This is the story about the grace of God, Jesus Christ, and His healing of me. Before I was ten years old I was traumatized by three men or groups of men who were unrelated and had no knowledge of each other's presence in my life. Those traumatic events precipitated my suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. For thirty-eight years my symptoms included flashback hallucinations, general hallucinations, depression, suicide attempts, panic attacks, phobias, nightmares, addictions, self-cutting, an eating disorder, a sleep disorder, an inability to keep track of time, and failed relationships including a failed marriage.
Then Jesus Christ, the living God, unexpectedly healed me on November 10th, 2008. Since then I have not needed therapy nor medications. I have not needed them because I am symptom free: I have been healed.
There is always hope. Call on Him. Do not give up.
I grew up in the USA, in northern Ohio, on the farm my uncle's grandfather built. Starting as a toddler, every year I scattered seed. Some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop that multiplied.1
My job was not to grow the seed, that was God's job. My job was to plant seed; a lot of seed. Every fall the spent plants were plucked, piled up and burnt, or buried under to become fertilizer for the next year's crop.
Peaking between bales of stacked hay, I've spent hours on my belly watching kittens being born. They're blind at birth, and for about two weeks more, then their eyelids open. I've seen calves born mid-winter; while their mothers are standing, they fall out of the warm, wet wombs onto their heads into the snow. I've seen horses being born and struggling to get on their feet, while their hind legs were still in the birth canal. I've seen robin eggs hatch - the first thing a newborn does is open its beak, and then the mother flies away...
It's a miracle any of us survive our births, and then continue to grow. I learned early on in life that we are completely dependent on a greater being for our survival. And if that greater being can't get the job done, then we die. I love God's creation.2
Nothing bad ever happened to me out there. Out there I learned to scale trees whose closest branch may have been ten feet off the ground, to climb straight up hills using only tree roots for steps, to hide my footprints by passing through creeks, and to plummet myself headfirst over the sides of ravines and then ricochet off of trees with my body and arms to break the fall. You see, I had no choice but to learn these things. I was running for my life.
Years later, when I was ten years old, a teacher yelled at me for being in the hallway after the bell rang. It was a new school for me, and I couldn't remember which room I was to go to next. It was a small matter, and the teacher pointed me to the right room.
But the fuse had been ignited by her yelling, and produced in me the emotion of stark terror; the kind of terror a child may experience while running for her life. Except by then my brain had already dissected all those earlier memories into teeny, tiny pieces and buried them alive in my subconscious mind. Seeming to have no memory of ever running for my life, the terror that was triggered by the teacher yelling at me felt alarmingly disproportionate and out of context. To compound the problem, being only ten, no one had thought to teach me ways to identify that emotion, or words to describe it - after all, why would they?
That feeling of terror was my first flashback to those traumatic events that had occurred earlier in my childhood; that is, it was my first hallucinatory step back in time. It exploded into a mental illness I was much later to be informed was called, "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder."
I told my grandma, once, that my memory seemed blurry, and that sometimes I'd get really scared and I didn't know why. She told me that we only remember what we need to remember, and that sometimes she feels afraid, too.
When I was nine years old my aunt and uncle bought me my very first pony, Midget. She was forty inches tall, and I had to stand on a cinder block to see over her back. Nevertheless, when I could get her to go at all, she could gallop farther and faster than I could. On Midget I could further my boundaries and explore new, safe places where I could run to and hide.
After riding Midget for only a couple of years I was able to tell my friends that there was about a fifteen square mile area that I could be air-dropped into, even in the pitch of night, and upon landing I would know where I was and survive just fine. Among other things, library books taught me what wild plants were safe to eat, how to catch fish with my bare hands, build a shelter out of tree branches, and start a fire using a piece of flint and a dry stick.
By the time I was twelve years old, I was proud of my self-reliance, and ability to camouflage and hide myself.
When I was in the seventh grade, my parents, noting my desire to be outside and wanting to support my passion for God's creation, gave me my very own Catholic Bible for Christmas. I believed my Bible was God-breathed and useful for teaching me about God.3
And I knew I was safe in God's rhythmic and vast creation. It was because of human hands that my life had turned into chaos. I was twelve years old and I could not keep track of the date or time. Every day I was experiencing multisensory, hallucinatory flashbacks, panic attacks and serial nightmares; and not one human being was aware.
Deep down I knew I was not one of the lucky ones. I realized, instead, I was like the kitten whose eyes never opened, or the calf that was left to freeze in the snow, or the foal who never got free, or the baby bird whose mother never flew back. I couldn't tell which it was that was killing me, but I was one of the dying ones, and I knew it.
So I took that Bible and read it with a flashlight, cover to cover, under my blanket at night. I read it as fast as I could. I was afraid someone would take it from me, or that I'd have to run and leave it behind. The Word of God said to me;
Susan, if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.4
After reading the final, "Amen," I closed my Bible and prayed; and by the grace of God, Jesus Christ saved my life. And the Holy Spirit of Jesus, who fights for my life5 with everything he's got,6
came into my body and got sealed up in there.7 I was set.
Susan, it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourself, it is the gift of God - not by works, so you cannot boast.8
I knew that God had made me, so therefore He could fix me. But I never asked Him to heal me from what was killing me. I just wanted to be normal. I would read more books and figure it out. If I lived long enough I would someday fix it myself.
Susan, I know your heart.9 You have set up idols in your heart and put wicked stumbling blocks before your face. Should I let you inquire of me at all? I will answer you in keeping with your great idolatry.10
When I was twelve, parents started to call me to come and calm their unruly ponies. To do this, I would 'ride the bucks out of them'; that is, I would form my fist and hold on tight until that pony gave up on trying to buck me off. Then I'd make the pony work really hard at something it didn't like to do. When the pony became willing to work, I would dismount. Then the pony's timid child would get on, and the pony would be grateful and submit to the child. It worked every time.
When I was sixteen I bought a horse trailer with a friend and began buying, selling, and training horses.
When I was eighteen I started working at a breeding and training farm. I helped take care of the young horses. When it was time, I was assigned my first horse to teach to wear a saddle and bridle, and then carry a rider. One day Sally, the barn manager, told Sandy, the other rider, and me that we would go for our horses' first gallop that day. We prepared accordingly, and with final checks of our safety gear, we got on.
The makeshift track on the farm encircled one-hundred acres of pasture. I was instructed that my horse would be pinned into a spot behind Sandy's horse along the pasture fence, by Sally's horse next to me on the outside; that Sandy would set a comfortable speed, and my job was to make sure my horse stayed in his spot. I nodded understanding, and we were off.
The g-force of the takeoff knocked the breath out of me. My helmet, once securely on top of my head, now covered the back of it. My eyes immediately filled with tears and I could barely focus. I was staring at the pasture fence whose posts flew by as dots. I had never galloped so fast in my life.
About one-third of the way around the field I became aware of Sally's eyes being right next to mine, and intently watching me. When she realized I had become aware of her presence, she commanded me to breathe. Once breathing again, I began looking around. She reached over with her hand and gently relaxed one of my fists, and I relaxed the other one. She pushed the helmet back on top of my head, and with one of her hands, and one of mine, we tightened the strap.
Once back at the barn I sadly waited. She asked me about my quietness, and I told her I expected to be fired because I had frozen up. They laughed and said that freezing up is a normal reaction, and that they had each responded that way on their first times.
Thus began a thirty year love affair with the Thoroughbred race horse.
After taking an overdose of pills, I started seeing a psychiatrist when I was seventeen. I was hospitalized, and while I was there I broke a glass tumbler and cut my wrist with its sharp edges. I had had enough. But, finally, I had someone to tell my secret; the secret that I was one of the dying ones. I told him what I knew about what was killing me; the serial nightmares, panic attacks, tricks my senses would sometimes play on me, and that I couldn't always tell if what I perceived was real or not.
He didn't know quite what to make of it all, back then doctors didn't, but treated my symptoms with antipsychotic, antidepressant, and tranquilizer medications. The tranquilizer gave me some relief from the panic attacks, but I had to take an increasingly higher dose over time to obtain the same level of relief. I was over sedated from the amount of medication I had to take to have any effect on my symptoms, but less medication had no effect at all.
Susan, arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord
rises upon you.11
By bringing them out with conversation, the tiny bits of memories my senses would inappropriately emit, began building themselves into larger memories that I could recognize and call my own. But the memories were painful, and made me feel powerless. This left me despondent and bedridden at times.
Susan, rejoice with the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.12
For safety reasons, it was important to distinguish when those fragmented memories had actually occurred; had they occurred years ago, or just last night? My psychiatrist couldn't tell, either. It became evident to us both that the only way to ever tell would be for me to move away from there. To discern my present level of safety was a desperate felt need.
In order to better guarantee being able to pay my living expenses after moving, I wanted to be able to be employed at a job easier to obtain than riding horses. I liked taking care of God's creatures. My sister had gone to school and had become a people nurse, and it seemed like she turned out ok. So, when I was twenty-two years old I applied to a hospital-based nursing program to become a Registered Nurse.
My dad worked at that hospital and knew the head of the nursing school, and some of the instructors. My sister had graduated from that particular program, as well. And that was the hospital in which I had been hospitalized five years earlier, and some of the instructors had taken care of me. All of those things were discussed during my admission interview with the head of the school. She told me that I may find completing the nursing program to be the hardest thing I'd ever live through.
I realized that my psychiatrist, not knowing what else to call it, had diagnosed me with 'psychotic depression'. This meant that the head of the school probably did not know about the untimed and fragmented memories of my chaotic childhood. Therefore, she had no idea that there was nothing left in life that could be more difficult for me to live through. For the first time since I was ten, I felt a drop of hope that I would succeed in my plan to get away from Ohio, forever.
Susan, faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible.13 Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.14
One year before graduating, I read that the tranquilizer I had been taking, though initially thought to be non-addictive, was now considered to be five times more addictive than valium. The new recommendation was to prescribe it for short-term use only, or not to prescribe it at all. I had already been taking it for five years in increasingly higher dosages, and abusing it on top of that.
At the same time, I was preoccupied with studying for final exams and completely forgot to take it one day. I woke up that night terrified at seeing a skeleton standing over my bed, watching me breathe. I pretended I was asleep, and listened to him walk to the ceiling light and swing from it on a squeaky, wooden swing.
My doctor insisted that the medication was not addictive. I wanted to be able to model health to my patients, so I asked my pharmacist to help me stop taking the tranquilizer. It took the whole last year of school to accomplish that goal without missing any classes. As one of the drug withdrawal symptoms, hallucinatory skeletons were my constant companions. It would not be unusual to be driving and to see one sitting in the back seat happily looking out the window, or running alongside my car waving, "hello!" Although startling, I learned that those kinds of skeletons were harmless.
The morning after graduation I got away. I moved north to another state. One month before my twenty-fifth birthday, I began working in an emergency psychiatry room. It was part of a Level 1 trauma center in a horrifically impoverished and crime ridden area of that city. I began working there only seventeen years after the racial riots, and I had never been exposed to racism.
I usually worked with two black orderlies and one black aide. They were afraid my white skin would incite a riot in their twenty-four stretcher room. They saw me as a liability, and they loathed me. For a year they told me to stay behind the desk where I couldn't be seen. They told me to come out only to quickly do my job -give medications, draw blood, dress wounds- and then go back behind the desk.
But during that year they saw that I could think on my feet, and that I was amazingly strong for my size from years of training horses and working on farms. They started to call me out from behind the desk to help them restrain patients who were violent.
They began to cherish me, and worry about my safety. They invited me to their homes for picnics, and to meet their families. One lovingly gave me a kitten. They cherished me so much that they wanted to save my life, so they taught me to fight. In this I learned an invaluable lesson. I learned that at some point, once one has ingested and inhaled enough dirt, one begins to fight back.
Susan, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is
There was a short respite from mental illness when I moved away. But then I started receiving phone calls from a man obviously stalking me. The panic was the first symptom to come back. I figured out who the man was and surprised him by gently confronting him in public, and I never heard from him again. But the trigger had been pulled, and the bullet that continued my nightmare had been shot. As a response to my flashbacks, and the corresponding difficulty discerning past from present and determining whether or not I was in current danger, I had put bars on my windows and changed the locks on the doors.
During that time, I started school to finish my bachelor's degree. I met a man there, an English professor, and began an affair with him that lasted seven years. After a couple of years of knowing him he informed me he had accepted a better job in another state, and his wife and he were moving there. In an attempt to get away from my flashbacks, I moved to that state two weeks before he did. We laughed when I told him he had followed me there.
Susan, do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.16
I liked my new city. It was big and bustling and on the Chesapeake bay. I rented a second floor apartment next to the water, and liked to watch the fishing boats come in and out of port.
Susan, come, follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men.17
I was thirty years old, so I had a routine physical. The doctor called me a few days later and asked me to come to his office that day. My liver enzymes were elevated. He was concerned I had liver cancer.
While I was on my back on his table, he pushed around on my belly, and asked a bunch of questions. He knew I ate healthy foods and rode a lot of horses, but he asked me anyway, "You don't drink alcohol, do you?"
I didn't think I did, but I thought about it, and then realized I did, so I said, "Yes."
He looked alarmed and asked another question, "Well, when was your last drink?"
I thought about it again, and persevered through the difficulty of discerning past from present, and put the hours in order, "This morning."
He stopped pushing on my belly, "Well, what did you drink?"
I remembered the last glass I had, then struggled to go backwards in time to see when the first one was, "A bottle of wine."
He was the first to speak, "Susan, you're an alcoholic. You can't drink anymore. You're going to need help with this." He sat down and began to make phone calls to find practitioners to help me.
I continued to lay there and stare at the ceiling. Scenes from my early life drifted past my mind's eye in slow motion. No way was I going to be a victim of all of that again; not now, as a free adult. I had a choice. But when I began adding up how much I drank every day, I became alarmed that I may go into a deadly form of alcohol withdrawal if I suddenly stopped drinking. I came up with a plan to wean myself off, like I had done with the tranquilizer. Only this time, because of the elevated liver enzymes, it was a thirty day plan.
I didn't tell the doctor this, either, but as I laid there and thought about it, I realized I had been drinking heavily like that the whole time I had been abusing the tranquilizer. For the first time in my life I turned my head and looked straight into the eyes of Jesus Christ: Why would he save me?
There was a big race track in town. Trainers got to know me and would call me to come take horses off their hands. Most of the horses were just too slow to race. Sometimes a trainer would tell me a horse was too stupid, too smart, too willful, or too whatever else that made that trainer not want that horse anymore. Usually, if someone like me did not come and get that horse, the horse would be shipped to a meat processing plant and killed there. So, I always dropped everything that I was doing and went and got that horse, and therefore saved its life.
To me, each horse was a gift from God. I eagerly got to know them, and studied their habits and personalities. I took careful care of them. Sometimes they had wounds or injuries, and I took care of those, too. I trained them for another line of work, like jumping or trail riding, and then found them new homes. In this way, I gave them each a new life.
