Early into the pandemic, I lost my brother to covid. Larry was a diabetic and had lost his foot to the disease, so his diabetes was advanced. His covid expressed itself as a simple runny nose for just over three weeks. “I got the covid,” he told me. But he felt confident he would beat it and that it was not very troublesome to have caught it. Then one evening, he began having trouble breathing. He died after 12 hours of suffocating as he struggled to breathe. So very sad that he is gone; sadder still for how he suffered in those last hours.
Apart from seeing the grandkids on Sunday afternoons, and a weekly foray to the grocery store the hour it opened, we have “sheltered in place.” Until yesterday. This Sunday was the first time I joined other believers in person since the pandemic began. Peace fell over me as it might if you were finally being rescued from a deserted island. At one point, we all shared our testimonies—how we came to know God. I shared a bit of my drug experience and how God, through Deb, reached a rabid atheist like me (I adore her to this day for her patient help). At another point, a dear brother (in the Lord) whom I’ve known quite a few years, shared something about his struggles (for the record, it was not porn). This morning, his courage to expose his struggle and ask for help makes me reflect on things I otherwise wish to keep hidden Yesterday was also the first time since the pandemic, since Larry’s awful death, that I ate food cooked by anyone but Deb or me—including even a McD’s drive thru. In the last few weeks, maybe months, God has been challenging my fear.
Among the many faults that screw me up, I think fear has been the most relentless. I know fear is full of empty threats and I feel pathetic to have it so terrorize my life. In the summer between grammar school and high school, I couldn’t catch my breath. Probably a panic attack type thing. But that whole summer I literally gasped for breath and my friends nick-named me “frog” for the way I looked doing so. It felt like I was drowning. It went away when school started, but every now and then since, that feeling comes over me. Still several times a day in fact, since I’m being open.
When I was six I lost my mother. I saw things in the early morning that I shouldn’t have. They fought often. We left her, and went out to the break wall fishing. I was threatened there. Not that I would have said anything, but the threat, I knew, was real. When we got back, my friends taunted me on the street, openly revealing the secret. “Your mother died,” they called out leeringly. All of my relatives filled our living room, our kitchen, even the halls. Their faces were so sad, their eyes so tender. But I couldn’t cry. So I pretended. I’m not a good actor, but they bought it, even without a tear. Deb was the first person I ever told, after we had been married 41 years.
In school after high school, everyone in my dorm was doing hard drugs. Not wanting to be a wimp, I took drugs too and experienced a “bad trip.” I thought, “If you fall off the horse, you should get right back on.” Cowards have to appear brave, but they can’t always pull it off. I took more drugs, and had a yet more horrifyingly bad trip where I think I experienced part of the sensation and isolated aloneness that characterizes what hell will be like. I was an atheist up till that day, but having that close a run in with the devil—and never, ever wanting to run into him again—I searched for someone who knew the “Good Guy.” I am thankful for all of that, because it led me to Deb, whose life led me to Him. It took me years to get over those experiences. I’ve had other overwhelming fear attacks since. Phobias, too. Yeah, but then, I’m not only pathetic. I’ve also had some serious encounters with God.
We have been married fifty years now this past month. He, and Deb, have made such a difference in my life, but even as it clings to me with less powerful intrusions, fear still taunts me. Fear isn’t my only struggle, but I think it is my most pervasive. If you pray for me, pray for this.
I have much too much to answer for when I meet Him, yet at the end, I am eager for that blessed day, which will end with, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” -Rev 21:4 I will bear the shame of my failures and rebelliousness, knowing every tear, and my last tear, will be dried by my merciful Judge. Safe at last.
Come Lord Jesus!