Testimony | A Will Within A Wheel

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Even after tragedy strikes, Joseph found that it's still possible to experience immeasurable joy.

Can the beginning of joy actually start with a dramatic event? A forest fire might leave a vast wake of devastation in its path, and it seems a tragic loss of beauty in a split second, but we fail to realize that inches under the charred surface, new life is waiting to spring forth. With that in mind, let me hit the rewind button for a second.

Welcome to my childhood, carefree, fanciful, and to most observers, totally void of any disturbances. I grew up in a home with parents who were far from perfect, but still married. I was blessed with a hard working-dad, an awesome Christian mom who sacrificed everything in her life for me, and the privilege of attending a private Christian school from the adorable (but honestly, extremely adorable) age of four. But just because you’re surrounded by the ideal environment to flourish, it doesn’t always keep outside influences from affecting the way things grow.

“On a day when most people are making resolutions for their lives, in a few short hours I would be fighting for mine.”

As a child, in my eyes I was utterly cursed. Cursed like all the plagues of pharaoh rolled into one tight bundle of awfulness. That awfulness, in my case, was an extremely sensitive heart. I was that child who, no matter what you did, cried at the drop of a hat. That was me, and I hated every second of my “defectiveness”.

Sensitivity didn’t exactly fit my father’s idea of a man. While he was willing to spend time with me hunting and fishing, all understanding was sucked out and replaced with criticism until I started to shut down. I even began resenting everything about it; the look, the taste, the smells, everything. Including him. That small root of bitterness which I held tightly to escalated rapidly to a rebellious, punk-rock, vulgarity-laced, tattoo-adorned tornado that led people to dive for cover, hoping it would not destroy everything in its path. It was my life and no one else’s. I didn’t want it to change and no one could tell me how to live. But no matter how hard I fought, my life most definitely changed on New Year’s Day 2001.

“My survival was being proclaimed a miracle.”

On a day when most people are making resolutions for their lives, in a few short hours I would be fighting for mine. While traveling from a wedding in El Paso, TX, one of our two vehicles slid off the road due to a patch of black ice. As I stood on the side of the interstate to make sure everything was OK, tragedy struck. In the blink of an eye, another vehicle lost control at over 70 mph and collided into my body.

Injuries of broken ribs, punctured lungs, a shattered leg, broken vertebrae and a removed spleen were nothing compared to the most serious of all—a lacerated liver. Simply stated, I was bleeding to death. Upon arrival, my parents were unable to recognize me due the extent of my injuries. Initially, with my body so swollen, the internal organs would not fit inside. However, following multiple surgeries and more than a month in ICU, my survival was being proclaimed a miracle. But that “miracle” took on new shape and form that I only saw as a wheelchair.

“I have experienced a lifetime of joy since the day I gave God my heart”

If being alive was walking on water, I was Peter looking at the waves. The cold, bitter sting of depression, fear and doubt quickly consumed my very being. A once independent person who had everything under control had just been thrown into a tailspin, spiraling down with the earth fast approaching. The rug had been pulled out from underneath me and now even the smallest, trivial tasks seemed to be overwhelming obstacles.

After many years of grinding through gears, stopping short of my target and finding myself feeling lost (or at least in the bad side of town), I made the best decision of my life. I handed the keys of my heart to Jesus Christ. To be honest, I don’t remember the day or the hour, but I have experienced a lifetime of joy since the day I gave God my heart more than 8 years ago.

It is so easy to focus on the “I’s”. You know, “I have this need, I have that need, and you couldn’t possibly understand.” Or better stated, “Me me me me me!” But the fact is, I do understand. Better yet, Christ completely understands, unless you’ve forgotten the whole meaning of the cross. Once my “I’s” were taken off me and focused on Him, He put my “EYES” on what I could do. You see, I was the one who had been limiting Him the whole time.

“I do not believe for a second that this kind of joyful life is just for me.”

When Paul wrote Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” (NKJV) he did not suddenly get laser vision or the ability to jump over tall synagogues. He was in jail. Yes, JAIL! But he was also sure that whatever Christ brought his way, he would be able to accomplish, no matter the circumstances. He took the limits off God a long time ago, and I have chosen to do the same thing. I simply reject the adversities the devil tries to bring my way, and I embrace the approach in Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

I have felt hopelessness that makes me want to kill myself, but I have also felt the redeeming power of Christ transforming my life into unspeakable joy. I do not believe for a second that this kind of joyful life is just for me. Christians should be the most joyous people on the planet, but I regularly encounter the post-apocalyptic Christian—the one who drags his feet around with a frown on his face, repeating the phrase, “Rapture, rapture, one day rapture.” You know, rapture! When the clouds in the sky will roll back like a scroll, Christians are sucked up with a heavenly vacuum and all our problems vanish as Jesus is riding big white horses when He comes. I am not trying to make light of the second coming of Christ, but I am trying to illuminate the point that as brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be living a rapturous life every single day—that is what Jesus came for: to give life and life more abundantly (John 10:10). We were never designed to carry our burdens. We were made to lay our burdens down at Jesus’ feet, just like you would return a book to the library or in all likelihood a DVD back to RedBox. Our job is to seek first the Kingdom that God established through His Mighty Son, Jesus Christ (Matthew 6:33). That is what transforms our lives and the lives of those around us.

“God is greater than any circumstance that arises in our lives.”

I have traveled all over the US, to Canada, Europe and Africa, all in a wheelchair. I have been in many situations that could have easily overwhelmed me if fear, doubt or anxiety were allowed into my life for even a millisecond, for they only serve to destroy God’s plans for us. But one thing I have found true over and over is that God is greater than any circumstance that arises in our lives. That does not mean it has been easy—far from it, actually. If every instance was as easy as eating a piece of cheesecake, I would have no need for a Mighty Creator. When I trust in Him alone, I must say it is amazing to see how Jesus has had every step of the way covered in a much greater fashion than I could ever imagine.

We can carry a heavy burden now, live a life full of complaints and pray that one day a heavenly hoover sucks it all away, or we can start living a true life of rapture today—where we lay our burdens down and receive abundant life. I have made my choice, what will you choose?