Tag Archives: hope

And God Said No

Credit: Alexandre Buisse

My wife, who is not a Christian, reluctantly agreed to attend a baptismal class for our youngest son. I figured she would be bored out of her mind: The hour-long class would be full of Catholic terminology regarding a sacrament that Ayako had no clue about.

And there would be praying.

That evening, I found the courage to glance over at Ayako at some point during the class, and, sure enough, her eyes were glazed over. “How are you doing?” I asked meekly.

No response.

I got worried. The whole idea of baptizing our children was mine. I was the reason we were all here on a weeknight instead of at home in our highly-structured routine.

In my mind, I tried to hurry along the class so that I wouldn’t feel like I was keeping my wife hostage inside a Catholic church. Just a few more minutes, right? I kept asking myself nervously.

After 90 minutes, we were dismissed. Leaving Ayako with both kids, who were going stir crazy by then, I went up to the individuals in charge of the baptismal class to ask some questions.

Outside in the parking lot, I expected Ayako to either give me the silent treatment or start complaining about wasting her time. Instead, the first words out of her mouth were: “I liked that prayer.”

“Which one?”

“The one at the beginning. It sounded like a poem.”

This is a very good sign! I thought, shocked that she actually enjoyed something about the class.

I went home and punched in some key words on the computer; I had no idea what the poem was called or anything. That’s why God gave us Google, I reminded myself.

Ayako even wanted me to print a copy for her which she now reads every night before going to bed.

The moral of this story? God is in control. He can work wonders. He changed a big fool such as me, and He can surely convert the heart of a tough little non-practicing Buddhist/Shintoist Japanese woman. Just not according to my timetable.

Anyway, here is the poem that I tracked down. It’s called “When God Says No” by Claudia Minden Welsz.

 

I asked God to take away my pride,
and God said, “No.”
He said it was not for Him to take away,
but for me to give up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole,
and God said, “No.”
He said her spirit is,
while her body is only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience,
And God said, “No.”
He said patience is a by-product of tribulation.
It isn’t granted, it is earned.

I asked God to give me happiness,
And God said, “No.”
He said He gives blessings,
happiness is up to me.

I asked God to spare me pain,
and God said, “No.”
He said, “Suffering draws you apart from
worldly cares and brings you closer to Me.”

I asked God to make my spirit grow,
and God said, “No.”
He said I must grow on my own,
but He will prune me to make it fruitful.

I asked God if He loved me,
and God said, “Yes.”
He gave me His only Son, who died for me.
And I will be in Heaven someday
because I believe.

I asked God to help me love others
as much as He loves me,
and God said,
“Ah, finally, you have the idea.”

~t


Keeping It Real: A Comic-Book Writer’s Response to a Fan with Suicidal Ideation

Marvel Comics

I’m not into the world of comics like I used to be. The extent of my collection consists of a few sets of manga that I bought in Japan that I use to hone my Japanese reading skills. (I’m not quite sure if the four-volume children’s set of Tonari no Totoro qualifies, but oh well.)

However, when a friend of mine shared a Tumblr post by Matt Fraction, a well-known writer of comics such as Hawkeye, The Invincible Iron Man, and Casanova, it gave me a whole new respect for Matt and his works.

A fan known as “whiskeyjack” asked the following question to Matt. I’ve edited some words to make it more family friendly, but everything else has been untouched. Here it is:

 

Sorry to put this on you but I have an honest question about depression an suicide. Isn’t it completely possible for it to be a alternative for someone. Can’t there be someone out there who genuinely is tired and doesn’t want to continue. I know there is beauty and wonderful things in this world. There are things to look forward to. There will be more pain but also more laughter. But what if I’m not interested?

 

How would a cool, famous comic-book writer respond to such a question? Or, rather, would he?

Matt’s response is rather lengthy but well worth the read:

 

well… well first off, i’d say, seek professional help immediately. because i am wildly unqualified to answer your question with anything but experience. and first off, my experience says, if you are in such a deep and dark place where you say things like this to total strangers on the internet, you need to be in contact with someone that can help you start to heal.second, i’d say… you’re wrong. i’d say the things any of us don’t know, especially about tomorrow, could blanket every grain of sand on every beach of the world with bull****. And to simply assume you are done tomorrow because you are done today is a mistake. a factual mistake, an error, a critical miscalculation.

i’d say, read Tad Friend’s piece JUMPERS in which he seeks and finds and talks to people that jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge — and lived. And they all say the same variations this: “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.”

