Monday, December 26, 2011

Dark Well of Despair - Light of Hope

Credit: Free images from
Christmas morning I was helping my church teach the children, from Pre-K to 5th grade, at their "Birthday Party" for Jesus, our Christmas Sunday School class.

My wife and I were doing the pre-class games and the "fun" physical games after the music and teaching.   I love teaching, and do it without any issues, in spite of my brain injury.  Naturally, I have issues both before and after teaching, as is the way with people who have a TBI, but while I am teaching, I am just following my calling and changing lives.

Afterwards, my wife and daughter were socializing, as is their want, and I went to where there were very few people, and was reading a book on my Kindle App on my phone.  I went to where people were missing for a few reasons, the two most important being that I get ill socializing, from fear and other awesome mental fun, and second, reading requires pretty massive focus for me to do, once I was the happy owner of a TBI.

Anyway, while I was sitting in the stuffed chair, waiting for my wife, after the kids service, one of my former students at Sunday School walked out the building.   She is now a teenager, and at least 2 or 3 years removed from my class.  She is one of the very few who I actually remember the name of, because when she was in my class, her faith was challenged in a large way when her elder sister went to war in the middle east.  We bonded.  She was also one of the students who is physical, in that she liked to punch, push etc.  Cool with me, but unique, so I remember her.

Right after she walked out, a women that I knew I should have known walked in, right up to me and stopped.  I guessed she was the mother of the teen who just left, and said, "She has grown up."  The women just looked at me, and I began to think I guessed wrong, and really wanted to escape.  When you have TBI, reaching out to people is hard, because at the same time you are wondering if you really know who they are, you also assume they are judging you.  I stuck my neck out, and it felt like I had just blown it.

Then she said, "Have you heard about my Accident?"  

That had an echo of reality in it, in that I thought I might have heard about her accident, though I did not know what happened, why I should know, who she was, or who told me about it.  So I said, "No."

As it turned out, she also had TBI.  Many people do, but we all pretty much stay away from everyone, hide within our lives, and hope that it will all go away before someone asks us to do something we have forgotten how to do.  When someone who has TBI tells you they have TBI, and there is some reason to trust them, as there was in this case, she being the mother of one of my former students at church school, you get to relax.  Not much, but a little.  They generally are not judgmental.  

Somehow we got talking about a vision she had that described her desperation as a result of the injury.  I have never heard anything or read anything that described so well how I fell about my life with TBI.

PIT OF DESPAIR  - Hanging on but knowing you are going to lose.

Pit of Despair
The first part of the vision of her brain injury I tagged in my memory as "Pit of Despair."  She saw herself at stuck in a dark well, hanging on to a ladder with all her might, pretty sure there was no way out.  You look up, and all you see is darkness, not light, no way to the top.  Your arms are losing strength, and fear you will be forced to let go.  When you look down, you notice that there is a body at the bottom of the well.  That would be bad enough, as a reminder that you to are going to die, pretty soon, and lose everything.  Yet, just as that feeling of despair is about to take over your life, you notice that the body at the bottom of the pit is, in fact, yours. 

At this point, I noticed I was dizzy, and holding my breath.  This is exactly I how feel most of the time, when I am not teaching karate or church school. My whole life feels like I am holding on with the failing strength of my fingers, and the only certain thing is that I am cold, in the dark, and that help not only will not arrive, but does not even know I am stuck.  

But what about the body?  She told me that she assumed the body was who she used to be, before the brain injury took it all away.  Personally, I have let go of who I was.  Not because I have Superior Intelligence and strength of will, but much more simply, I can not longer remember who I was.  One of the advantages of have TBI  is long term memory loss. There is only one person left alive who remembers who I was before I was injured is my wife, Anne.  Everyone else was either too young, or met me after the injury.  

Yet, there was still some points in common between her life and mine, that surfaced when we discussed the body at the bottom of the well.  Before I was injured, I had never run into a problem that I could not solve personally.  I was smart enough, fast enough, and wise enough to tackle any problem and succeed.  I was so good, I really did not understand why everyone else was so stupid.  She, the women I was talking to, described it as arrogance, and in reflection, she hit the nail on the head.  The only part of my former life I can still taste, is the absolute arrogance I lived my life with.  So in that respect, my old self was also at the bottom of the well.  I can no longer solve every problem I see.  In fact, it is more likely that I can solve NO problem I have on my own.  I have become dependant on my wife, on students or fellow teachers for my validation.  I am secure that God Loves me, but knowing that I am being of service to the world in his name requires that I am told by someone I am making a difference.  I have NO ability or arrogance left.  I only have fear.

