?” and “Do you fall?” Yes and yes. I have to use a cane and it minimizes both of those things to an extent, but I still have major trouble getting around. The ever-present prospect of having to use a wheelchair is always around the corner, and while that’s certainly not the worst thing in the world, it is something I would like to put off for as long as I can.

So that explains the “Walking” part of the title, but what about the “Faith” part? Well, the Faith part is what gets me out of bed in the morning, sometimes literally.

Some mornings I wake up and immediately I’m in pain.  It might not be that bad or I might feel like I’m on fire, honestly I never really know what to expect.  When that happens, I pray.

I pray that God would give me the strength to get around that morning.

I pray that His strength would carry me into the afternoon.

While it can sometimes be a challenge to see the good in everything, one thing I can definitely say is that being sick has increased my awareness of how much I really need God in my life.  That awareness grows over time too.

So when I wake up in the morning and I really don’t feel like going through another day of buckling knees, falling down, people staring at me because I’m 32 years old and have a cane, pain and everything else, I pray.  I pray and I acknowledge that God is bigger than any sickness that I may have and that He will give me the strength to do His will for that day, whatever it may be.  I praise God for the realization He has given me that while my life is very different from it was before I got sick, God Himself has not changed.

Things on this planet can be very difficult for every one of us, not just me, but the promise of eternal life has not changed.  So while I may struggle to take my next steps sometimes, the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross for me has not changed.  Because of those things I can have faith.

The truth is that it still feels a little strange to write things like that.

It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I had any sort of faith in Christ.  For a long time I didn’t even want to believe that He existed. I led a rebellious life that wasn’t pleasing to God. It wasn’t even pleasing to me really, but I didn’t really know what else to do.  The perception I had of Christ was based on misconceptions and false information, not the truth that is presented in the Bible. Instead of doing my own research into who and what Christ was, I was content to believe what others said because it was easier.

Eventually due to several bad decisions, I found myself with no money and no place to go.  I ended up living in a homeless shelter that served hot meals and the message of the Gospel.  Eventually I came to faith in Jesus and gave my life to Him.  About six months later, my body started to break down and it became apparent that something was very wrong.

It’s in that story (which I’m sure I’ll get into in greater detail at some point) that I am able to see the character of God.

I truly believe that if I had become sick before Jesus saved me, I never would have been able to have faith in Him.  I was a very cynical and pessimistic person that was looking for excuses to justify my negative behavior.  Being sick would have given me just the excuse I was looking for.  It would have given me the perfect excuse to not even try to pursue a relationship with God.

The God that I serve today knows this, and He loved me enough that He rescued me and led me to have faith in Him before I became sick.

So when there are days that I’m not looking forward to what the day may look like, I think about that.

I think about the mercy He had on me and the mercy that he shows me on a daily basis.

I think about how he has given me family, friends, and employers that love me and want to help me through my difficulties.

Then I get ask Him what he’d like me to do today and I get going.

So there’s a small sample of my “walk,” both the literal and Jesus versions.  I look forward to writing this column and am excited to see what it will turn into.  Though I did have some apprehension about it at first, I do believe that it is something that God has called me to do.  Thanks for reading and may God guide you throughout your day.