This is the second installment of a periodic series where I unpack the writings and memories of my Uncle Pat. Make sure you read Part 1 first. “When I Fell In Love With God” is his autobiographical essay describing how he came to know God after he was paralyzed. This is Part 2 of 3.
… I realized I had to make the best of a bad situation. I was still empty and nothing had really changed. I just knew that dying was no longer an option. I would try to fill my emptiness with alcohol and cocaine. I would sell marijuana to support my absolutely insane weekends. I was on a direct course with self-destruction. With everything around me lacking any substance it became easy to hide from reality. I wouldn’t even have to feel the pain; I’d just continue avoiding anything that challenged me, relying on everyone for everything. I would be just fine.
My next loss wouldn’t be as difficult as the first major heartbreaks. Being desensitized to any real love for quite a while now it wasn’t too big of a shock finding out my girlfriend had been sleeping with another guy. I was distraught for a while, but for the most part I was just bitter. I was used to getting ripped off and by this time I had reached a state of spiritual numbness. All I really knew were my own physical wants and needs.
I believe that some people can have a rich soul life even though they are living in a fallen state. I think this was the case for myself. When I did drugs or played music I could have a deep emotional experience even though my concept and concern for God was more than limited. I believe my heart was so broken I had lost the ability to feel love at all.
It had been a horrific ordeal getting used to a meaningless life as a quadriplegic. After two years of acclimation and sifting through the rubble of what had become of my life, I found myself a little more aware of the damage drugs and alcohol were doing. It was time to slow down. While living in my apartment I befriended a family that was renting a room. They seemed to be nice enough people and with my current living situation in shambles I decided to make a change.
Things were about to start happening at a rapid pace. I believe my decision to move was the first time I really started to care again. Even though I was still partying on the weekends I was beginning to search for something better. Since my current caregiver was a drug addict, I started looking for another. With my new address would come a new caregiver. God had me positioned for the greatest day of my life.
It was warm that early summer day when I interviewed the long-haired, barefooted man. After explaining what was involved with my personal care and how much the pay was, he didn’t say much. He wasn’t concerned about the training and didn’t care about the money; he just said he wanted to help. Bill started the very next day.
Things seemed easier, less time-consuming for Bill. There was something different about this care attendant. I don’t remember Bill ever being late and he never seemed to worry about anything. He started bringing food over, good food, homemade stuff with most of the ingredients coming from the produce section or the health food store. He had asked me if I believed in God and Jesus; I said yes, but he knew I didn’t even have a clue about how much God loved me. Bill didn’t use any strange witnessing tactics. He just kept nurturing me to good health and started teaching me a better way to live.
It wasn’t long before I had asked Jesus into my heart, reading the Bible, and listening to Christian radio. It was wonderful, but I hadn’t quite fallen in love with God yet. One day while listening to the radio they announced a baptismal service. Bill asked if I would like to go. I reluctantly said I would think about it. Going to the beach in my wheelchair was not my idea of a good time. I couldn’t know just how wrong I would be… I was about to fall head over heels in love with God.
Bill has this subtle, persistent way of helping me run out of excuses (well, I had!). The next Saturday morning I was being hustled out of bed sooner than I would have liked. We arrived at the beach early, and it was a good thing we did. The place where I was baptized, a small cove near Newport Beach, California, is only accessible by climbing up over and down a small cliff. We sat there at the base of the first course of outcroppings and discussed just how in the world we would get me down to the shore. People gathered around and it became quite clear that one way or the other these happy crazy Jesus freaks were going to get me down to the beach. The next thing I knew I was being carried over steep sandstone rocks.
In the gospel of Mark there’s a story about a paralyzed man that was lowered through a roof on a pallet by his friends so Jesus would heal him. I think I’ve got a pretty good idea what this guy experienced. It was exhilarating and frightening at the same time. I had taken a huge leap of faith for the first time in my life and God knew it. He was about to embrace me with a love I would never forget…
Part 1. Part 3 will be posted soon.