So here I am, standing in my church, talking to a women who I am supposed to know, but am unsure that I do know, listening to a description of her life that is exactly what I fell about my own.  I began to lose it. 

Light of Hope  - Holy Spirit to the Rescue

Light of Hope
So here I am, standing in my church, shaking in my knees, seeing 20 plus years of my life described by a women I don't know, but I should, and then she gives me some hope, and some envy.

She went on with her vision.  Just as she is about to let go of the ladder, because it is too hard to keep holding on, light beams start breaking down the bricks that make the well up.  The darkness begins to go away.  Light pokes from one side to the other, high and low.

She tells me that she sees this as the Holy Spirit breaking into her life.  I really want to see this part of the vision.  I only see the Holy Spirit acting in my life when I look back at what I have just lived through.  I have never felt the hand of God in such a strong way as in this vision.  Yet, there is more than hope here.  She has the same injury, she has lost the same things I have lost.  She is loved by the same God I am loved by.  I told her then that the verse that keeps me from ending my life, the light, if you will, that is in my dark well, is "And we know that for those who love God all thingwork together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." - Romans 8:28 (ESV)  That is my light. That is my hope.  She just gave me a physical picture of what that looks like.  I was called to teach, and I have come to teach, for I do love the Lord, and I show this by loving his people.  So, in a sense, I have the beams of light in my dark well of despair as well.

Water of Hope

Learning to Trust in the Lord
Her vision did not stop there, however.  She then told me that she now felt that the well was being filled with water.  Even though the darkness had been pierced by the Light of the Holy Spirit, she, and I, were still holding on to the ladder, and still losing in our despirate fight to not let go.  And her arms were failing.  Just as she was about to give up, God began to fill the well with water, so that when her fingers lost their grip, she was already floating in the water that God had put there to catch her.

This part scares me.  I know he is there, and that he will catch me, but I still want to hold on.  I still do not want to relax, and let him do it.  I have so little control over my life, so few choices I can make for myself, that letting go, and letting God keep me afloat still feels like running away.  So, I am still holding on with all my strength; my fingers are still cramping, and I still don't see that water coming up to catch me.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” — Matthew 14: 23 - 33


There is more though.  Yes, her vision rocked me to the core of my being, but she also supplied me with some living water.  The bible tells us that we each have gifts, and one is highlighted in Acts 2:17 "“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;"  This women I had just met, calling what I had done surviving, when I call it being a burden, describing my emotions exactly, and putting God into my life in a way I would have never been able to do, saw visions, making God tangible to me.

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”


  1. Oh Dear sweet Paul, That woman WAS her mother, the young girl you where talking about. I went into the 24-7 building to get Sarah and I saw you. Something told me to stop and share how I felt with you. I too was scared. I didn't know how to start, I just knew I had to. So I stood there for a moment and started with a question."do you know what happened to me." It was good that you said no,because then I had to explain my self to you. You see, I know the holy spirit has worked in my life and still is. It wasn't till my accident that I realized he works through other Christians in the body of Christ, or as its described through the body of Christ. We who are part of this church family are part of the bigger Body of Christ and through that body the Holy Spirit can move and heal, and even relate to us. He can use members to meet or needs and deepest desires of our heart's . He is so good that way. That's why Jesus said that when he left we would be better off because he was leaving us with the Holy spirit... Jesus could only be in one place physically but the Holy spirit is every where acting for the good of all. I was stopped to speak to you because I was prompted through the Spirit. I touched you so, because it was meant to. That was Gods plan for you. You see he heard you and answered. Praise our wonderful and awesome God . You also, through your words above, have touched me and brought to life what I have been going through so I could share it with my friends and loved ones. Some times the most frustrating thing is, not, not being able to do things . Its people not understanding. So thank you for being obedient and listening to the prompts of the Holy spirit even if it did come through others because He also has used you for me.
    God Bless
    your sister in Christ Lisa Sheehan

  2. Lisa ... I have never felt such a prompt, though I am sure I have been called. I feel as though I have been cut lose in the wind, to flap around until I come undone, then every once in a while, someone steps up with a message. You did. Thank you.

  3. if you are interested in how faith works in my life, then read: