Chapter Four: Forgiveness, Suffering’s Healer

It was a decision that I really did not want to make. I struggled with enough questions to write a book. Have I done everything that I could have done? Did I really really make an honest effort? Is there one more plan that I have not yet tried? I asked myself these questions after I had spent most of my life accepting every new fad and attempting to follow through with each new plan. I was dreading doctor visits, after all as nice as he was, he was always going to bring “it” up. I mean think about it honestly if you had spent the bulk of your life attempting to accomplish what so many had failed at, what would you do? Would you keep on, keeping on until heaven knows when you would just fail again? I certainly would not blame you for giving up.

Unfortunately, so many in my life did not seem to feel the same way. There were the relatives that I would see only once a year. I could see it in their eye’s and soon these words would follow, “If you would simply…” Heaven forgive me but I wanted to set my salvation on a shelf, at times and take them outside for a little fist fellowship with a side of have you got a clue? Truthfully, I am much to tender ever to hurt anyone so I could never indulge in fist fellowship. I remember as a child when I was being teased, kicked, slapped and made the but of every joke, I was advised to raise my right followed by a quick left and put that fool down. I could never even think about putting that fool down. I remember turning every check until I had blisters. You know Jesus said, “but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:39. I was such a sweet child that when I was taught that scripture in Sunday School and from the pulpit, I took it to heart.

And then there were the gentle-hearted souls from the church who would say, Now you know that your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit…”. I always wanted them to describe the outside of the Temple. Especially the one that traveled with the Israelite’s for that long trek to the promised land. In case you don’t know the bible gives intricate detail about the inside of the traveling temple but the outside is nothing but a big white wall. They meant well, but that one fell flat with me and still does to this day. After all, why did it matter so much to God about the inside of the most important holy place for the apple of His eye, the Israelite’s? I believe that we get a big clue from the 16th chapter of Samuel. In this chapter, Samuel was directed by the Lord to go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to select the new King. Upon arrival, Samuel is taking in Jesse’s son’s one by one. In verse six it says, “When they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, surely the Lord’s anointed is before me” Apparently Samuel was very taken with this young man Eliab and had already made up the Lord’s mind for him. But God stepped in and shut him down because in verse 7 it says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Well, isn’t that a stunner, “man looks at the outward appearance.” Why do we get ourselves into so much trouble so very easily? God made a life-changing and Life challenging point here. Just like the temple that traveled with the Israelite’s and even the Grand temple in Jerusalem. So little was made of the outside that the traveling temple was nothing but a big white wall. But the inner workings of the temple are laid out in complete detail down to the finest point. So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ you can finally put to rest what is of most importance to the Lord. May I be clear, “the Lord looks at the heart.” We have taken so many years to learn this very basic lesson regarding what is essential to the Lord. Be prepared if you approach someone with that line of reasoning in mind, you know that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Well, how is your heart? Do you carry any bitterness? Do you hold a grudge against anyone? Is there lust in your heart? Do you have a dishonest heart? Is your heart right with the Lord? Have you given your Heart to the Lord Jesus Christ? These are the matter’s that are of worth and value when it comes to the body and the temple of the Lord. I can safely say that God’s word has made clear what is most important to him.

Now that that point has been thoroughly discussed I will attempt to reveal what brought all of this about and why I made the decision that I made twelve years ago. In reading my previous chapters, you would be hard pressed to have missed what has caused me a tremendous amount of pain. To put it bluntly, I was fat. In fact, I was considered Morbidly Obese. As I aged, the problem grew with my waistline as I had more and more difficulty finding clothing that would fit me.

One of the issues that I still face today is that (heaven knows why) tailors assign a man’s waist size by his neck size. If you are a tailor and you are reading this, you know that this is a true statement and that it boggles my mind. Why on earth would you wrap a tape measure around a man’s neck to figure out what his waist size is going to be? Now, for some men, this works fine as they have large necks. But for me, I do not, and I have never had a large neck no matter how obese I became. This means that the collar on my shirt has to be oversized for my waist size to fit me. This is an example of how this affected me. I interviewed all the way up to the office of the store manager and lost the job opportunity. If you have not guessed it, it was because of my over-sized neckline. I bought brand new shirts with a credit card because I had these essential interviews. All of the interviews went exceptionally well until the Store Manager. At the end of the conversation, he told me that I was qualified for the position and that he really liked me, but appearance was of utmost importance. He went on to say that my collar was way too large and that was unacceptable. He could not imagine that I would be able to purchase the clothes that were necessary for the position. He was correct because of how men’s shirts are measured. Ultimately, I was given another ridiculous reason, but I knew that it really had to do with my shirt and how I looked. I was very hurt and frustrated because I really wanted the job and I knew that I could do it.