And know that this piece has kept me in my seat on more than a couple dark nights.

And i’d say — i’d say i felt that way before too, and i was wrong.

And then i’d tell you something i don’t even think my wife knows. this happend years before we met — s***, more than a decade — and it’s not the first time i came close to suicide was on a thanksgiving night. i’d eaten well and then as the house shut down i went into the bathroom, drew a bath as hot as i could manage to stand, and climbed into the tub with a razor  blade.

As i started to cut, as the corner touched my skin and that jolt of pain fired into my head, i stopped and thought — y’know, last chance. Are you SURE?

And i was tired. I sounded like you, that i knew there’d be ups again and downs but i was just so f****** TIRED i couldn’t stand the thought of having to get there. I felt this… this never-ending crush of days that were grey and tepid but for some reason i was supposed to greet each one with a smile. the constant pressure of having to keep my s*** in all the time was just exhausting.

I wondered, then — well, is there anything you’re curious about. Anything you want to see play out. And i thought of a comic i was reading and i’d not figured out the end of the current storyline. And i realized I had curiosity. And that was the hook i’d hang my hat on. that by wanting to see how something played out I wasn’t really ready. That little sprout of a thing poking up through all that black earth kept me around a little longer.

I realized then that it had been so long since i’d laughed. I was numbed out and shut down and just… i missed laughing. maybe if i laughed a little i could get moving again. so i’d wait for my comic to conclude, try to find a few laughs, and then reevaluate.

So I’m in the bathtub and i got this real sharp-a** razor, right? And i look down and there’s all my bits floating in the water like they do and i thought okay, let’s get funny and i got to work.

I shaved off exactly half my pubic hair vertically. The end result was a ‘fro of pubes that looked like a Chia Pet that only half-worked. I started to laugh as I did it. And every time i’d p***, looking down made me laugh.

Because J**** what a nightmare.

Shortly thereafter I got very heavily into Chuck Jones and Tex Avery. Way less chafing and way more funny.

j****. i was still in high school at the time. dig if you will a picture of the chubby weirdo that was always giggling at his d*** in the bathroom. that was me.

And then I guess I’d tell you about Dave, who did the same thing as me a few years later, only DIDN’T have my hilarious Chia D*** strategy in mind and got the razor in and up. And as he started to bleed out “Brown Eyed Girl” came on the radio and he realized he’d never get to hear that again so, in a bloody comedy of errors — I swear to g** this is true — he got out of the tub, tried to get dressed the best he could, went downstairs calling for help only to find his family gone, went out to his car, and drove to doug’s house only to find doug not home and so, then, finally, he blacked out from blood loss sitting there in his car, playing a van morrison CD on repeat, until, by luck, Doug’s mom came home and found him.

F****** Van Morrison, y’know?

A song, a comic, something dumb, something small. From that seed can come everything else, I swear to g**.

I guess last I’d say… I’d say that, look — if you reached out to me for an answer, than I have to reach back out to you and insist you hear it.  Because it means, what, you know me? My work? You read my stuff and thought, well, f***, if anyone would know why I shouldn’t end my life, if anyone alive is QUALIFIED TO SAVE ME it’s the guy that had britney spears punch a bear? okay — okay, then, so as THAT GUY I’m saying: Get help. Now, today, tonight, whenever — get to a phone and find a doctor that can try to help you heal, that can try to recolorize your world again, that can help you start caring again. All you need is that one tiny thing, that speck, that little grain of sand. the World Series, AVENGERS 2, Tina Fey’s new show, the first issue of PRETTY DEADLY, some slice of the world you’ve never seen, some drink you love, who the f*** will love your dog like you do if you’re gone, what if jabrams KILLS it on the new STAR WARS, the h*** are you doing for Halloween, you ever feed a dolphin with your bare hand? because i have and I am f****** telling you IT IS A THING TO EXPERIENCE and oh g** WHAT F****** FONT WILL STARBUCKS USE ON THE CHRISTMAS DRINK SLEEVES THIS YEAR — i don’t care what or how dumb but i promise you somewhere in your life is that one fleck of dust that can help start you on the road back. That’s all it takes. One f****** mote, drifting through your head.