One time, a horse was discovered having been apparently abandoned in a stall. No one could account for the horse, so the caring trainer who found her had me to come right away. It was dark, and the malnourished horse could barely stand, but the trainer helped me get her into my trailer.
Once she got in the trailer she laid down. When I got her home she was too weak from the trip to get back up. I offered her water from a cereal bowl. I soaked her seeds in carrot and apple juice to soften them, and then added some molasses. In case she was ill, the juices would help her immune system, and the molasses would give her additional calories and entice her to eat.
She could only hold her head up if she rested her chin on the floor. So, with all my strength, I held her head up enough to squeeze my hand full of mash under her lips, where she could nibble and lick it up. I fed her alfalfa hay a little at a time. I stayed with her all night in the trailer.
The next day she was able to make it into a stall, but once she laid down, she didn't get up again for two weeks.
I treated her like a human patient. I kept track of how much she ate, drank, peed and pooped. With the help of a horse trainer friend, we turned her to her other side every four hours around the clock to prevent pressure sores and pneumonia. Once she understood the routine, she would lay herself flat and try to help us by lifting her legs. But being turned exhausted her, so we did it as quietly and quickly as we could, then left her to rest. I wanted to brush her, and untangle her mane and tail, but even the simplest of hands-on care weakened her, so I had to let her be.
At about the two week mark she saw me coming, and waited. Once she had established firm eye contact with me, she slowly rose to her feet, and then gave a soft nickering sound of affection.
I had a friend for life.
Susan, you love because I first loved you.18 Loved is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.19 God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete in you so that you will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world you are like Him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.20 Which is the greatest commandment in the Law? 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind'; this is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'21
For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.22 There is no condemnation for those who are in me, Christ Jesus, because through me the law of the Spirit of life sets you free from the law of sin and death.23
I really liked my new nursing job, but it required me to work all the different shifts in each two week period. That didn't seem to bother the other nurses, but with my difficulty sleeping, and keeping track of time, that schedule didn't work for me.
My doctor sent me to have a sleep study done. The data from the study showed that while I was eating dinner, watching T.V., and having a conversation with a sleep technician, my recorded brain waves showed me to be in dream sleep.
I changed my job, and started to see a psychologist to help me re-establish a sleep-wake cycle. We met weekly to go over my sleep log, and to refine my sleep hygiene habits. At the end of six months a sleep-wake cycle had been re-established. The therapist was ready to discharge me if there was nothing else I wanted to work on.
The next week I told the therapist what I knew about the thing that was killing me; the panic attacks, multisensory flashbacks, difficulty discerning past from present, and nightmares. He was incredulous, and asked me why I had not informed him of all of that six months earlier, when we had started working together. I told him that I hadn't said anything earlier, because I could not tell if I could trust him or not. He asked for clarification, "It took you six months to decide that you could trust me?"
And I explained, "No. I still don't know."
Susan, trust in me with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge me, and I will make your paths straight.24
As we worked together, the tiny bits of memories continued to fall into bigger pictures. The effect of seeing the bigger pictures overwhelmed my poor ability to discern past from present. Therefore, it seemed as though I was actually in danger while living in that city. The therapist made some phone calls and had me speak to an official. In exchange for me telling him my memories, the official arranged to have me be moved to another state and be given a new name and social security number.
A week before these changes were to take place, I came into my therapist's office and sat down on the edge of my chair. He asked me how I was doing, and I flatly replied, "I hate men."
He flatly asked, "Excuse me?" I thought he hadn't heard me, so I loudly repeated, "I hate men!"
He asked me what had changed since the last appointment, so I told him, "I'm not going." When he didn't say anything I thought he hadn't heard me, so I yelled, "I'm not going!"
After hesitating, he said, "You sound angry." Then my mountain blew away.
Yelling in staccato I explained, "I'm not going! I've done nothing wrong! I like it here! Why should I move again? All my life, I've done nothing wrong. I hate men. I loathe them. I will kill them all. You know what my favorite thought is? I'll tell you what my favorite thought is. I think about it all the time. It's buying a big machine gun and leveling the entire earth. Every building. Every person. Every tree, rock, and mountain. I will destroy it all."
I paused, panting and staring at him. In some situations that occurred when I was growing up, I was not allowed to express anger. Sitting in my therapist's office, I now felt ashamed of myself for expressing my anger. The feeling of shame triggered a flashback to an awareness of being dirty, disheveled and confused; and I started to cry. In some other situations growing up, I wasn't allowed to cry. I thought the male therapist might punish me for crying, and I felt afraid. The feeling of fear triggered a flashback; and at once I was in a woods and running for my life, and I became panic stricken, "You know what I'm afraid of? I'll tell you what I'm afraid of..." I stopped to squeeze the fear out of my voice. In some other places growing up, deferring to fear could have had lethal consequences. Sitting there perceiving myself to be in immediate mortal danger, a flashback of the feeling of terror was triggered. I clutched the chair arms while I could still sense where I was, determined not to run out of the room. The staccato was starting again, only this time I was sobbing as well, "I'll tell you what I'm afraid of. I know. I'll look around. For as far as I can see, nothing but mud and water. And silence. Think about it. Horizon to horizon, mud and silence. And I'll look around and I'll know. It won't be enough. I'll still have more bullets!"
I sat there panting and shaking, and thinking through what I had just said. A very gentle voice in the back of my mind pointed out to me that by leveling the entire earth I had just annihilated all of my reasons for, and solutions to, my continuing insanity: I had leveled every perpetrator, and every place where I had ever been a victim. There were no longer any books, therapists, men, medications, or alcohol to take advantage of, or be taken advantage by. It didn't matter anymore, which way it was, or who was to blame. It was all gone. And yet I was still sitting there, seething.
With my mountain blown away, what was exposed that had been hiding beneath it, was a giant, hissing hole in my heart. And it was still swirling with red-hot rage and loathing, and waiting to erupt again. After all, I still had more bullets, and only one thing left to destroy -the thing that was killing me.
Staring into the eye at the center of that hole, I knew that no matter how many college degrees, years of practice, or wisdom from life experiences one had, that there was not one human being that could fix that hole in me. But my belligerent human nature continued to rebel against the touch of Christ.
Susan, I will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of my government and peace there will be no end.25
I went to the library, researched my symptoms, and diagnosed myself with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I discovered that one of the top ten specialists in the world in that field practiced in my city. I went to him and he conferred my diagnosis.
He immediately placed a moratorium on my rage; I could not go west of the state I was in, or have contact with anyone in Ohio. If I did either of those, he promised he would immediately call the police and have me confined.
I had to assume the responsibility of weighing myself on the same scale every week and reporting that weight to him. If I weighed below a certain number, he would hospitalize me. That was important because every time I looked in the mirror, or felt my clothes against my belly, I perceived myself as being forty pounds heavier than the weight on the scale. I wanted to be healthy, but I believed my eyes and skin, so I ate less and less to the point of not eating at all. With nothing left to destroy, my rage and loathing were now consuming me.
He taught me how to find a place in my mind where I could go and feel safe. Going there immediately relieved the panic and rage. I always had to leave there, though, either because I had been distracted, or I woke up from sleep. Nevertheless, offering me a place where I felt safe was the first act of mercy a practitioner had bestowed on me.
I had moved into an efficiency apartment on the outskirts of the city. It was part of a Christian family's home. I liked it there. I had my own entrance, and the view from my window looked out over their peaceful backyard and then into a field of grass and wildflowers. They invited me to join them for family time in the evening, but I never did go. It was a blessing to me to have a quiet place to rest.
