There isn't anything new in what I have to say, but I do see life from an unique perspective. As my body is shutting down, my soul is opening up to a greater and greater relationship with Christ. I am sharing the things I learn as I go through my trials so that those who read what I write will be encouraged in their own walks by how gracious God has been to me in mine. Ask me questiions, dispute my views and most of all pray for me.
I sometimes talk of my illness, but seldom in much detail because I want the emphasis to be on God’s mercy and grace not my difficulties. The fact is that among other things I am suffering some sort of neurological condition that includes symptoms of dementia and erratic body movement as well as frequent loss of emotional control without known cause. Dementia causes me to forget most of the negative events of my illness and in that way might be considered a blessing by some, but it is not. When I am myself I can see the hurt and grieving on the faces of those I love and I know I have done or said something so hurtful that they refuse to tell me about it. Despite the hurt I feel over hurting them they will not tell me what I have done as they believe my reaction would be so much more painful to me if I knew what I had done. Many are the days and nights that I weep in the arms of my God and know no hope except eternal life in Him for I cannot undo or prevent the things I have done and the things I will do that so hurt those around me.
Along with the dementia is something called aphasia. There are times that I do not understand what people are saying to me or what a word means or understand words written on paper. The worst part of this is that there are times that I cannot read my Bible or understand what is written there. This often occurs when I need the comfort of God’s word most. I most often find the strength to keep on by reading God’s word and seeing how He has interacted and continues to interact with us for our good and His glory. Without the comfort of God’s word the darkness of loneliness slips in and I am overwhelmed by my loss. I truly understand the dark night of the soul, but I cling tightly to my faith in God no matter how distant He may seem at times. Even as I cling to my faith, I am still worn down by my grief and loss.
Erratic body movement and neurological pain create physical limitations that mean I am bound to my home most of the time. I am unable to play with my children or spend much time with my wife. By the way if any one wants to know what it means to keep your wedding vows you need only look at my wife. She went from stay at home Mom to our seven children to primary provider, homemaker and caretaker. She has never considered leaving me or putting me in someone else’s care. The burden she bears seems to me to be greater than my own and I know she weeps over her loss of the love of her life as I do over my loss of the things we once shared so wondrously together.
My greatest loss has begun occurring recently and for this I ask your prayers. I have been having trouble praying. Prayer is my most important bulwark against the depression that lurks around the corner for every dementia sufferer. Without being able to talk to God I sense an aloneness that is so horrifying I cannot describe it. I cannot imagine spending all of time being unable to talk with God. Even as I struggle with this I find myself grieving for those destined for an eternity of such loneliness. I cannot imagine any greater suffering than being unable to talk to God for all eternity while knowing such was once available to you.
I am growing weaker again as I did this past year. We hoped that the lung sugary resolved that, but now know that part of my weakness was being caused by the neurological problems. My muscles have atrophied so much that recently I tore my right triceps and my right rotator cuff muscles by merely turning my arm. My calves and thighs are now smaller than my biceps once were large. Walking is very difficult again and I may have to go back to using my chair again. I am disappointed that I am not doing better, but I still trust in my God that He will use this experience of mine for His good and glory and that there is purpose here even if I do not understand it.
The last symptom I mentioned was emotional control. I now lose my temper over nothing at times, but far worse is that I find myself weeping uncontrollably for long periods of time even though I do not know what I am weeping about. I am told that this is another neurological symptom since the weeping is without purpose. If I were weeping over my conditions, which I have done at times, for an extended period that might be depression but I am not depressed in that way. As I weep I call out to God for comfort and understanding and I know someday He will answer, either here or there, but He will answer.
Despite all this negativism, I have something that is very positive to say here. I was just able to read 2 Samuel chapter 15 as David and his entourage flee Jerusalem because of the revolt by his own son Absolam. David passed over the trickling brook that sits at the bottom of the Kidron valley in despair and tears. This was truly the darkest hour of the great king’s life, yet in the midst of his sorrow he stopped to offer sacrifice to God and to send the Ark back into Jerusalem. Win or lose, He knew the Ark belonged in Jerusalem where the people could continue to worship God. “If I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again.” 2 Samuel 15:25b
The Kidron valley is shallow and the brook that runs through it is dry much of the year. Mainly it was a pathway for the sewage of Jerusalem. Surely it must have seemed such a great distance to David that day and the trickle must have seemed to have been so foul to cross. Jesus also crossed that small valley many times going in and out of Jerusalem. Even that last night after supper he crossed over to the Mount of Olives to pray and weep tears of blood. All of us must cross the Kidron in our time. Neither David, God’s Anointed One nor Jesus, God’s Son, nor any of us is free from trouble and sorrow. If God’s Anointed and God’s Son cannot escape affliction, why then should we expect to escape it? At sorrow's gate, God’s most faithful have stood with ashes on their heads, why then should we complain as though some unfair thing had happened to us?
The King of kings Himself was not favored with a more cheerful or royal road. He passed over the bottom of the Kidron valley through which the filth of Jerusalem flowed and gave no complaint that one of His stature should have to walk there. What is your Kidron this day? Is it bereavement over the loss of one loved? Perhaps you have had a dream shattered? Whatever it is the King has passed over all of these. Bodily pain, persecution, poverty or contempt-- it does not matter what your Kidron is. You can cross it again and again just as He did because He has already done the same. In all of our afflictions He was afflicted. The idea of the unfairness of our trials must be banished forever for He who is the head of all saints has known our grief and suffering by experience even as He became sin for our sake.
Notwithstanding the abasement of David, he yet returned in triumph to his city and David’s awaited Lord arose from the grave on the third day victorious. Let us then be of good courage for we also will win the day. We shall yet with joy draw from the wells of salvation though we may now for a season walk in waters noxious and filled with sorrow. We must hold onto our faith and our courage as soldiers of the Cross. The King himself triumphed after going over Kidron and so shall we all!
As I struggle in this valley for a time, I ask for your prayers. Please help me be strong in faith and patient in hope. Pray for me as I pray for you all.