And because you asked me I am answering you because i know, mother******, i know, i know, i know the hole you are f****** in because I was there myself and if you look hard you can still see my writing on those walls and if you stare long enough i swear to g** it’s pointing to up

 

As my friend said, this is one of the most genuinely connective responses to someone with suicidal ideation that I’ve ever seen on the Internet.

When times are bad and you feel hopeless, just read Matt’s response. It’ll put things in perspective for you.

~t

The original quotes can be found here.


Hang On

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes my illness amazes me.

I was in church just yesterday for the first Sunday of Advent. It was a joyous Mass. I loved hearing about the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament alluding to the day in the future when Christ would establish His Kingdom for all people.

I served afterward by helping my brother Knights of Columbus sell Advent wreaths in the narthex.

What a happy, faith-building day. I love Sundays because I can seek refuge for a few hours in the house of the Lord (a.k.a. the hospital for sinners).

But today (Monday) sucked. My doctor recently put me on Lamictal to stabilize my mood since the Gabapentin wasn’t helping, and suicidal ideation started to rear its ugly head again.

I’m sick and tired of being at the mercy of my emotions. It’s like Texas weather: In 30 minutes it goes from one extreme to the other in the blink of an eye.

The demons came again last night. It never fails. the closer I get to God, the stronger their offensive.

I had one of those dreams that seemed to last all night. My family and I were in a public place, like a shopping mall or a maze of connected warehouses, and I had prior knowledge of either a terrorist attack or a rampaging shooter attack.

I remember grabbing my two little sons and hoping that I could get them out of harm’s way. The worst part of it was that I had no idea when or where the attack would take place. It was like being forced to play a diabolical game-show version of Russian roulette.

In the morning, my wife said I was struggling and whimpering in my sleep for a good portion of the night.

After a hellish day at work, I came home and announced to my wife that I was going to skip dinner. I had no appetite whatsoever. I sat in our walk-in closet which doubles as my own personal chapel.

I prayed, I meditated, I read Scripture.

I can’t give up.

Getting no response from God, I sat there, massaging my temples with my eyes closed. Suddenly a slight feeling of hope entered my soul, as tiny as a grain of rice. That was all I needed, though.

I can’t not believe in God and His promises. When life drags me through a puddle of crap, it sure is comforting to know that there is a greater power waiting to rescue me and make me clean again.

Like the saying goes: When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.

~t


The Glorious Mysteries

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Life has been better lately:

I’ve finally dealt successfully with a particularly nagging sin in my life.

My wife suddenly started sleeping in our bed again (that’s in, not with by the way).

I have a good chance of getting a better-paying job in the near future that would finally free my kids from the reduced-price lunch program at school.

So, driving home from work last week, I was pleased to know that it was the day for the glorious mysteries of the rosary.

Out of all four of my “rosary reports,” this is the only one where I was actually in a good mood beforehand. Below are my thoughts while praying the glorious mysteries last week.

 

1. The Resurrection – Fruit of the Spirit: Faith

The resurrection. Who wouldn’t be joyful after being reminded that Christ overcame death and is now reigning in glory? That would fire someone up right away. Jesus didn’t just conquer His fears and the painful agony of the cross. He conquered death. Satan has already lost!

If you’re still feeling down, don’t worry. Just ask God for an increase in faith. I do this all the time. Some days I can barely get out of bed due to my depression. All I have is my mustard seed of faith that God will help me; all I need to do is ask.

 

2. The Ascension – Fruit of the Spirit: Hope

After all that time with His apostles, Christ ascended into heaven to be with the Father. Just like the apostles, we have that special hope to be with the Lord after finishing our earthly lives.

It’s easy to have hope and to be happy when times are good. Right now this describes me. However, as little as a year ago, that depressed me. Why? Because I had the mindset of “what goes up must come down.” My hope was crushed because of my own lack of faith. These days, I rejoice when times are good. I feel that my walk with God has matured to the point where I don’t worry about tomorrow, “for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

 

3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit – Fruit of the Spirit: Love of God

Just like Jesus said, the Holy Spirit came to rest on the apostles and Mary. They were waiting in anticipation, and Jesus stayed true to His word as always.

