There are so many lessons and truths that I have learned through my present trial that I have a hard time sorting which I should share. My mind can’t quite find one theme just yet, perhaps because this particular trial is a long one. I am still within the metaphorical forest, looking closely at each tree that I keep bumping into and each tangled root I lose my footing on that takes me to my knees. so with tattered and bruised flesh, an injured brain, and weary soul, it is on angel wings that I am lifted to move forward, and with the Savior walking beside me, that I will find my way into the light of the clear meadow once again.
Just over one year ago, on a cold winter morning, I decided to check on a friend whom I had not seen for a few weeks. Her home was only one block from my own so although the winter air was brisk, it would make for a quick and refreshing pick-me-up. Greeting me at their front door, her father told me that she had already left for work. Discouraged, I returned to the sidewalk that would take me back to my house. I had gotten no further than one house away from hers when it happened; sometimes lightning strikes! A newly licensed teen driver, distracted and in a hurry, hit my body with his car.
While I could take you down the deep, dark, terrible, isolating road of the horrific and unimaginable experiences that I have gone through this past year that come from brain and neck injury, I won’t. Nor will I do so for my own emotional sake. Instead, my message is to share light, hope, and the joy that we can find, even in places and times that leave us feeling stranded, isolated, helpless, and begging for sweet mercy.
Nearly five months after that fateful day that changed my life forever, I could finally walk outside and embark on the beginnings of my new existence. However, it was only in the darkness and silence that I felt most physically comfortable, and it was there that I came to know the breadth of the Savior’s Atonement in a more deeply personal way than I ever had before. This was the frail beginnings of my journey back to life and where I will begin my story for you, the reader.
The cool spring air nipped at my cheeks as I snuggled the blanket closer to my chin. Lying on my back in the bed of our tent-trailer, which had been deliberately parked in the driveway, I looked up at the silent sky lit with thousands of twinkling stars. I had the perfect view from where I lay at this early hour while everyone else slept. The world was all mine. The motionless, silent, and darkened world was a perfect setting for me, because there was limited stimulation to overturn my now wrecked and taxed nervous system. But, to me, to be able and to be privileged to feel the chill air on my skin and endure the light of the stars was life itself. While my sensory system was heightened, it was not because of this that I could feel everything so much more deeply in my soul this particular morning. It was as if I finally knew the reason why the caged bird sings. I was a prisoner tortured in my own body, and yet, slowly, ever so painstakingly slowly, I was gaining my freedom. It was estimated that I slept on my back twenty hours a day in a nearly blackened room with as little stimulation as possible for those first few months. I felt as if I was neither living nor dead, only floating somewhere in the great in between, listening to the rest of the world going on around me, and I was not allowed to be a part of it.
Lying in that little tent-trailer in the wee hours of morning gave me freedom to be outside and feel alive again. Although my now damaged and unfocused eyes could see only to the stars, my spiritual eyes saw far beyond to the very One who placed each of those shining lights so perfectly into their place. He was the One who also made the sun to rise in its precise timing. The very One who the Apostles of old proclaimed in amazement that even the winds and sea obeyed. And yes, He was the One who was holding me, also. A phrase from a church hymn titled, “Testimony” says, “As testimony fills my heart, it dulls the pain of days. For one brief moment, heaven’s view appears before my gaze.”
While many doctors were and still are unable to assist in my healing, leaving me feeling, at times, stranded to heal on my own, it is this same One, even the Savior Jesus Christ Himself who directs His Heavenly and Earthly angels to run to my side, nursing, guiding, and reassuring me with gentle whispers to my ears that I am not alone. He is a Master physician who can heal not only my body, but my wounded spirit as well. It has been during the times when I was begging for sweet mercy, weary in my trial, and faint because of the heat of this refining fire, that He stands with arms open wide, beckoning me to let go of the struggle, and press as deeply and tightly into Him as I need and want.
D&C 121:7 says that afflictions will be consecrated to our gain. In the beginning, I had asked for this to be miraculously and instantly taken away. It is within the trial that may be long, and in the refining fires that feel so intensely hot, that we feel we cannot possibly bear that we find our Savior standing there. We learn of Him in ways we could perhaps not ever have known Him before. He invites us with arms open wide to press into Him. We cannot walk through these trials alone. Only through His power can we endure the heat of the fire that transforms us into diamonds. Only through these fires can we come to know of Him and the breadth of His Atonement in such a deep and intimate way. In these fires that tear and tatter our flesh, stretch our faith beyond any measure, kick us when we are down, and leave us begging for sweet mercy, we find the miraculous healing power of the Great Master Physician himself, even our Savior Jesus Christ. It is there, lifted by his nursing angels and held by the Master, that I find my refuge.
It has been said, no shoulders have ever borne as much as those of Jesus Christ. By descending below all things, Jesus put Himself in a position to lift our burdens. His great Atonement was not merely for transgression, but for infirmities as well. Was He not our greatest example while bearing the Cross of Calvary? Hebrews 12:2 tells us,”…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” To endure all that was taken upon himself, He looked past the pain and fixed his eyes to Heaven and the glory of this great and marvelous act. Just as my thoughts were guided past my pain that spring morning, to instead focus on Him, He once looked past His afflictions to take upon Himself the pains of the world so that grace and sweet mercy could reach each of us. As we learn to divert our attention away from our personal afflictions and fiery furnaces and look to Him, our burdens are lightened and we come to know that we are never alone. This very One who set the stars in the sky knows each of us by name and certainly our individual circumstances. Even so, we are held and carried through. He is healing our tired and weary souls, He is making us more, He is perfecting us to be even as He is, and He is with us every step of the way. In Jesus Christ, I find joy.