So, now you add my history of teasing, the increasing waistline with almost no way to cover it adequately. The hurt from friends, those within my church and family with words like “if you would just eat a little less and exercise a little more.” and you know the body is the “Temple of the Holy Spirit”, and “What are you doing with your Temple?” which is really a good question but for the different reasons. The loss of a job that I was qualified for and eagerly pursued. And of course, every time I sat on someone’s chair or couch I worried that it would fall out from under me.

I remember going to Promise Keepers with both of my Fathers in the early “90’s. Promise Keepers for those who don’t know was a men’s conference where men were given the opportunity to make a commitment to the Lord to set their lives apart for Him. I don’t mean (necessarily) for the ministry or the mission field although that certainly was an important commitment that many men made. It was more that men would stand up for the Lord and lead their families as Christ-like men to honor Him and raise up Godly children. These events were held in a large arena’s. The one I went to was held in the Pontiac Michigan Arena where the Lions play football. They filled the arena, and many men made commitments to become men of God and to honor him with their families and careers. Friday night we sat up in the balcony. I will call them the cheap seats. Trust me a little thin five-foot woman would feel very uncomfortable in these seats. Sandy’s Dad and my Father were average size. My father was 5’10 and 160 pounds. Sandy’s Dad is taller, and at that time carried a little more weight than he does now, so the chair was not comfortable for him either. I was 6’3 (who knows where I came from) and I weighed somewhere between 450 and 500 pounds. I was tall, so I carried my weight very well, but I was still extremely overweight. Really morbidly obese. After my Dad’s attempted to get comfortable (an impossible task) I sat down with one cheek slide slightly down in the seat. There was literally no room between rows and I ended up with my knee’s completely up in my mouth. I took this torture for about 15 minutes and then told my fathers that I was going to stand up above.

The event began at 6:30 PM (I think) and ended at 10:30 ish PM. Where I stood for the evening was a row above the balcony seats, and as far as I could see, concession stands sold Hot Dogs, Pizza and a variety of high-calorie snacks and of course the staple of the sports diet for those who were health conscious, Beer. As I stood there, I thought what idiot designed an arena that an obese beer guzzling Hot Dog eating sports addicted man could not fit in? You have to know these were the thoughts of a morbidly obese man, so I was not being critical of the fat man with a beer in one hand a slice of pizza in the other. My criticism was for the dummy who thought men like me would ever be able to attend an event where we could not fit in the seats.

As I looked up and down the row, I saw a whole lot of men who were up there for the same reason as I. On the main floor there were chairs. So that evening I knew if I asked my father-in-law, who was a time management expert (LOLouder!) to get us there early enough to find a seat on the main floor, he would. Of course, as much as I tease him, he accomplished his task very efficiently.

As we went from row to row on the main floor trying to get as close to the front as possible, I noticed that the chairs were…well, they were flimsy to say the best about them. The legs crossed over each other and were extremely thin. When we found our row, my Dad’s sat down, and I noticed that their chairs lowered to give with their weight. To say I was scared is an understatement. As I began to lower my body into the chair, it began to lower with my weight. The problem was that it did not stop lowering until it was mere inches off the floor. And if I shifted my weight, it made noises like it was going to meet the floor and in an untimely manner. I spent the day afraid to breathe and in fear worried that the chair would finally collapse and the rest of my weight would come crashing down. If this had not been true, I would have found the conference to be a marvelous blessing. They had the very best in preachers, teachers, singers and even a comedian. Everything about Promise Keepers was truly wonderful, but I could not let even an extra breath out for fear of what I would face while trying to pick myself up. Pick the pieces of the chair up and pick up what little of my self-esteem that existed before the fall.

This was one more time that I found myself in pain and anguish. Not physical pain, although I am sure if the chair had fallen there, would have been some of that as well. But the greatest pain was a result of how I looked at myself, how others looked at me and what it meant to be a morbidly obese man.

This began my long road to making the choice to surgically altering my body. At the time I had had Rotator Cuff Surgery, and it did not go well. It was supposed to be outpatient, and I ended up in the hospital several nights, so I was not that interested in another surgery. Also, everyone that I talked to said, “remember, it is not reversible.” That took me down a pathway that I really never should have been sent down. That thought milled around in my mind for a really long time until a light turned on and I thought, “What surgery do we want to reverse?” and if I were going to have it reversed why would I do it in the first place. Then another bulb lite up and I thought, “Perhaps I should pray about this?”

