I stared from darkness into darkness as I sat on the edge of a bunk bed that memorable summer night. The silence was enough to make me restless, uneasy, scared. I remember thinking to myself how I had never felt so alone. Three weeks earlier, I had walked across the stage to receive my high school diploma and was preparing to go on vacation to see family, little suspecting the moment I now found myself in.
Why? I muttered...
My morning had started out relatively normal. My dad had been feeling under the weather for a couple of days but nothing we hadn't seen before. He blamed his symptoms on a construction accident twenty years prior, and his reason seemed plausible. But, in the blink of an eye, it all changed. One trip to the chiropractor to "put ribs back in place" altered the rest of our lives. One moment, my mom and I were off shopping for vacation clothes; the next, we were receiving a phone call from the chiropractor's assistant which said, "Come immediately, and take him [my dad] to the emergency room, or I'm calling an ambulance!" Next had followed a harrowing drive across the city, cell phone ready to dial 9-1-1 if needed, and a hurried rush into the ER. None of us were prepared for what we'd hear next: a diagnosis that shook us to the core - my dad's life hung in the balance as a result and, if we'd waited any longer to bring him in, it would've been too late to save him. I couldn't get over the thought: my dad could die!
Now, as he lay fighting for his life in a hospital room about twenty miles away, I sat in a darkened bedroom of some dear friends with whom I was spending the night. I was about to go crazy. I got up and walked around the room. Then I sat down again. No one to talk to, no book to get immersed in...save a little book of patriotic quotations which I was using to write a paper. I set the book down. No inspiration for a moment like this, I thought. The darkness seemed to be holding me down, and I couldn't get free.
Life wasn't always this way. Born into a conservative, Christian family, I had been raised in a fairly stable world - most things in my life were constants. I can't say nothing changed, but the changes were relatively small. My dad went to the same job he'd had for the past twenty-five years; my mom was a homemaker, faithfully serving our family while she also kept me honest in my schooling. Since I was educated at home, our days were full of interesting life and educational opportunities. Living in beautiful Alaska, it really was the good life. And yet, even with the comfort of such a predictable and stable childhood, something inside of me began to feel like all of this somehow wasn't enough. There was an inner darkness that slowly crept into me, bringing with it shadows of fear, insecurity, doubt, and mistrust. And, while the seemingly perfect life of my surroundings brought me much pleasure, there arose an increasing sense within that the person I was or wanted to be wasn't the person others perceived me to be. Now here, on this night, the darkness I sensed pressing down on me from without collided with the darkness within - and I was caught in-between. All I wanted to do was run away - to hide - to get as far away from these shadows as possible. But I couldn't.
I thought of my friends...sleeping peacefully in their beds down the hall from me, and I thought of me - restless, anxious, and unable to find the peace I so desperately wanted. What little sleep I had gotten to that point had been so cruelly interrupted by my racing mind...my thoughts betrayed me:
No, God! This has to only be a bad dream! I spoke the words out loud...No, God! You can't be doing this to us! We were supposed to go on vacation! This was meant to be a time of celebrating my graduation! Why did you let this happen?!
As I sat on the edge of the bed, one word kept slipping from my lips and piercing the seemingly impenetrable darkness in which God seemed so distant: No. What I didn't understand in that moment but would discover in due time was that one word summed up more than just my disillusionment in that one present moment - it summed up a life message: that of saying No to life, No to grace, No to God.
The next morning, I would leave my friends' house and head to the hospital where I would find my father, lying still and helpless in a sea of IVs and wires, barely holding on to a thread of life. As I walked around the corner and into his room, the same darkness which had surrounded me the night before came flooding over me yet again. At that moment, any dreams of hope and a fulfilling life seemed to evaporate. All I could feel was the impending sense of loss...as if my world was being ripped apart at the seems. As I stood there and stared at his seemingly lifeless body, I was gripped by fear and a strange sense that I could not control my circumstances. Until that moment, I had always found ways to escape or run away from the bruising blows of life, but now I was trapped - I couldn't go anyway. I wrested with my reality:
Why, God? Why? I muttered again as tears ran down my face...What kind of love is this? Life wasn't meant to be this way!
Anger clashed with hidden compassion. An all-out war of the soul had broken out...a war that would determine the course of my life forever...that I was right about: my life was about to drastically change.
To be continued tomorrow...