God is love, and he is always reliable. I had the hardest time accepting this truth because my dad was the complete opposite. So many people, as I did, picture God as they do their earthly father because, well, that’s all we know. But God doesn’t belittle us or wait for us to mess up so that He can punish us.

If you’re having a hard time accepting the fact that God is love — love in its purest form — then ask Him to help you. You’ll be amazed when He grants you the faith to accept and believe in His true nature.

 

4. The Assumption of Mary – Fruit of the Spirit: Grace of a Happy Death

The next two mysteries don’t go over very well with Protestants. No, the Bible doesn’t mention the Assumption or the Coronation of Mary. But where in the Bible does it say that everything we believe has to come from the Bible?

Anyway, this doesn’t mean that Mary ascended into heaven by her own power as Christ did. As Elijah and Enoch in the Old Testament, it was God who made it happen.

I used to fear death. In college, I flew a Cessna 172 on weekends, but I quit after about a year because my fear of dying overtook my passion for flying. It definitely wouldn’t have been a “happy death.”

What is a happy death? I believe it’s when we’re old and full of years, having lived a fulfilled, selfless life with our loved ones around us, with the hope that we will soon be with the Lord. That’s the only kind of death that I want for my family.

 

5. The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven – Fruit of the Spirit: Trust in Mary’s Intercession

I consider going to heaven a fringe benefit of being a Christian. Some people are too focused on it, but, honestly, it’s usually not even on my mind. I guess it’s because God has blessed me with a wonderful life right now. I’m not perfect. The world isn’t perfect. But life is good.

This mystery reminds me that I, like Mary, will receive a crown when I (prayerfully) get to heaven. What a glorious day that will be! In the bestseller Heaven is for Real, a non-Catholic book, someone asked Colton Burpo if he saw Mary in heaven, and if so, what she was doing. He responded and said that Mary was next to Jesus and never left His side. Just like a queen mother in the Old Testament. I found that inspiring even before I was Catholic.

Mary is praying for us, just like my good Christian grandparents who are in heaven. Recently I asked a friend to pray for my mental health. I trust that her intercession was effective. How much more effective and trustworthy would the intercession of “the mother of [the] Lord” (Luke 1:43) be?

 

Unrelated Thought

With Thanksgiving coming up, everyone will soon be focused on food what they’re thankful for. However, take some time out every day to count your blessings. You’ll feel a lot better.

I wish you, dear reader, a wonderful day.

~t


Clawing Your Way Out of Hell

Blackshear-T-Forgiven-AP-Signed

Credit: Thomas Blackshear

It has been a tough week. Trying to regain my faith, I listened to a talk given by a Catholic speaker named Matthew Kelly entitled “Becoming the Best Version of Yourself.”

One thing that really struck me was when Matthew spoke about how predictable human nature is. To illustrate his point, Matthew encouraged everyone in the audience to buy a journal and take it to Mass every Sunday. Before Mass, write at the top of the page: What is God Going to Say to Me This Morning?

Listen to the music. Hear the Scriptures being read. Open your heart to the prayers. Meditate on the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In some way, God will speak to you. When He does, write it down.

Then Matthew drove his point home: We will bring the journal to Mass the following week, write in it, decide that we don’t want anyone to read our private thoughts, and hide it in an old drawer. Days, months, and years go by. One day we happen to find the journal in the old drawer, rip out the two pages of notes that are no longer important to us, and then use the journal for something else.

In other words, without changing our habits, we will end up stuck in the same sinful life, never to break free.

The inspirational men and women of history had great habits. That’s what separates them from the rest of us.

I have found myself trapped in this disheartening cycle recently. On my way to work this morning, I couldn’t even bring myself to talk to God in spontaneous prayer. Instead, I prayed the Our Father and the Hail Mary (one example of how recited prayers are effective — They are good to fall back on when we just can’t bring ourselves to talk to God).

Listening to the motivational talk on the CD helped. An image ran through my mind afterward: the wonderful painting called Forgiven by Thomas Blackshear (see top of post). I used to see this painting in all the Christian bookstores that I once strolled through. I remember thinking once, Wow. How religious is that! before turning away to look through the bargain bin.