So I began to pray about it, and I met this beautiful lady (oh, not beautiful by this worlds standards, but beautiful) who had gone through Bariatric Surgery and had lost over 100 pounds. That in and of itself was not that impressive to me because I had gone through a Nationwide diet plan and lost in the first year 100 pounds. The kicker was that over the next five years while following their plan I proceeded to gain back about 45 pounds. At that point in time, I felt like a complete failure. My friend gave me the information and the doctor’s name, and after praying about it, I contacted the office and made an appointment. You have to jump through a whole lot of hoops when going through this office because they want to make sure that you are medically, emotionally and psychologically ready. As I moved through the appointments, I was impressed with how thorough, efficient and kind they were. I got to my 4th or 5th appointment, and it was with the psychologist. I was given a series of tests and told to go out and sit at the tables to complete them. I hate this type of test. Actually, I hate all tests. This type of test would ask you a question, and then you were to circle the number that most matched what you thought would answer the question. I have a terrible time doing this, and I will actually draw an arrow and write in 6 ½ or 8 ¾ because I cannot say that it is 6 or 7 or 8 or 9. Crazy I know but that is just how I am made. When the results came back, it told them that I probably would not follow their guidelines and I would be difficult to work with. Anyone who knows me knows that I would follow everything down to the slightest detail.

I was told that I would have to make an appointment with a psychologist to be evaluated to see if I was a good candidate for the surgery. I was devastated as one more time I had failed, and they would not do the surgery that I had prayed about and was convinced was best for me. On the same day, the next appointment was with the Bariatric surgeon. When he came into the room, I was a wreck and very discouraged, to say the least. The doctor was tall and very thin, almost too thin. He smiled and was friendly, but I was convinced that he was going to judge me. The opposite was the truth. He spoke out of the kindness of a heart that loved and belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ. He told me that this was just a little blip and that I would soon return. He was right.

Without hesitation, I beat a path over to a large local hospital that specialized in mental and emotional issues. I made an appointment with a doctor. On the first appointment, he asked me loads of questions. I did not know it but he was actually evaluating me to see if what they were saying was true. He was friendly and kind, I liked him. At our second appointment, he explained that there were hundreds of tests like the ones I took. And every one of them would provide a different answer or solution based upon how I answered them. Now you know why I hate these tests. He said that organizations like the Bariatric Surgeon’s office did their best to select tests that would give them the greatest result for their concerns. He told me that upon his evaluation that I was of average intelligence and that he was recommending me because in his evaluation he saw no evidence that I would do anything other than what they were requiring. He said that he saw in me a pleasant manner and a personality that would fit well with the prospect of the surgery.

Now all of those positive things that he said and my mind stopped with the sentence, “That I was of average intelligence.” I read and reread that sentence and found myself somewhat offended by the fact that he thought that I was only average. After some consternation and submission in prayer, the Lord said to me, “And you thought that I created you brilliant?” And then I started to laugh and said out loud boy am I ever full of it. I put that aside and now my mantra is, “Average at best!’ so I focus more on who He is and less on who I am.

With that set-aside, the ball started rolling really fast. After a few short months and my submission to their requirements, I was scheduled for surgery. The last hoop was the insurance hoop. The doctor’s office submitted the paperwork, and I was after several weeks expected to receive a letter that would either say that I was approved or denied. At the time I was in Sales, and I had won an award that included a cruise to the Bahama’s for two. I was thrilled, and as we were loading the car to leave for the airport, I went out to the mailbox. Of course, the letter was there, and we were to leave shortly. I thought should I look at it now and possibly ruin our cruise or should I leave it on the kitchen table. I vacillated some and decided to open the envelope before I even told my wife what was in my hands. Well, the cruise was fantastic, and we had a wonderful time. And the surgery was approved by the insurance company.

So at this point, all of my focus has been just like the focus of those who teased me, those who said: “if only I” and those who missed the point when they stated that “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. If only they understood what God intended when He said, (as all of us should) “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” The focus of all man is the outward appearance. It is nearly impossible to get away from this focus.

All of our fashion, movies, sports and even the diet industry especially the diet industry focuses on the outward appearance. The challenge of the believer is to be different from this focus in everything. The only focus the believer is to have is one of abandoning all and everything to the savior who by the Holy Spirit is transforming your life. So, yes, when the individuals who approached me saying, “If you would only eat a little less.” they were focusing on the wrong thing. The individual who approached me saying, “You know that your Body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.” missed the point because they did not understand what was important to God and what God focuses on. And even me when I pursued Bariatric Surgery I was focusing on the wrong thing.