One night I woke up startled by a girl-child screaming, "Help!" It was an utterly desperate, bone chilling, shrieking sound. I looked out the window into the dark. Surely a small girl would not be out there in the rain. Surely she would see the house lights on, and come in. As my eyes accustomed to the dark I saw a small girl walking in circles in the field. She was crying. As my eyes focused more, I recognized the child. She was me. After several nights of this, I moved out.
After seeing the specialist for a year, the rage and panic were staying at a tolerable level. The high dosages of the multiple medications the specialist prescribed were helping me to sleep. We had made a huge inroad into my ability to discern past from present. Although still plagued with a distorted body image, I trusted the scale and maintained a healthy weight. I asked him for some time off to digest a year's worth of intense therapy. He said, "No. Not yet."
After being delayed in traffic behind a car accident, I was twenty minutes late for an appointment. When I tried to pay him for only the thirty minutes we had spent together, he told me he expected me to pay in full. I told him it wasn't my fault, I had done nothing wrong. He told me he understood that, but that he expected me to pay in full. I threw my check at him and left.
A year later I moved south to another state. I liked it there. I lived seven miles from the beach. On my days off I'd walk on the beach and be mesmerized by the rhythm of the breaking waves. I longed to go into the water, but was afraid of its currents.
Susan, be strong in me and in my mighty power. Put on my full armor so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For your struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on my full armor, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the believers.26
The hospital I worked in wasn't one of the ethical ones. It expected each nurse to care for too many patients. Administrators do that because it is cheaper than hiring the right amount of nurses.
I went to check on my patients after I received shift report. For the third night in a row I found the same confused, old man swimming in a bed of urine. I struggled against a surging of rage I felt rising towards the hospital administrators for staffing my unit so poorly. I knew I would not be able to find anyone to help me, because each sparse nurse would be finding, and dealing with, similiar situations. My plan was to move my patient to a dry chair, then clean him and his bed. I used the energy from my rage to move him and in doing so I hurt myself.
I went to the emergency room holding my arm, and retching in pain. The doctor told me that I had torn my rhomboid muscle, a large muscle in the back that stabilizes the shoulder blade when the arm pulls or lifts. He gave me two weeks off, prescriptions for pain pills and muscle relaxants, and an order to see an orthopedic doctor.
I had met a man at work who had been trained as a rescue diver. We'd lay on our beach blankets and I'd give him a lesson I had written out on how to read music. Then he'd hold my hand and walk with me into the water. The warm salt water took some of the swelling out of my back and relieved some of the pain for a little while.
We had been doing that for several months when I told him that, because workers compensation did not pay the amount I was used to earning, I could no longer afford my apartment. My plan was to live in my simple, two-horse trailer under a shade tree at a local campground. I was selling my truck because I could not afford the payments. I told him I'd be two miles closer to the beach, but would have no way to get there. I asked him if he would pick me up. He replied, "If I move into your apartment and pay half of your bills, will you marry me?"
I said, "Yes." So he left his wife and moved in, and about a year later we got married.
The torn muscle had gone into severe spasms, then like the domino effect, its surrounding muscles would spasm, and then their adjacent muscles would spasm, and so on. Some days even my feet would twitch and my toes would curl under. After months of these spasms my backbone twisted, leaving nerves stretched and pinched. Sometimes my own screaming would wake me up at night. I could no longer tell the position of my upper body. My right arm developed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, which left the skin numb, while the rest of the arm felt like it was stuck in an electric socket.
I was told I would never again be a nurse.
I fired my workers compensation doctors, and found my own doctor. I went to him and asked him to remove my arm. He was horrified at that request. After several months of aggressive treatment I could drive again, bend over and tie my shoes, raise my arm high enough to brush my hair, and lift ten pounds.
Excited about how well I was doing, I cut out a picture of an Olympic rider on her horse suspended over a very large jump. I had not been on a horse for a year, and I wanted to make sure my therapy was going in the right direction. I handed my doctor the picture, and told him my concern. He sat on his stool and silently studied the picture for ten minutes. Then he told me I would never again be a rider.
Susan, why are you downcast, O your soul? Why so disturbed within you? Put your hope in me, for you will yet praise me, your Savior and your God.27
My next memory is that of sitting in my truck in his parking lot, and staring straight ahead. It was raining and the windshield wipers were going. I had no idea how long I had been sitting there.
I started the seven mile drive home, and marveled at the quietness of my mind. I remembered the final conversation my doctor and I had had about never riding again, and wondered about my lack of emotion. My breathing was slow and deep. I felt sleepy. And I was completely pain free. The truth was this; I felt numb. In a sickening instance I realized that while walking to my truck I had confirmed the decision to shoot myself in the head with my husband's gun when I got home.
I had already gone two miles. I slowed down and started stomping my feet and honking the horn to stimulate my senses. The pain came back with a vengeance. Between my tears and the rain, I could not see. I pulled over under a bridge and closed my eyes.
Immediately, I saw my husband's revolver resting in its drawer. I saw the bullets in the box next to it. In slow motion, my hands lifted the gun up for me to see. I was holding it with my left hand and softly stroking the shiny, black metal of the barrel with my right hand. My breathing was slowly deepening. Again, I was pain free.
I shook myself awake and began to cry uncontrollably. The volcano of rage and loathing inside of me was erupting again; my life was going in circles. I called to God, "Help me!"
Susan, now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.28
I usually tossed and turned at night because of my pain. But that night I turned on the T.V., and discovered the worship channel. It played quiet, Christian music against a backdrop of videos of God's breathtaking creation. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -His eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so we are without excuse.29
Sometimes men would speak about Jesus, and I would power off the T.V. I'd urgently read my Bible against the rage and distrust I felt towards those men.
Susan, ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus by their fruit you will recognize them.30
After about three and one-half years of marriage, my husband and I separated. I moved out west and found solace in the shadows of the Blood of Christ Mountains. Six months later, my husband and I divorced. Could that divorce have been prevented? Yes, absolutely, in the following two ways: "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers."31 And a person with a giant, hissing hole in their heart must not get married.
I continued watching the worship channel at night. I became irritated at having to turn the T.V. off and on every time the men spoke. So, with zeal, I struggled against my sleepiness, and recited to myself what they said. I wanted to remember their words in the morning and study them against God's holy Word, and prove the men to be false teachers.
After more time I stopped doing even that, and just intently listened. Sometimes I would fall asleep. Sometimes my pain would go away.
Susan, come to me, you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.32
In 2001, right after my fortieth birthday, my brother contacted me. He stated he had heard I lived out west, and wondered if he and a childhood friend of ours could come for a week to visit and ski. They had never seen the Rocky Mountains. With a knot in my belly I said, "Yes."
They came the week before I was to start a new nursing job in another state (I was working as a nurse again). We visited, skied, and laughed a lot. They pressured me to change my mind and move back to Ohio. They told me that I had been away for seventeen years and that was long enough. But I explained to them that my nursing contract was signed and final. I told them I would never return to Ohio.
Susan, be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.33
The day after they left, I spent all day in prayer. Jesus and I went over every relationship I had ever had, tried to have, or failed to have. I knew He wanted me to go to church, but I had not yet found the courage to enter one. I knew if I entered a church that the panic attacks and flashbacks would dramatically increase. But I told Jesus that I would go to a church if He would pick one out for me in no-uncertain terms, and go with me there.
We discussed my loathing for, and extreme distrust of human males. In the end, I told him that if He put a male born-again believer in my life to provide spiritual guidance, that I would listen to that believer and do what he told me to do.
Susan, do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.34
I forgave everyone.
The next day my nursing recruiter called. She sounded nervous as she told me that the hospital had decided to close my unit to renovate it. She informed me that my contract was null and void. She asked me what I wanted to do.
With my horse in the trailer (I had started riding again), I followed Jesus and moved back to Ohio.