The image of that painting, Jesus holding up an exhausted, hurting young man who is clutching a spike and mallet, burned itself into my mind. That man is me. I’m tired. I’m knee-deep in sin. I’m emotionally drained. It all made perfect sense. It’s funny how we don’t realize the obvious until we are broken-down and ready to give up.

When we find ourselves at the bottom of a muddy pit of despair, there are only but two choices to make: resign ourselves to our “fate” or begin the arduous process of climbing out, inch by agonizing inch. Staying the same may be comfortable, but if we really want a fulfilling life and to get close to God again, we must make every effort. As the saying goes, If you want to see a rainbow, you have to persevere through a storm.

A friend of mine shared a very powerful verse with me recently from Proverbs: Though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again. (Pr 24:16)

There is a movie called Any Given Sunday starring Al Pacino as the head coach of a once-great professional (American) football team that is struggling with low morale and internal dissension. In the locker room right before a playoff game, the coach pours out his heart in one of my favorite inspirational speeches in a movie.

The transcript of the pre-game pep talk is below:

I don’t know what to say really.

Three minutes to the biggest battle of our professional lives

all comes down to today.

 

Now, either we heal as a team,

or we’re gonna crumble.

 

Inch by inch, play by play, ’til we’re finished.

 

We’re in hell right now, gentlemen. Believe me.

 

And, we can stay here and get the **** kicked out of us,

Or we can fight our way back into the light.

 

We can climb out of hell. One inch at a time.

 

Now, I can’t do it for you. I’m too old.

 

I look around. I see these young faces and I think:

I made every wrong choice a middle-aged man can make.

 

I ****** away all my money, believe it or not.

I chased off anyone who’s ever loved me.

And lately, I can’t even stand the face I see in the mirror.

 

You know, when you get old in life, things get taken from you.

That’s part of life.

But, you only learn that when you start losing stuff.

 

You find out life is this game of inches. So is football.

Because in either game, life or football,

the margin for error is so small.

 

I mean, one half step too late or too early,

and you don’t quite make it.

One half second too slow, too fast,

you don’t quite catch it.

 

The inches we need are everywhere around us.

They’re in every break of the game.

Every minute, every second.

 

On this team, we fight for that inch.

On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch.

We claw with our fingernails for that inch!

 

Because we know, when we add up all those inches,

that’s gonna make the ******* difference between winning and losing!

 

Between living and dying!

 

I’ll tell you this: In any fight,

it’s the guy who’s willing to die

who’s gonna win that inch.

 

And I know, if I’m gonna have any life anymore,

it’s because I’m still willing to fight and die for that inch

because that’s what living is!

The six inches in front of your face.

 

Now, I can’t make you do it.

You gotta look at the guy next to you.

Look into his eyes!

 

Now, I think you’re gonna see a guy who will go that inch with you.

You’re gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team

because he knows when it comes down to it,

you’re gonna do the same for him.

 

That’s a team, gentlemen.

 

And, either we heal – now – as a team,

or we will die as individuals.

 

That’s football, guys.

That’s all it is.

 

Now, what are you gonna do?

Here is the video clip of the speech (Warning: Some strong language):

~t


The Flea Market

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“So, let me get this straight,” the bearded old man said, adjusting his round spectacles and placing his palms on the cheap folding table that separated him from the customer. “You want to donate this gorgeous hunk of jewelry? And you don’t want any money if it sells? Well, I can guarantee that it’ll get snatched up as soon as I put it out with the other things.”

The customer, a tall, average-built 30-something, merely nodded. He wanted to explain everything to the old man, but it would have been too embarrassing to start bawling right there in the middle of all the bargain hunters.

The flea market volunteer hesitated and then slowly took the glistening ring from the young man’s outstretched palm. The customer sighed heavily as the small platinum band with the large inset diamond left his possession once and for all. Thoughts and memories flooded the young man’s mind: placing the ring on his new bride’s finger during the ceremony; the bouquets of Oriental lilies filling the chapel with their sweet, pleasing scent; Jennifer whispering “I love you” as they walked down the aisle toward the doors, anxious to begin their new stage of life together; and embracing his little boys every chance he got because they meant everything to him.

“Mister, you can probably get a few hundred for it at a pawn shop. You sure about leaving it here?”