You see God cares about our physical condition and yet allows the sin that causes illness to invade the body of the man who is in the greatest of shape. God cares little about your curves or how many miles you can run each day. But God cares passionately about your character and how you treat others from day to day. Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-38 to, “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 second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself.” and in loving your neighbors as your self, you take excellent care of yourself. You do everything that you can to build your body up. Jesus tells us to do the same for our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? Everyone we see.

The apostle Paul speaking to the believers of his day in Ephesians 4:29-32 as well as to us today said, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

I pray that this is what I learn from day to day and yet I fall continually and speak words that I wish I could take back. I walk all over another’s feelings because what I think is more important. Paul said that we should speak, “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” Wow! Do I practice this on a day to day basis? Do I even practice this word on a weekly basis?

The world we live in, the dieting world cares little about any of what is genuinely “helpful for building others up.” As lights in the midst of darkness, we must step out from under the world’s standards. Our calling is “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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 God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2.

It is hurtful when we feel that we are being attacked. There is hurt and pain in the approach of an individual who dwells on what our outside or outer appearance holds. Can and should we hold on to the hurts of the past and if we do will we suffer pain? I can answer an affirmative on that one because I still struggle with hurt as a sixty-year-old man. Hurts from my childhood. Voices and words that have long ago faded. Long ago they forgot what they said to me. Long ago they forgot how the hurt me. Long ago is where long ago should be. In the past and forgiven. “Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32c

This is my challenge from day to day, hour by hour, moment by moment. I believe that this is the only way that we will find forgiveness and become forgiven by those we have offended. Our Savior was our guide, and he gave us the first commandment to love the Lord your God and to love your neighbor as yourself. Yes, my hurting friend this means forgiving what seems unforgivable. This means loving enough to say “It OK” and mean it. This means not carrying the hurt from long long ago but letting it go by the power of the Holy Spirit. My prayer is that I live this and that you may live it too.


Chapter Three: Future Stealers

“Sticks And Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” How odd, I can remember wondering about this little diddy while playing on the school playground. My memory of this is wishing that they had thrown stones because boy did those words ever hurt. After all, it was important to me that I fit in and apparently, I did not. And undoubtedly where is a fat kid with a tender heart going to fit in? What I didn’t know then, was this was just the beginning. I have always thought that this was a ridiculous saying but as I grew I learned how far from the truth it actually was.
In those days when I was moving through the school system words like zero tolerance did not exist. It was a time when literally anything goes including what was said by your teacher. So once I stepped into Junior High, I became fair game for teachers who wanted to become liked by the incoming students. I quickly learned who these staff members were and how to keep as much distance from them as possible. Unfortunately, the classrooms were not a safe place for me. I dreaded the moments when the teacher had to step out of the room. It was then that the bullies would go on the attack. Almost always the teacher would step back in just when I was responding to one bully or another. Then they would discipline me and treat me as if I were the one who created the disturbance in their classroom. In reality, I had been hit in the back of the head with a spitball, or I had just been belittled because my belly was bursting out of my pants. It really did not matter what the other kids did or said it was only necessary that I responded as the teacher walked back into the room. I believe that the bullies became very skilled at timing and getting me to respond, who knows how, when the teacher walked back into the classroom. As I moved into my teen years, I noticed that if I did not sit towards the front of the room, I could not see well. Now not only was I the fat kid but my vision was weak. All of the bullies took advantage of whatever they could use to belittle and berate me. So even when the teacher was in the classroom, I was somewhat distracted by what was going on behind me. The constant bullying in class made it almost impossible for me to focus on what was being taught, and my grades showed it. As a result of this, the guidance counselor decided that I would fit in better with the children who had learning disabilities. My IQ was not low, but they did not know how to deal with me and the problems that they felt I was causing in the classroom. Back then they called people with learning disabilities retarded or ‘Tards as the other kids called them. So now I was not just a fat kid with vision problems, but I was also a ‘tard.
In my school, there was an annual event that all the kids all got excited about called TWIRP Week. For me, this was just one more reason to feel rejected and hurt. TWIRP Week was a week when a girl would ask a guy to be her TWIRP (or date) for the week. Then there were activities throughout the week that the girl and guy would be involved with together. This TWIRP event was meant to be fun for all the kids. Many of the students looked forward to TWIRP week. Well, the popular jocks and pretty girls did I suppose. I dreaded it and wished that I could be anywhere else during that week. My eighth-grade year some of the popular kids (bullies) decided that it would be fun to set me up with a girl. I don’t mean set me up in a kind way either. One of the girls in the school, a ‘tard, was also overweight and a potential TWIRP mate for me. At first, they just asked me if I wanted her to be my TWIRP. When I ignored them, they decided to tell her that I wanted her to ask me to be her TWIRP date. As a result of the constant pressure, I felt cornered, and I did not know what to do, so I asked her. You guessed it, she accepted, and I actually got excited because, on the following Monday, TWIRP week was to begin and I had a date. I went home and told my parents and started to make plans to celebrate TWIRP week with this girl. My heart was in the right place, and I came in on Monday thinking that this would be fun. You know I had a date for TWIRP week, and maybe the other kids would leave us alone. I was so very naive regarding my classmates. When I came into school on Monday morning, she came up and told me that her Mom said to tell me that she could not be my Twirp date. Looking back I believe that her mother was just trying to protect her from hurt, but I felt like a failure again. I hurt because not even a ‘tard would TWIRP with me. Clearly, this was insecurity, and I was just an eighth grader, so I did not always process everything correctly. But this only added to the big wall of hurt that was building brick by brick.