Susan, I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places I have banished you, and bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.35
Immediately, I began looking for the church I knew Jesus had picked out for me in no-uncertain terms. On my days off from work I would drive by every church I could find and ask Him in prayer, "Is this the one?"
Eventually, I had to widen my search area to include the neighboring village. Driving by a huge, new building, I slowed down to read its sign, "Hudson Community Chapel". Before I could finish my question, Jesus was excitedly answering, "Yes! This is the one! Go inside and speak to people there!"
I was shaken by the volume and clarity of His unexpected enthusiasm, and said, "Ok. I'll go there. But not right this minute. Not like this."
After years of not following a budget, my truck was repossessed. I bought an old vehicle to replace it. I knew my Lord was working with me on gaining greater consistency in my relationships with people. I shared my concern that my aged vehicle may not be able to handle the extra miles to Hudson on a consistent basis. I knew He would address my concern, so I began looking for a better vehicle, and wondering how He was going to have me to pay for it.
In the meantime, the friend I was living with had a particularly ugly argument with the landlord. We had three days to move out. It was Sunday, so I called on rental ads I saw in the paper. One lady called me back. The house she was renting sounded perfect for us, and it was available immediately. I asked her in what town the house was located, and she replied, "Hudson. Do you know where the new church is, the Hudson Community Chapel? Well, you'd be so close to it that you can walk there."
Susan, in view of my mercy, offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to me -this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what my will is -my good, pleasing and perfect will.36
The first service I attended was on September 16th, 2001, five days after the terrorist attacks on the United States. The sanctuary sits hundreds of people, and the place was packed. I was greeted at the door by smiling people, whose faces immediately began distorting into rage. I felt my chest tighten, but entered and found a seat in the back by the door. I listened while my Lord comforted me;
Susan, I am your shepherd, you shall not be in want. I make you lie down in green pastures, I lead you by quiet waters, I restore your soul. I guide you in paths of righteousness for my name's sake. Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you will fear no evil, for I am with you; my rod and my staff, they comfort you. I prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies. I anoint your head with oil; your cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in my house forever.37
He calmed me, but I still wanted to avoid looking into faces. So I pointed my face straight up towards the ceiling and opened my eyes and watched a large bird glide across the sky. To my disbelief the domed ceiling was made out of glass, and I was looking straight into God's creation. I laughed and said, "I hope these people like music. You know how I like to sing."
As the music started I sensed that I had been drowning and holding my breath for decades, and there I was, now surfacing and gasping for air. With my hands held up to my face, tears of relief were streaming off my elbows. And yet I was still panic stricken and hallucinating.
Week after week it happened like that.
One time Pastor Joe was preaching and he looked down and quietly said, "Some of you come here week after week, and you sit in the back and cry. You are safe here. You don't have to go at the end of the service. We are here all day. Just stay. You don't have to go. Just stay."
So, I stayed.
I was puzzled about what Jesus had meant when He told me to, "Go inside and speak to people there." I prayed about that, and then spoke to Pastor Jim. I was afraid I would feel trapped in his office, but he is very kindly, and I am eternally grateful for that.
I showed him my old Bible, and we talked about what it says inside. He asked me who Jesus was to me. I told him Jesus was my friend. He looked perplexed and said, "Well, He's more than that." Then I looked perplexed because in my mind it didn't get any better than that. So, we left it at that. He asked me if I had a question for him. I told him about the living situation I was in. Although I was in no danger, the situation was still difficult. I tried to reassure Pastor Jim that I knew Jesus wanted me to bear with my friend. But I asked him anyway, "But do I have to stay there? Can I leave?" He didn't answer me then, but in a Sunday service while preaching, he said, "You're right, Jesus is your friend. If you love Him you must serve Him! If you love Him, you must serve Him."
So, I stayed.
A few days after attending my first service, I found a pretty bag on my porch. There was a loaf of bread in it, and a Bible verse. It was from the Hudson Community Chapel. There was no other food in the house, and I had not eaten in three days.
One Sunday I was walking to church, and a car stopped in the middle of the road. The driver's window rolled down and my mother yelled, "Susan, is that you?" She hadn't seen me in so many years that she wasn't sure it was me. Without watching for traffic I ran and got in the car. I hugged both my parents and told them I loved them. They didn't want to go to church with me, but we didn't want to part. They asked me if they could take me out for breakfast, and I consented. So they took me to the restaurant they had just left when they found me walking down the road, and they ate again.
I bought a house in the country. It had a little woods on it, and a pretty meadow. Being closer to God's creation, I thought I would feel safer there. I was hoping the panic attacks and hallucinations might stop. But, instead, being removed from my family, friends and church, I felt abandoned and lonely.
Susan, are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal with human effort?38
I was fixing an upstairs bedroom to hold my horse equipment, while singing along with the songs on a Christian radio station. I noticed that it was becoming dark outside, and then I heard the back door open and the sound of muffled footsteps making their way to the door to come upstairs. I shut the bedroom door, but it wouldn't lock. Some of the steps squeaked, and then the door knob turned. I struggled for hours to keep the door closed. As the sun came up, the pushing stopped. I opened the door and ran down the stairs after the man who never existed. I had been hallucinating.
I woke up one night standing on the railroad tracks in my night shirt and bare feet. The tracks were about one-quarter mile from my house. I was staring at a pin-point of light that was slowly approaching me. I woke up on the railroad tracks like this a few more nights, with the train being exponentially closer each time. I urgently prayed to Jesus to provide some place safe for me to go.
Susan, who shall separate you from my love? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things you are more than a conqueror through me, who loves you. For you are convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate you from the love of our Father that is in me, your Lord, Christ Jesus.39
An ex-coworker showed back up at work one night to tell us she had just spent the last six months visiting every major city east of the Mississippi River, looking for the perfect place to live. In the process of doing that, she had come to the realization that Louisville, Kentucky was the perfect place for me. Having no knowledge of my mental illness, or urgent need for some place safe to go, she told me to, "Go there."
I abandoned my house and moved to Kentucky in 2006.
I met a retired jockey and told him I was looking for a horse project. He said he had one, and that her name was, "Minnie." He described her as being high strung, and explosive with the expression of her energy. The race track trainer had had trouble keeping weight on her because she wouldn't calm down in her stall. In frustration he would wrap a chain around her head and tie her to a post, then beat her with a whip until she stopped struggling to get away.
The jockey had saved her life about five years earlier. He had brought her home, and let her loose in a field. Since then, he had never been able to get near her. Now he was ill, and could no longer tend to her.
The field contained a three sided wooden shed, with a forth side that closed up with a door. Every day I enticed Minnie and her buddy into the building with grain, and let them eat. After a week they had this new routine down, and no longer cared that I was hanging around in the background, so I closed the door.
Hearing the door close, Minnie bolted from her bucket towards the far wall. Then, with all of her power, she slammed sideways into it while airborne. She landed, circled, and then slammed again and again. When the wall failed to give, she attacked it with her teeth and hooves. Enraged, she finally stood there, panting, glaring at me, and snorting like a bull. I silently stood where I was, with my open hands down by my sides. After her buddy finished his grain, and then hers, I opened the door and let them free. After about one week Minnie would stay and eat, with the door closed.
I started brushing her buddy on the side furthest from her. Minnie watched me from there. Horses are prey animals, the bottom of the food chain. They eat grass (hay) and seed (grain), like mice. Only these mice are commonly over one-thousand pounds, and with a single kick they are capable of knocking the breath of life out of a human.
Being prey animals, horses constantly scan their environment for creatures that well eat them. Therefore, they react immediately, and violently if necessary, to any perceived danger.
