The Night That Changed My Life (Ros' Blog)
This week’s blog post is written by Mandy Edwards, who shares with us something of her own journey with God through disability.
The night that changed my life
Finally at the grand old age of 52 I’ve started reading my Bible whenever I feel overwhelmed, which is pretty much most of the time. No, I’m not a new Christian. In fact up to this point I would have called myself a believer for about 30 years. Yet I seemed to have spent my life like a Christian washing machine of despair, with all my faults and failings swirling around in my mind like washing with indelible stains. Even when I changed my clothes the stains seemed to haunt me. I could see them and was convinced others did too. I felt inadequate as a person and nothing anyone said seemed to change that view.
I’ve made mistakes (BIG ones) during my life time, accelerated by the death of my dad, brother and grandparents when I was 14 (but that’s another story). Right now my biggest problem was that my faith just didn’t seem durable enough. Everyone else seemed more joyful than me, more proactive than me and that’s not even touching on their professional life. Strictly speaking, as a Christian, I knew that money shouldn’t be important, but it was hard living on disability benefits, especially after losing my career as a teacher. Yes I wasn’t exactly a JC superstar was I? In fact few people know about me, least of all as an advocate for JC. When I felt low I’d get angry and my tongue became like a runaway train. Not exactly experiencing inner peace.
Something changed today. It started, as often, with another bad night; waking up in chronic spinal pain every couple of hours. Hot water bottles eased the situation a bit but then I tossed and turned. Hot. Cold. Hot. Cold. I stomped the halls of sleeplessness and finally gave up the ghost and got up at 4.30 to run a hot bath. It was freezing. Of course, my limited coffers meant I’d allowed myself hot water between the hours of 8am-9am and 6pm-7pm. In frustration I picked up my Bible and flicked it open, looking for solutions on intractable pain and freezing baths. There it was: 2 Corinthians 4. 16. No, not the solution to hot water, but it told me that “anyone in Christ is a new creation, the old has passed away”. I’ve read this a million times but somehow the drone of that washing machine of despair always seemed to drown out its implications.
So I continued to flick. Titus 2.14, Amplified Version. Jesus gave us life so we could be people who are ‘eager and enthusiastic’ about living a beneficial life. Something pinged in my head. I had spent so much of my life discouraged depressed and despondent. Then I tried to imagine how I would feel if I had willingly died a horrifically painful and humiliatingly public death for my son’s sake. I’d do it in a heartbeat because I loved him completely and utterly. Supposing he had then rejected my gift? Instead he had been swallowed up by guilt and lived a depressed and unfulfilling life. It literally physically hurt me to think of this scenario yet I did this every day to Jesus.
I thought about Paul. Paul the apostle, whose words speak to us from 2000 years ago and inspire so many Christians all over the word today. Paul had been a murderer. He had actively sought out Christians to annihilate, yet he had jumped on-board. He had accepted Jesus’ sacrifice and refused to look back in paralysing horror at his past actions. (Philippians 3. 12). He recognised that he was far from perfect. He referred to a ‘thorn in his side’ but doesn’t let it stop him.
It became clear to me: it requires a determined act of will to accept a gift you don’t deserve and be prepared to enjoy that gift fully and without guilt. A life of joy. A life of inner peace and inner power. A life where you can get everything you ask for in Jesus’ name simply by prayer. A life with a family that extends across the globe. The drone of that washing machine finally slowed and stopped at around 7am on the 4th December 2014. And I knew that the clothes would now finally be spotless, stains removed. I’m sure it may try to re-wash the stains but now I knew what I needed to visualise to turn it off. A determined and on-going act of will.
There was still one question that still haunted me. If I am really so loveable and worthy of Jesus’ sacrifice then why did God allow my suffering? My spinal accident? My bereavements? My poverty? I knew that I would never let my son suffer if I could stop it. Never. I prayed for that remaining answer as I stiffly and painfully got dressed for the day.
My son David was downstairs dashing about, preparing for college. His tee-shirt needed ironing, he had lost his shoes, he couldn’t find the car keys and he needed a packed lunch. I felt intensely irritated. How many times had I told him to get all his stuff ready the night before? How many? I opened my mouth to voice my irritation (that runaway tongue again) when suddenly I realised that the answer to my question was staring me in the face. As a parent I loved my son dearly and had tried to prepare him for life by giving him a framework to live by. Still he chose to do it the hard way, finding out for himself and often unintentionally suffering in the process. As a loving parent I found it so frustrating that he wasn’t always willing to take my advice, yet by not following bible guidelines I was myself doing exactly the same thing!
I knew that my disability was in no way caused by any fault of mine but my despair and fear had compounded my misery. The Word of God in the Bible shows us how to live a happy and fulfilling life, from treating others lovingly to embracing your professional life, however unimportant it may feel. I had chosen not to use it that way at all. I was 52 and only now realising that all the answers to life could be found by daily study and prayer. To be honest the Bible was something I listened to at church and read when I had time. I had created my own suffering as so many of us do unintentionally. Now I’m certainly not saying all suffering is man-made. That’s a question far too great for me to answer but my specific question had been answered. My pain was real, would likely be with me for the rest of my life. How I chose to deal with this has changed forever. Indeed my very disability could be used to glorify God, who often chooses to work through imperfect and insignificant people. (1 Corinthians 1.27-28) Their very limitations then clearly illustrate how it is the miraculous works of God that both shine in and work through us. I now feel able to accept the joy, the peace, the hope, the inner power and I look forward to new possibilities. All because of Jesus Christ.