All of this was becoming overwhelming, and one would wonder why I was not one of those kids who chose to drink or had taken drugs or even worse chosen an overdose of drugs to end it all. You know my story, it goes on and believe it or not; it gets uglier and far more difficult to handle, but my story is not unique. One is forced to wonder how many others have suffered or endure the barrage of terrible emotional suffering. A position that was and is created by the cruelty of another group of individuals. They are commonly called bullies. Is it any wonder that kids who are in the midst of developing who they are, may also dwell on a way out of this peer pressure-filled suffering. According to the CDC Centers for Disease Control, more teens die from suicide than from Cancer, Heart Disease, AIDS, Birth Defects, Stroke, Pneumonia, Influenza and Cronic Lung Disease combined. Did you catch that? The number of deaths by suicide is higher than a combination of all of those horrible diseases. That number boggles my mind but does not surprise me. In America each day there is an average of over 5400 suicide attempts by students from the 7th to 12th grades. I don’t know about you, but I cannot imagine the horror of being the parent of one of those kids. Let alone grasp the sheer number of those who are suffering so much that they would take an action that was meant to end their life.

This brings me back around to my story and how difficult it is to carry that load. I can remember thinking that the world that I lived in was inescapable. At that time no one could have convinced me that I would grow up and that I may find success or even marry the woman of my dreams. That was too far outside of what I knew even to consider at that time. The popular mean kids taught me that I was the fat kid who probably would not make it and after all, I was one of the ‘Tards. The bullies, the ones I saw every day, reinforced the lessons that they taught with passion. The lessons: That I was worthless, that I was fat and that I was a ‘Tard who had little to no value in this life. In a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, it stated that kids who were bullied were more than twice as likely to consider suicide. Are you surprised by this statistic? Why?
Recently I heard a play on the quote that I started this chapter with. You know “Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I believe that Kris Valloton states it correctly with the following quote. “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will steal my future.” Kris captured the truth in his rewording of this little diddy. The key is in the second half of the phrase where he says, “names will steal my future.” The impact of a word certainly has the power to steal one’s future. But, this is not a new problem, and it has been a curse for thousands of years. The great King David who was called a man after God’s own heart wrote many of the Psalms. Scripture records that he suffered much during his lifetime and a lot of the pain that he suffered included the injury that is connected to the tongue. King David wrote in Psalms 64:3 “They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim cruel words like deadly arrows.” Honestly, those deadly arrows could have stolen the future of this great Kings, but they did not. I felt those arrows, sprung forth from those bullies bows, and they were meant to be fatal. They were cruel beyond what most can understand. They were meant to steal my future. Many people carry the hurt from these cruel words for their lifetime.
My favorite class in High School was music/choir. After that class, I was cornered in a back hallway on many days, by a group of bullies who would often beat me up. Many years later as an adult, I paid a chance visit to a service station to look at new tires for my car. The attendant who came out to greet me was a big burly and gruff looking man who was very excited to assist me. He proceeded to talk to me about school and his great memories. He talked about what good friends we had been. As we were looking at tires, it took me some time, but after a while, I recognized this man. In High School, he and his friends had bullied me and beat me up several times after choir class in that back hallway. I did not let him know what I was thinking and naturally did not end up buying any tires, but he insisted that I come back because we had so many great memories to talk about together. When I left there, I was so upset that I got into my car and teared up. I prayed and asked God to help me, but I was so upset that I only drove a short distance before I pulled over so I could stop shaking. I could not believe that this man considered me his friend. Why would I ever go back to this service station to see this man? I have since decided to forgive him, but you can see how long it took me and how many years went by with me carrying the hurt of this experience in my past. There are many who bear this kind of grief and suffer from this type of abuse for their lifetime.
King David wrote in Psalm 57:4 “I am in the midst of lions, I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts-men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords.” Is it any wonder that we carry this pain into our adult years. Every day we experience a barrage of arrows whose tips have been dipped in a poison that is designed for the sole purpose just to damage our hearts.
Frequently, the damage comes from within the walls that were designed for our safety, the church. My mother struggled with obesity most of her life. Many within the halls of the church offered her words of abuse. Proverbs 15:4 states that “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.” One day my folks were on the church bus to head out on an adult Sunday School function that was meant for fellowship and fun. The associate pastor was sitting in the back of the bus while my folks were towards the front. My Father had the inside of the seat with my Mom on the aisle. Teasing was typical in this congregation, and so critical words about hairstyle, clothing, makeup and body size were fair game. The associate pastor who was also the youth pastor was especially critical of weight issues. This particular day everyone was excited as this was supposed to be a fun gathering that had been on the calendar for a long time. My mother was delighted because she was going to spend