Because they are prey animals, horses are aware they are completely dependent on a greater being for their survival; they can't grow their seed, and don't stalk, catch and kill their meals. In captivity, their greater being is a human, and horses are born knowing that humans are predators; the top of the food chain. I knew Minnie would profile me by how I treated her buddy as I brushed him, and how he responded to me. So, I took extra care and time with this step. Besides, for safety reasons, I always work alone.
Overtime I was able to move around her buddy and brush his other side. Occasionally my clothing would brush Minnie. One day I heard her sniffing the back of my neck. I stood still for about twenty minutes and let her sniff me. When she was satisfied with that, I slowly turned and let her sniff the front of me, especially my hands and the brush. The brush tickled her, and she didn't like that, so I switched to a washcloth.
I spent a lot of days getting her used to having her face rubbed, and feeling gentle pressure placed on it. In order to take her home she would have to wear a halter on her head, so I could lead her in and out of the trailer with a rope. I was concerned holding onto her head by a rope might trigger memories of being tied by a chain. I figured I'd have one try at getting the halter on her head. I opened it across her feed bucket, and as she thrust her head into the bucket the halter fell into position around her head. I brought the strap up behind her ears, and buckled it.
The next day I brought a two foot piece of rope with a snap on one end. Minnie would have nothing to do with neither the rope nor me. So, I left the rope on the dirt floor, and went home. When I came back in the morning, the rope had been moved and the snap completely destroyed. I brought another rope, and after some more time, I was able to get close enough to her with it that I finally snapped it to a ring on her halter. She panicked, and I let her get away.
Finally, one day I took her to her new barn. I let her loose in the field with her halter on. The next day she would not let me near her with a rope in my hand, and when I attempted to lead her by holding onto her halter with my hand, she panicked and broke away.
I knew she liked carrots. So, I started going out every day and just offering her a carrot. Every day she would spin angrily around and place her tail about one foot from my chest, and then glare at me over her right shoulder with her teeth bared. The first time she did that, I considered my options and went home. The next day she did that again. This time I softly stroked her butt and told her what a beautiful butt she had. We did this every day. We did this every day, for six months.
One day, she pricked her ears, stepped forward, took the carrot out of my hand, stepped back, and considered it while she ate. She then pricked her ears and stepped forward, again. Chagrined by my lack of faith, I dug around in my pockets and produced a piece of carrot. I was grateful when she was satisfied with that.
She let me bring a rope and lead her into the barn. I took her into the arena with a twenty-five foot rope snapped to her halter. I slowly let out the rope as she walked away. When I asked her to go around me in a circle at the end of the rope, she became angry and tried to bolt away. But we were in an arena, so I stayed with her at the other end of the twenty-five foot rope.
Over the days, she gave up on trying to get away. Instead, with her ears pinned back, she'd run and buck, and kick at the walls.
When that didn't work, she began coming into the center of the circle, threatening to knock me over. I stayed calm and looked at the ground, and stepped out of her way. Once she actually brushed me with her body as she went by. I tapped her on her belly with the end of the rope and said, "No." She became enraged, and attacked the wall with her teeth and hooves. When she was done I was still there, holding the rope.
Every day for two weeks I had to tap her belly, and then watch her attack the wall. Then one day I waited for her to come towards me to knock me over. But she kept trotting around, with her neck held stiffly and defiantly upright. She kept trotting around, and then slowly started lowering her head. The expression in her eyes softened. She kept trotting around and around. She trotted into a beautiful, relaxed and cadenced rhythm, and still kept trotting.
Abruptly, she stopped and turned towards me. Without changing her peaceful expression, she boldly walked straight to me until her forehead pressed my chest. Then, with her head cradled in my arms, she fell asleep.
I had a friend for life.
Susan, this is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.40
I felt the safest I had ever felt, living there in Kentucky. I started to see a therapist, and we formed a plan to begin working on the most difficult of memories. In the past, working on those memories had always resulted in me abruptly moving to a new town, job, or state. In spite of that, we were going to begin this work November 10th, 2008.
In the meantime, I wanted to keep practicing going to church, and had asked Jesus to pick out another church for me.
Meanwhile at work, an incident had occurred. It seemed there may have been a misunderstanding which had resulted in an employee being fired. I was in charge of my unit that night, but no one had consulted me before the employee left. This greatly concerned me, because the employee may have been unjustly treated.
Susan, I have shown you what is good. And what do I require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with me.41
I found a Christian co-worker and befriended her, then shared my concern. She told me that I would not sleep well at night until I spoke to that former employee. I told her I didn't want to give people something to gossip about by asking for that person's phone number. She said she knew a friend, and would simply request that number by saying that she had something that belonged to that employee that she needed to return. A short time later, she handed me the phone number. I was exceedingly anxious; I had never called a male stranger before.
Susan, do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to me. And my peace, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and your mind in me, Christ Jesus.42
I called that man, Ryan, and he was ok. We talked some more, and at the end of the conversation he told me to call him again. So, I called him the next day. After we said, "Hello," he said he wanted to tell me the most important thing about himself. Then Ryan told me he was a born-again Christian.
I knew he was the male born-again believer put into my life to provide spiritual guidance, as an answer to that part of the all day prayer in 2001. In my excitement I almost told him this, but decided to test him. I asked him a question from something I was reading in the Bible. He gleefully answered my question, for twenty minutes. Then he asked me if I had any more questions for him, and waited for my reply. So, I asked him some more questions. Ryan and I talked for hours on the phone every day that week. My knowing who he was allowed me to explicitly trust him. I told him things I had never even told a therapist. I wrote down what he said, and did what he told me to do.
I told him about the appointment coming up with the therapist on Monday, and the decision to begin working on the most difficult of memories. I told him that in the past, working on those memories had precipitated my abandoning every person in my life. I told him I was afraid that that would happen again. I had never asked someone to pray for me. But I knew in the Bible, in the book of James, He says that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.43 So, I asked Ryan to pray for me. I pulled out all the stops and asked another Christian man I knew at work to pray for me, and he said he would, too.
Ryan knew that when I went into a church that I always experienced panic attacks and hallucinations, but he felt strongly that I should go. I listened to the passion in his voice as he described his own community of believers, and found put in me a renewed desire to practice going to church. I didn't know about the different denominations, and had no discernment of spirit due to my hallucinations. Therefore, it was important to me to know the history of each church I went to, so I could tell if the church was growing.
I decided to go to the church I had watched being built up the street, and discovered that that Baptist group of believers happened to be celebrating their tenth anniversary that day. During his sermon, Pastor Troy went over the entire history of that church, and I could tell it was vibrant and growing. So on that day, November 9th, 2008, the River of Life Community
Church in Springfield, Kentucky, became my new church.
The next day I went to my therapy appointment. I sat in my truck and prayed. All my life, Jesus had given me everything: my family, friends, health, automobile, finances, home and church. Since I was twelve years old and had read the Bible cover to cover, I knew that Jesus could fix me because He had made me. But, over and over again, in my belligerence to be self-reliant, and to fix my symptoms with therapy and medications, I had walked away from His gifts; and therefore destroyed every relationship in my path.
I sat there, intensely thinking. In my mind I saw Jesus facing me, holding his two gently opened hands extended outwards towards me. I understood he was asking me to trade; to place my therapy and medications in one of His hands, and accept from out of His other hand His newest gift to me: my born-again friend, Ryan. A conflict occurred in me because I had already accepted Ryan from out of Jesus' hand a week earlier. This meant that if I chose to continue to hold on to my therapy and medications, then I would also be choosing to walk away from Ryan, and would be giving him back to Jesus.