Jim fought back tears. “It’s OK,” he said, waving his hand, barely able to choke out the words.

“Well, all right. That’s mighty kind of you. This’ll make someone’s day, that’s for sure,” the old man said, taking in Jim’s chiseled features. This poor guy is a wreck, he thought.

Turning back to the surplus items in boxes behind the sales tables, the old man didn’t hear Jim’s whispers: “Bye Tyler. Bye Garret. Love you, my buddies.” Jim sniffed and swiped at his nose. “Bye Jennifer.” With that, Jim turned around and weaved through various tables full of clothing and knick-knacks.

Looking back to see that Jim was out of sight, the old man turned to his wife, a round, cheerful lady. “Now, why would he do such a thing? I don’t get it.”

His wife smiled, the crow’s feet accentuating her squinted eyes. “Don’t worry about it, hon. Maybe you’re not supposed to ‘get it.’ Ever think of that? Go ahead and put it over in the ring display.”

The old man examined the exquisite platinum surface. A few scratches, but surely it wasn’t more than a decade old. Could have been a divorce. Then why didn’t he give me his ring as well? The old man became enveloped in his own thoughts. Everyone told him he dwelt on things too much; that it was a weakness of his. 

Instead of placing the glistening treasure among the gaudy, rusted rings, the old man dropped it in his apron pocket instead. He wasn’t about to let just anyone have it for next to nothing.

#####

By Sunday afternoon, most of the decent stuff, if you could call it that, had been snatched up. The tables in the sprawling yard of the community center contained only junk: watches that didn’t work; old, ratty clothing that no one would even pay 25 cents for; baby dolls with missing limbs; and so on.

About a third of the tables had been folded up and removed, leaving room for the children to run around while their occupied mothers milled about.

The old man set the newspaper on the chair beside his table and shook his head. He breathed heavily.

“What’s wrong, dear?” His wife glanced down to the folded paper showing a portion of the obituaries. The prominent photo showed a handsome, smiling man still in the prime of his life.  “Didn’t I tell you to stop reading this section!”

The old man sighed. “That’s him. The guy who gave me his wife’s fancy wedding ring.” He shook his head again and wiped his eyes with a red handkerchief from his back pocket.

The woman picked up the paper. “James Michael Sherman.” She quickly scanned the few paragraphs under the photo and name. “Passed away Friday. Survived by his ex-wife Jennifer and two young sons.” She placed the paper on the table and covered her mouth, tears trickling down her face.

The old couple embraced, gently swaying back and forth.

“Um, excuse me.” The old couple let go of each other and looked behind them. A young guy dressed in a faded Polo shirt and shorts stood near the ring display. “Is this all that’s left?”

The old woman walked over to the man, forcing a smile. “I’m sorry, sir. They’ve been picked through all weekend,” she said, motioning toward the cheap remnants in the ring case.

The old man approached. “Looking for something in particular?”

The Polo guy smoothed his dark hair to the side. “Uh, I was hoping to find something for my fiancé. I don’t think she would go for these huge gaudy things, though.” He laughed.

“Have you tried the mall? Some of the jewelry places are having big sales, with the economy the way it is and all,” the old woman said.

The young guy laughed again, this time in embarrassment. “Speaking of the economy, I got laid off right after I proposed to her. Her folks are paying for the wedding, but I really wanted to give her something special. I guess that won’t be happening now,” he said, his eyes sinking to the ground.

“Wait here.” The old man turned and pretended to rummage through a box. Instead he pulled the platinum diamond ring from his apron pocket and turned back around. “Here it is! I knew it was in there somewhere.” He held up the shiny piece of craftsmanship.

“Whoa… How much do you want for it?” the young man exclaimed.

“Fifty dollars,” the old woman said softly.

“I’ll take it!”

After the Polo guy bought the ring and practically sprinted away, the old man reached for his wife’s hand and squeezed it. She squeezed back and put her head on his chest.

~t


Getting Routed in Battle

Credit: thequickbrownfox

Grief wants only sleep.

No more battling demons

unless you’re dream knight.

                                        —Sr. Helena Burns, FSP

I wanted to use Sister’s haiku as the epigraph to this post because it sums up everything that happened to me over this past weekend.