the day with my Dad involved in a church activity. My parents had five children so I am sure that they had to make special arrangements so that they could be involved in this fun event. They had gathered on the bus, and they were waiting for a few of those in the group to climb up on the bus. Without notice from the back of the bus, the Associate Pastor spoke up loudly and said, “Look at the fat roll off that woman’s body.” Everyone broke out in laughter and because my Mother was the only one struggling with obesity on the bus it was obvious who he was talking about. My Mother was mortified and wanted to crawl under the bus. My Dad who was insecure and did not know what to do kind of chuckled along with the crowd. Dad loved Mom and would not have wanted her hurt, but he was not a part of the in-crowd and did not know what to do. He felt that he had no influence and that what he would say would be put down. Needless to say, my Mother suffered throughout that entire trip. Over time she stopped attending these functions that clearly were not fun for her. Now you may say, well, you are telling that story second hand, and you would be correct but remember I told you that he was the Youth Pastor as well. This type of bullying was typical for the Associate/Youth Pastor, and he said things to me that hurt profoundly and embarrassed me in front of the group. Often I did not want to attend the Youth Group events for fear that I would be singled out for an attack. Fortunately, this man was not long for the ministry. In fact, his first wife who had weight struggles of her own left him for another younger and attractive man.
So what is the benefit in talking about all of this uncomfortable stuff? Especially painful, if you are one who has suffered the abuse, or you’re the one who caused the hurt. There is a straightforward reason for discussing all of these uncomfortable events. The apparent reason is that suffering is not limited to illness or injury and the effects of it. Emotional injury is a real issue and needs to be addressed. And emotional anguish often comes through the lips of someone we know and respect. James, Jesus Christ apostle, taught in James 1:26 that “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” I am pretty literal in my study of the scripture, so you know where I believe this particular passage leaves that former Associate/Youth Pastor. The following treasure is found in Proverbs 16:24 “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. How much strength is found within the language that is used to build a person up rather than words used to point out the obvious? If I read this scripture correctly, I see within it a prescription for healing. If it is not already obvious gracious or compassionate and yes even kind words are sweet to the soul and bring healing to your bones. I cannot help but believe that the Apostle James gleaned the wisdom that he shared in his book from his time with our Savior Jesus. I believe that the lover of my soul spoke words of affirmation and support, not words to tear down and destroy. That is why James called the tongue “a small part of the body” and yet strong enough to cause a great forest fire saying, “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”
James 3:5-6
I believe that many suffer from emotional anguish. These are people who say that their future has been stolen from them because of “cruel words like deadly arrows” (Psalm 64:3b) that were chosen by someone for them. James continues with passion trying to communicate the dangers of the tongue in chapter 3:9-10 “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brother and sister, this should not be.” Can he communicate his point in a way that is clearer? James states that we praise the creator and then out of the same lips we curse His creation. Mind you a creation that has been made in God’s image. Jesus cared about every word that came out of his mouth. He used precise language when he said in Matthew 12:36 (NRSV) “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter;…”
Is there a stronger case that can be made regarding the importance of how we use our tongue? I cannot imagine being able to make one. What will the bully say when they stand before the throne of God? Will they be able to say anything at all? Mark 3:28 says, “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter,” and Matthew 6:14 proclaims, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” I pray that I will not find myself before the throne answering for times when my tongue took the part of the bully. I confess that words, during times of emotional distress, have flown off my tongue and formed a hurt that I regret. Words that I later sought forgiveness for because they were a fire set in the hearts of those I love. We are all guilty of the careless use of words that slip off our tongues in moments that we regret.
The best thing that I can say today is that my future was not and could not be stolen by something someone said. I have suffered deeply as a result of careless words that were poison arrows directed at my heart and meant to destroy my life. If I had allowed them to, by dwelling on them. They could have stolen my future. Please, my friend, do not give anyone the power to steal your future. Give the pain you have experienced over to the only one who can handle it and trust him for a new day and a new future. How is that possible? It is possible because the one who you need to hand your suffering over too, suffered so that he could carry your pain. Isaiah 53:3-6 says “He was despised and rejected by all mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:7 “In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, In accordance with the riches of God grace.” Jesus proclaimed in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” so apparently the one who carried the burden of our sin is the only one who can handle the weight of our suffering and pain. It is in our favor to release the hurt that we have carried for so long and allow the God of the universe to give us the freedom that we long for with every part of our heart mind and soul. Because you are able to come to the Father God through Jesus. He is indeed the only one who can provide for you the strength that is required to forgive and produce healing for your broken heart. This is the only way to find a real future so that your future is not stolen.