I stared at the nail holes in the opened palms of Jesus, and thought about the sacrifice He had made for me by being crucified on the cross. I considered how He, being both the Son of God, and God, Himself, came into our physical world by being born through a virgin, Mary. I knew that Jesus lived and suffered while on earth as a sinless, human male. He broke no laws. He did nothing wrong. All His life, He did nothing wrong. He did not deserve to die by being hung on a dead tree by nails driven through his palms and feet. Yet, when He was given His death sentence by the unbelieving humans He had come to save, He offered no resistance; no belligerence towards His greater being, our Father, God. Instead of being full of rage and loathing towards us, Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."44 I believe my salvation in His sacrificial, shed blood means that I will spend an undeserved eternity in heaven with Him; along with all the people who have confessed with their mouths, "Jesus is Lord", and believe in their hearts that God raised Him from the dead. It is only by His grace that we are saved through faith, not by our works:8 For all sin and fall short of the glory of God.45
By the grace of God, my belligerent heart softened. I opened my fist and gave my medications and therapy to Jesus, while forming my other fist around Ryan. I simply shrugged and said to Jesus, "You'll have to use me as I am, or heal me yourself."
I never asked Jesus to heal me. Thank God He knows my heart.
I went into the therapist's office and said, "good-bye", and then I went back home.
I expected that, at some point, I would stop taking my medications; but this time I would allow Jesus to determine the schedule I should follow to wean off of them. Until He told me how to do that, I would continue to take them as prescribed by my psychiatrist. I expected that after I was off the meds, that I would spend the rest of my life on earth as I was; mentally ill. I expected that, by the grace of Jesus, my hallucinations and panic attacks would never get any worse, nor would they ever get any better; and that seemed mercifully just, in my mind. I would never again complain about being mentally ill. I would endure my cross; I knew I had been unrelentingly belligerent toward Jesus, our greater being: I knew I was a sinner.
Susan, all wrong doing is sin.46 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.47 And everything that does not come from faith is sin.48
I worked that night, and when I got home I took the high dosages of the three medications that were prescribed to me. My alarm clock woke me up. It took concentrated strength to lift my wobbly head off of the pillow. I felt heavily drugged. I literally crawled to the bathroom and looked stupidly at the three pill bottles. I decided one of them must be killing me, and randomly selected one and dumped it down the toilet. And the next day I woke up like that again, so I dumped another one.
With the last bottle, I began cutting the six-hundred milligram dose in half, and then half again each day, because I was still waking up feeling heavily drugged. When I could no longer cut it into a smaller piece, I stopped taking that last medication. My thinking was finally clear enough to consider what had gone so wrong with my medications. I was surprised to realize that I had not suffered from hallucinations, panic attacks nor nightmares all week. Furthermore, I had never slept so much, so deeply, nor for so long in all of my life. Then I remembered saying to Jesus, "You'll have to use me as I am, or heal me yourself."
I could not grasp that Jesus may have healed me. Another few days flew by as a blur. I very calmly told one of the two men I had asked to pray for me, that I thought God had healed me. He told me to pray about it and go to church. So, finally I had to face it. Jesus sat quietly with me as I tried to figure out the answer to my question, but it still dumbfounded me. So for the second time in my life I turned my head and looked straight into the eyes of Jesus Christ: Why would He heal me?
If Jesus had healed me, then there was no limit to what He could do. I realized fully that if He had healed me, then my life no longer belonged to me and was completely out of my control. And if He hadn't healed me, then He had allowed Satan to play the cruelest of jokes, and He'd have to rescue me from that, too. I didn't know for which to hope.
Finally, I said to Jesus, "You know me. All my life I have never been able to trust my perceptions. If You have healed me, You must tell me in no-uncertain terms; You must give me a sign." I asked Him for this one thing more.
A few days later, on November 23rd, 2008, two weeks after my initial visit to the River of Life Community Church, I went back to that church. As I entered the building I had no panic attacks. The smiling faces of the people who greeted me never distorted into rage. I knew that was my sign. It was over. My hallucinatory self was dead.
At some point, I began paying attention to what was going on around me in church. Pastor Troy was finishing his sermon and reading from the Bible, from the book of Ephesians. He was saying; "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."49
So, also on that day, through Pastor Troy speaking those verses from Ephesians, Jesus told me the answer to my question; why He had saved me, and why He had healed me: and the giant, hissing hole in my heart was snuffed out and filled.
"One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving."50
And for His greater purpose, I realized that He had filled me that way because He loves you. When I could address Him at all, I said only these two things: "Never let me forget that You have healed me!" and, "I will do anything..."
Jesus has a friend for life.
I did not renew the leases on my house and farm. I took all appropriate possessions to a charity in town that provides furniture, household goods and clothing to women's shelters, and started to find homes for the seventeen animals my Lord had previously given to me. Almost everything else was thrown away.
A lot was rapidly changing in my life, and I was wondering if we shouldn't slow down, a little. I saw a trend that He was pulling me away from caring for animals, and more towards caring about people. Though I was very willing to follow His heart, I felt apprehensive. I told Him that I didn't know how to care about people like I cared about animals. I told Him that He would have to train me. He immediately replied in prayer, "I want you to love my people like you have loved my creatures, like I have loved you. You know how."
So, I went with Jesus on a mission. And here we are living back in Ohio. And he has been reconciling every relationship that I had broken.
And even the relationships that had broken me...
There is no randomness in God's creation; that is, there is no lack of significance. We are, each and all, dependent on a greater being for our survival. From what I can see, using His creation, God grafts our dependency to Him in at least the following seven ways:
1. By providing a physical place to sustain us2: He gives us the natural resources to sustain our daily needs, such as our food; water; material from which to make clothes and shelters; ways to warm and cool ourselves; wombs to be born from; geographical places to stay, go to, come from, and be sent; and stuff from which we can practice creating. Only God creates from nothing physical -for He creates from His breath, by speaking- and He requires no practice.
2. By supplying a medium from which to perform His miracles: It seems He uses His physical world to authenticate His spiritual realm. For instance, it seems that being divinely healed is to a physical regeneration; as being born-again is to a spiritual regeneration.
3. By showing us His invisible qualities: "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities -His eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator -Who is forever praised. Amen."51
It is from our sinful human nature that we relentlessly desire to be our own god, and worship and serve created things, and divide and conquer each other. In contrast, it is from God's holy nature, that His consuming desire is to reconcile us first to Himself through Jesus (God the Son), and then to each other, in keeping with His Word.52
"Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."53
Of all the types of earthly bodies that have the breath of life in them, human beings are the most rebellious towards their greater being. If you do not fully agree with that last statement, then if you don't mind, please justify the following two sentences: It took me (a human being) about one year to tame Minnie. It took Jesus (God) about thirty-six years to tame me.
"Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise."54
4. By making each person as a physical vessel in which to contain a spirit: And when a person accepts Jesus as God and Savior, then the Holy Spirit of Jesus (God the Holy Spirit) begins living in that person and that person is then sealed by God as belonging to God.
5. By sending God the Son out of the spiritual realm and into the physical realm by being born through the virgin woman, Mary: His name is Jesus, and He was sent to take the punishment for our sin, our separation from God. Punishment for sin is death. Jesus died for our sin so that we do not have to experience a spiritual death. He died by being crucified on a cross for saying He is God. He is God. He did nothing wrong. All His life, He did nothing wrong. What is wrong is us; our rebellious human nature. We rebel away from God by creating and worshiping false gods (idols); our false religious gods -like ones that deny Jesus is God and refer to Him as a dead prophet, or deny the existence of an indwelled Holy Spirit, or deny there is the one, true God of all; and other false gods that we create and form our fists around and hold dear to our hearts: gods like our self-reliance, self-importance, self-absorption with our success, intelligence, talent, beauty, possessions, job, spouse, children; our selfishness and taking for ourselves what God has not given us, like too much alcohol or food or sex, or another person's spouse or money or reputation or life... But by the shed blood of Jesus, our sin is covered: by His grace, through our faith, we are forgiven and the sin is forgotten when we repent. We repent when we open our fists and give to Jesus our false gods, and worship and serve our Creator once more.