During my darkest moments on Saturday, it explained everything; that “Aha!” moment when everything fits into place like in the movie Monster when Charlize Theron’s character finally sees the big picture while talking on the pay phone in jail.

I received quite a number of encouraging messages on Twitter (Yes, I know they’re called tweets, but messages sounds better) this past weekend. No, it’s not because I’m so popular. It’s because I was a victim of an ambush.

As a soldier — all Christians are soldiers by the way — I found myself traveling along the battlefield called Earth without my sword and shield.

That’s pretty stupid, Topaz.

Yeah, you’re right. It was stupid. And careless.

Satan is the commander of the opposition forces, and they are legion. As you might recall from a previous post of mine, I believe that God has put it on my heart to start a recovery/accountability group at my parish that specifically deals with men who struggle with pornography.

Now, picture Al Capone’s crime syndicate in your mind. Well, if a small band of vigilantes were to try and expose a drug trafficking ring of theirs, um…

You can imagine the swift, deadly response. Those vigilantes had better be ready for a counterattack or else.

That was my situation this past weekend. As I stated, I have been (smugly) targeting Satan and his demons by attempting to create a program that would help men leave the bondage of a very destructive type of sin. Porn is such a lucrative moneymaker for the Dark One. My problem was, after announcing myself and my intentions to the enemy, like an idiot, I traveled around without my small band of warriors — heck, even without any weapons or defense.

I underestimated the enemy while overestimating my own faith and strength like a glory-seeker.

I was like, “Oh, look at me! Satan and his demons are gonna be running scared because I’m attacking his stronghold!”

The enemy is very intelligent and a master at guerrilla tactics.

I was driving along by myself this past Saturday when, from out of nowhere, I happened upon a certain temptation that hit me so hard, it was like getting struck with 50,000 volts from a Taser gun. My whole body went into shock, and I could no longer think straight. This all happened within an instant. I’m lucky that I didn’t have a car accident.

I won’t go into any more details, but it was akin to a recovering alcoholic who has been clean for several months and suddenly walks by a bar that is giving away free beer samples out front.

As you can imagine, the demons blindsided me, and I crumpled miserably. The rest of the day I was out of commission, ready to throw in the towel. Not just with the recovery group, but with the Church and my faith in general. I had fallen and couldn’t stand up. I was finished.

The next morning, instead of getting ready for 8:30 Mass, I was on the sofa, surfing the ‘net on my iPad. “Aren’t you going to church? You’ll be late,” my non-Catholic/non-Christian wife said.

“I’m not going today. It’s okay; no one will miss me.”

Do not underestimate petite Japanese women.

“You WILL go. Get. Up. Now.”

Maybe she knew that I needed some cheering up, or maybe she needed some time alone from my grumpiness. I didn’t ask, but I’d like to think that God was actually picking me up through her. God works in mysterious ways. We all know the cliché. He even works through individuals who don’t even believe in Him. Now that is amazing.

I didn’t want to be at Mass, but my Tiger Mother wife had forced me to go. I was miserable while I sneaked in during the Gospel reading and grabbed a seat in the very back. I remained in this emotional state until I uttered these words with the priest during Mass:

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.

The floodgates were opened, and I couldn’t stop from crying my eyes out. The rest of my day was transformed. God had heard my pleading and worked a miracle!

For lunch, our kids wanted to go to McDonald’s to get more Despicable Me 2 Happy Meal toys (even though they haven’t seen either of the movies yet). By chance, some friends of mine happened to be there as well: a fellow Knight of Columbus and his wife, a strong Catholic who happens to be from Asia. I have always wanted my wife to have some quality time with her, but with their schedules, it was always impossible.

Although a different nationality from my friend, my wife was excited to talk with someone who was actually from the same continent (Yes, Asia is vast and diverse, but in a place like Texas, my wife gets excited when she sees anyone who resembles an Asian).

They had a great chat about God and Chinese cuisine, and I was able to spend some time with a fellow parishioner and Knight. Our kids were more than pleased because, thanks to the nice cashier, they ended up getting two Happy Meal toys each instead of one.

By the end of last summer, I was thankful to be alive. By the end of this past weekend, I was thankful to be standing on my own two feet, clad in shiny new armor of God that I truly didn’t deserve.

So:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Yeah, especially if you’re lobbing Molotov cocktails into his command center.

~t