Chapter Two: All Things Are Connected


Seldom do we begin a journey without making plans and yet the path that we wander down in pain is one we could never be prepared for or long to take. My walk down this long and winding road began with a simple decision. I was at a work event that was meant to give the families of the employee a chance to relax and have fun. I began the evening enthusiastic because the party was at a place called “Bounce Party.” I was excited by what I saw when we arrived, and I did bounce, but it was not fun in the end. The impact of the bounce led me to broken bones, and my right rotator cuff was torn almost entirely in two. You would have been proud of me though as I was very courageous. I stood and walked across the room with tears of pain pooling behind my eyelids. The rest of the evening I sat next to my wife watching my friends and coworkers having fun. I thought oh, there is nothing wrong with you, just tough up Gary you can handle the pain. We left this evening filled with fun with my teeth grinding and a smile that was plastered on from ear to ear. After moaning through the night in the early morning hours, my wife said, “honey we need to go to the Emergency Room.” Well, several broken bones and an immobile shoulder later I found myself in the hospital for what I thought was going to be outpatient surgery. I am tall, and they brought me out of the operating room on a table that was too short. As I began to come out of the Anesthesia, I can remember asking the nurse why I was on such a short table. She said, “Oh, it’s ok you will recover soon, and we can send you home.” I drifted in and out, but each time I was somewhat “in” I would ask the nurse again about the too short table. Well, you guessed it I did not come out from under as they expected and what should have taken about an hour took several hours.
When they finally tried to get me up to go home, I had lost all feeling from my knee’s down. I literally fell and had to be held up, so they proceeded to send me up to a room and hospitalized me. After three days I left the hospital walking, thank God, but I now have profound Neuropathy. To put it simply I have nerve damage in each leg from the knee down. Our bodies are so detailed, and everything works together right down to the smallest detail each part is affected by the other, we cannot injure one part without affecting another part of our body.
The Psalmist was concise, and he puts it this way, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14.
I recognize this truth clearly from the way my body reacted to the incident on the recovery table and prolonged Anesthesia. Have you thought about the effects that sin has on our thoughts when we allow our eyes to wander and then dwell on what we should not? In fact, our minds may be impacted by what we see giving us phycological or spiritual neuropathy.
The apostle Paul in Romans 8:5-6 say’s “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the spirit have their minds set on what the spirit desires the mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the spirit is life and peace.”. Everything is connected and even what can seem to be an innocent glance can turn into hurt for a lifetime.
It would make sense to think about what the apostle says when the mind is governed by the flesh as a kind of a spiritual neuropathy on steroids. I know of a situation where this very truth played out over the years and caused the death of a 20-year marriage and a life abandoned to sin. I believe that this individuals sin may have started out with an innocent glance where the mind wanders down a path it should never have. This person found themselves in a spiritual neuropathy because of a pattern of bad choices that resulted in their breakdown and the destruction of their family.
I remember in Sunday School we sang a song that would be good to sing as adults. This is how the little tune’s lyrics went, “Oh, be careful little eye’s what you see, Oh, be careful little eye’s what you see for the Father up above is looking down in love so be careful little eyes what you see.” It is so important that we keep our heart and mind in the right place and so I sing to myself, “Oh, be careful little eye’s” as I move through this day.
What about you? Do you as the apostle Paul said have a “mind governed by the flesh” as in spiritual neuropathy or do you have a mind “set on what the Spirit desires.” Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” So I will continue to sing to myself “Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.” How do you guard your heart against spiritual neuropathy?