When we empty our hearts of those false gods; we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, and fail to conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but are transformed by the renewing of our minds, and are able to test and approve what God's will is -His good, pleasing and perfect will.36
Susan, which is the greatest commandment? Love the Lord your God with all your heart...21
Susan, I am the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by me all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by me and for me. I am before all things, and in me all things hold together. And I am the head of the body, the church; I am the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything I might have the supremacy. For my Father God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in me, and through me to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through my blood, shed on the cross.55 For my Father, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made His light shine in your heart to give you the light of the knowledge of His glory in my face, Christ.56 I am the radiance of my Father's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.57
6. By creating a language in the Bible that is common to both Himself and humans: The basis for this common language comes from God's speaking the physical realm into existence, like this; "...the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what is visible."14 Some examples of the elements of the universe that were formed at God's command include; light(s), water, rock, tree, seed, flower, fruit, lamb, tongue, mouth, eyes, heart, man, and woman. Each of those words is the name of its corresponding physical element. In the common language, God takes the names of the physical elements, and over the chronological time period the Bible was written, embellishes each name with at least one spiritual meaning. God then takes those naming words, with their new spiritual meanings, and describes for us the unseen realm of the spiritual world; including spiritual concepts, attributes of God, or a person of God, Himself (God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Spirit).
That is to say that God first spoke into existence our seen physical universe; from which He took the names of His created elements from our seen physical universe, and ascribed to each name its spiritual meaning: and from that He created a language in common to both Himself and man. By His Word, for His Word, and in His Word, this common language is the doorway we must pass through to 'see', or perceive, the spiritual realm; namely, to see the eternal power and divine nature of Jesus, so that we may be reconciled to God our Father through Him: through our knowledge of the shed blood of Him, Christ Jesus.
Susan, which is the greatest commandment? Love the Lord your God with all your mind...21
An example of His use of this patterned, common language would be as follows: In the first paragraph of this letter, I described myself as a child scattering seed. Some seed fell along the path, some on rocky places, some among thorns, and some on soil.1 In the beginning of the Bible, in the book of Genesis, the word, 'seed', refers to the part of the physical plant from which the plant grows, or in some plants, the part of the plant which we eat; "Then God said, 'Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.' And it was so."58
Later, in the chronological sequence of the writings of the Bible, in the book of Matthew, the word, 'seed' is used with its embellished spiritual meaning to represent the Word of Christ, or truth; as follows:
"When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the Word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, he quickly falls away.
The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the Word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.
But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the Word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown."59
7. By giving us the means by which to praise Him: By word of mouth -that's how we pass on good news. The good news of Jesus our God and Savior is contained in the words of the Bible. Christ commands His followers to make followers of all nations: "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."60
To make disciples of all nations would require: A belligerent human being, by the grace of God, to accept the Word of God as seed of truth, and say with his mouth, 'Jesus is Lord' and believe in his heart God raised Him from the dead, and then, by the Spirit of Jesus dwelling in his heart, grow by faith and produce fruit that scatters its seed of truth, so that another rebellious human being, by the grace of God, accepts the Word of God as seed of... And that would all take a miracle. But that's how we make disciples of all nations; one human being at a time: and that's how the Spirit of Jesus living in our hearts creates, by speaking through us, a crop that multiplies what was sown.59 It is the most amazing miracle of all.
Susan, love me with all your soul...21
The next section describes some of the means God gives us by which to praise Him. It is my favorite part.
I've scanned the Bible and read the accounts of other people who have been healed. I wanted to know what happened to them after they were healed; what were their lives like a year later? But I could find no accounts of what their lives were like after they were healed.
I have two favorite accounts of people in the Bible who were healed. The first one is from the book of Luke: "Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So He bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them."61
I puzzled over this a long time; since it was Jesus who healed her, why did she wait on them, the people who asked Jesus to help her? I found the answer to that question in the book of Matthew when Jesus states, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."62
My other favorite account is in chapters 3 and 4 of the book of Acts, when the crippled beggar was healed: "One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer -at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, 'Look at us!' So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.63
Then Peter said, 'Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.' Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade. When Peter saw this, he said to them: 'Men of Israel, why does this surprise you?"64
Also, to note from the same account, "For the man who was miraculously healed was over forty years old."65
When I read that account, in my mind's eye, this is what I see as having happened: In the Bible, Peter goes on to address the Men of Israel and explain to them what they are surprised to see. They are surprised to see God's invisible qualities -His eternal power and divine nature- displayed through the living faith of those who believed in Christ Jesus; the same Jesus that the Men of Israel had crucified for referring to Himself as God. ("The high priest said to Him, 'I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.'
'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied. 'But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.'
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, 'He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?'
'He is worthy of death,' they answered.
Then they spit in His face and struck Him with their fists. Others slapped Him and said, 'Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?"66)
Peter speaks to the crowd in paragraph after paragraph of a seemingly endless oration. The crowd is only half-listening, because they are so astonished to see their annoying street beggar, once crippled from birth and now over forty years old, standing there in front of them, and silent.
Meanwhile, the miraculously healed man, once crippled from birth and now over forty years old, is holding on to Peter and John with all of his strength. After all, what he really wants to do is jump and praise God!
He is silently standing there in reverent obedience to Christ Jesus; who healed him.
He is standing there having fully grasped that he will no longer need to look at what God has made to be reminded of God's invisible qualities -His eternal power and divine nature; because God has now made him, himself, into being part of what can be clearly seen.
Therefore, he knows he is without excuse, and has no ability to belong to the world that suppresses the truth about Jesus being our God and Savior: "you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."67
Since he has been reborn in this way, the beggar is now joyfully yoked to a lifetime of worship and service to the one, true God; who saved him.
That same God changes each of us in that way, and yokes us to Him, when we confess with our mouths, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead;4and we are then born-again:68children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.69
I pray you understand all that I'm trying to say-
I can't wait to get to heaven and meet the woman who got up at once and began to wait on them, and the healed beggar who jumped up. But how will I find them in heaven? I've been healed for six years, and I still believe their stories have continued like this: When I find them in heaven she will still be serving Jesus, and the crippled beggar will still be leaping!
"Let everything that has breath praise the Lord."
Praising the Lord,
"Praise the Lord.
Praise God in His sanctuary;
praise Him in His mighty heavens.
Praise Him for His acts of power;
praise Him for His surpassing greatness.
Praise Him with the sounding of the trumpet;
praise Him with the harp and lyre,
praise Him with tambourine and dancing,
praise Him with the strings and flute,
praise Him with the clash of cymbals,
praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!"
Superscript Biblical References are from the New International Version.
(The book of Matthew, chapter 13, verses 4-8)
Genesis 1:1-31 through 2:1-3
Ephesians 1:13-14, 4:29-32
1 Samuel 16:7
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
1 John 4:19
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
1 Corinthians 13:13
2 Corinthians 6:14
1 John 5
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
2 Corinthian 4:6
Acts 3:1-12(emphasis added, verse 563)
1 Peter 2:9-11
70. Psalm 150 ("Praise the Lord!")
Free online Bible reference:
"The Common Language of God" was written by Susan Moore, and produced for online publication 11/7/2011. Revised 11/07/2013.
Susan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank-you..