Chapter One: Origins (An Introduction)

Some would say that the best place to start is at the beginning, but where does it all honestly begin? I could start on the day I was born, but we know through biology that our origin has much more to do with a wink & a node then the slap of the doctor’s hand. Perhaps I am as says all about my ancestors. History tells us that many have traveled far and wide to answer the questions concerning where it all began but to what avail. Some who have been received by loving hands and into loving homes via adoption cannot even trace their roots to their biological Mom & Dad. So for them, they don’t have a place to begin or know the one who gave the wink or the one who gave the nod. So this notion of starting where you originate can become perplexing at best.
So for me, I have to say that the very best place of beginning has much more to do with a relationship than a date or time. You see I trace my beginning, not to the back of a doctor’s hand or even the warmth of my Mothers arms. I find my origins in a first conversation, a getting to know you of sorts. At least on my end, it was an introduction because the one I was getting to know designed me in my mother’s womb Psalm 139:13. And He already knew my every detail down to the numbers of the hairs on my head Matthew 10:30.

My introduction was simple enough because God chose to use a servant with the title Sunday School Teacher. I don’t know what other titles this man held, but the plaque on his door when my Sunday School teacher introduced me to the maker of the stars was more crucial to me than that of a CEO or President. For he facilitated, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the opening of my eyes that day. The core of my being was changed in those moments transforming me from the child of human parentage into the child of the King of Kings.
Now, perhaps you’re asking what does any of this have to do with pain? My response to you will be one, and only one, powerful word. Everything! For, I believe, to understand and know how to deal with long-term chronic pain you must first come to terms with the one who fashioned your body. The one who designed those shocking receptors or nerves that signal and announce pain. The reason why I began this line of thought was to discuss the need to understand your beginning. No, I am not talking about the date that you use to identify yourself at every hospital and doctors office. I am referring to the moment when you were introduced to the great physician. The one who created every cell, the one who caused the egg to divide and to produce your conception.

So Are you scratching your head right now saying “What?’, “Who?’or “How? And where has this conversation just gone? Well, I can answer those queries with the following quotes. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” John 14:6. That is the “who” and as we read further the truth of the “How” is pretty simple and can be summed up in the following text. “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and Only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish (to die) but have eternal life.” John 3:16. So when you think of these two scriptures, the only one who can point you to the Father, was sent by the Father to sacrifice His life. The reason for this was because of our bad choices and sin we owed a debt that we could not pay. There was only one who could pay that debt. Because He made only good choices and was free of sin that He did not owe that debt. And when I met the one who paid my debt, He came bearing a gift. As I opened that gift, I found within the wrapping the power of the Holy Spirit and eternal life.

He promises that same gift to you. This promise is the best of the possible good news that this is not only available to a few but “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:8 and to solidify the point Jesus said in Revelations 3:2 “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…”. So my friend what is keeping you from opening your heart’s door? I can’t think of a good reason. After all, what have you got to lose?
As I got to know my savior, I realized that He is the reason for this life. He brings all the fulfillment that anyone could need. But for some now comes the transition, the great leap that they cannot possibly understand. After all my blog is titled Pain my constant traveling companion and how could a loving God allow someone like me to live in constant pain? Many point to people around the world who are suffering from day to day and have no means for a resolution to that pain. We see children in poverty-stricken countries who struggle in torment because they don’t have good food to eat. And in this day to day life I may say, well, look at that guy he doesn’t have it so bad. In your defense, you may say “How could you conceivably appreciate the pain that I have faced?” I am going, to be honest with you and say that I have not walked down the paths that you have traversed. I probably cannot understand the level of discomfort or pain that you have faced. I would be grateful for that same level of honesty from you. The boulders that have knocked me on my wide end could not compare to the pebble in your shoe or visa versa. So, now that we have got that one out of the way can move on and look at each other differently? To be clear, we have only two choices when thinking about constant chronic pain and how to deal with it.

Option 1. Buck up and pull yourself up by your bootstraps. After all, you have only yourselves to depend upon so you better take care or yourself because no one else will.
Option 2. Fall at your Savior’s feet and depend upon Him to carry you through and develop you into the individual that you are called to be. He promises in Philippians 1:6 that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Someone who has a plan for you that includes hope and a future Jeremiah 29:11.

In the coming blogs, I plan on providing for you the details that have shaped my life and the God who carried me through them.

As for me, I have chosen option number two. Now, what about you?