Monday 24 Oct 2016

Blind Faith
M Adam Roberts

I'd like to share with you an inspiring, true story about a man who once was blind, but now can see.

His name is Steve. He's about 40 years old, I would guess. A well-groomed, single, white male, at first glance, he appears perfectly healthy. He seems no different from most others you might see during the course of a day.

Steve is far from the average; there's a whole lot more to his story than what first meets the eye. I first met Steve a couple of months ago at a local church fellowship dinner. During the meal, he sat directly across the table from where I was sitting.

After standing in line, and receiving his plate, he walked over and placed his tray down on the table across from mine. He pulled out a chair and sat down. I couldn't help but notice that before eating, he paused a moment to rearrange some of the items that had been placed on his plate.

Once everything, on his dish, was exactly where he wanted it, he did something that I didn't quite understand at the time. He picked up a small package of ketchup, which the server had placed on his tray, and then asked me, "What is this?" Without hesitation, I answered, "That's ketchup," I said. He thanked me

After tearing the packet of ketchup open and squeezing it onto his hot dog, he picked up another small packet on his tray and asked me again, "What's this?" Still slightly puzzled why he was asking me these simple and obvious questions, I answered, "That's mustard." He thanked me again for my help, and tore open the packet and squeezed the mustard onto his hot dog.

As we ate our meals together, he chatted with me about various topics. We spent much time talking about the weather and other general topics. In this sense, the meal was normal.

Steve seemed normal in every way. I noticed nothing out of the ordinary about him. He seemed intelligent. He had a great sense of humor. He was nice.

I just couldn't figure out why he needed my help with the ketchup and mustard packets. I couldn't help but wonder about it. I wondered throughout the meal

After finishing our meal, we stood up together and walked our empty plates at the dish room. Again, nothing was out of the ordinary. We complimented the chef on the excellent meal he had prepared for us; then we walked outside the fellowship hall into the church parking lot.

As we walked, Steve told me about how much he liked living in the place where he was presently residing. "It's only about a block away from the church," he said, proudly. It's nice to talk with someone who's happy, not endlessly miserable.

I was very interested in the things he was telling me about where he lived because I had been looking for a nice place to rent myself. I told him I'd like to find out more about the place where he was living. I asked how I might get a grasp of the person who managed the complex

Steve seemed pleased that I was interested in living in the same place he did. Perhaps he was hoping that we might become good friends in the future.

"If you would like, I'll take you over and let you see my apartment," he said. "That way you'll know what they look like inside. They're all exactly the same."

"That would be great!" I replied.

We walked across the dark field that separated the apartment complex from the church property. After walking about a hundred feet, I noticed the pace of his walking slowed down, considerably, to about half the speed he was walking before. I noticed that he began watching his feet and every step that he took. I noticed that he then realized that I had finally become aware that there was something different about him. That's when he stopped walking and began telling me his incredible story. Up until that moment, I had no idea that he was any different from me.

"I'm blind," he blurted out. "I don't carry one of those red and white walking sticks like most blind people do. I'm afraid if I did, someone might see me coming down the road and decide to jump me because they can see that I'm easy prey. I taught myself to walk without a stick I also work a full-time job. I don't receive any kind of government help or a disability check. I take care of myself.

Steve continued. "For a long time, after the accident, I wasn't able to see anything at all. I had to teach myself how to see all over again. Even now, I can only see the outer shape of things. I can't see any details of the objects I'm looking at. Like, I can tell you there is a flower pot sitting over there in that corner, but I can't tell you if there's a plant in it."

"You were in an accident?" I inquired. "Yeah, I was in a horrible motorcycle accident that nearly took my life," he said. "When they found my body, they didn't believe there was any hope of me living. Both of my eyes had popped out of their sockets. My legs were broken and twisted behind my back. My skull crushed, in a couple different places. I had compound fractures all over my body where the bones had shattered and were sticking out of my skin. Several of my ribs were broken, my lungs punctured and that's only the half of it. I now have so many screws and plates holding my body together you wouldn't believe it! The doctor's say it's a miracle that I'm still alive. I guess somebody up there decided it wasn't time for me to leave this world yet. I suppose I'm still needed here for some reason."

Steve continued his story. "I was so angry that I had done this to myself"! There was no getting out of what I had done to my body. There was no going back. I was going to have to live with it whether I liked it or not. So I decided to make the best of it and fight for the life I still had left."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing! Up until that time, he seemed perfectly fine. I would've never known he had been through all that he was telling me if he hadn't made me aware of it.

I looked at him with my mouth hanging open and said, "Wow! What a story, man! That's amazing! I didn't even know you were blind until you told me. You get around so well. You don't even have a limp, and your eyes appear to be almost normal!" He took a moment and reflected back on all that he had been through and then said, "I've come a long, long way since my accident. I haven't been like this very long."

Being that I just met him at a church, I asked him, "Were you angry at the man upstairs for allowing this to happen to you?

"No," he said. "I was an atheist at the time. I was angry with myself for wrecking my life the way I did."

I began wondering what might have caused his accident, so I asked him, "Had you been drinking the night that your accident occurred?" He nodded his head and said, "Yes! Of course, I used all kinds of drugs that evening. I believed I was invincible back in those days."

Steve went on to tell me about how great his life was back before the accident. He told me about the new house he was in the process of buying, the nice motorcycle he owned and the excellent paying job he once had which he enjoyed so much. He never imagined, in his worst nightmare, what his reality was about to become.

"I was running with the wrong crowd back in those days," he said. "I was having all kinds of people over to my house every night, and we were partying, and drinking, and doing all kinds of drugs, never giving any thought to the consequences that might come of it."

After many months of excruciating pain and physical rehabilitation, Steve was finally able to leave the hospital and go back home. He told me that during the whole time of his rehabilitation, all of those he'd believed to be his friends abandoned him. "They never came around to see me anymore," he said. I knew I needed to move away from my old neighborhood to get away from all those people I used to know. I didn't want to be around them anymore. It was really depressing me living there around them, especially being that they showed me no love after the accident. I wasn't any fun to them anymore."

Steve continued. "I talked to my landlord to see if he might have a different apartment I could rent in another area. That's when he showed me the place where I'm living now."

"I moved here about 2 1/2 years ago. I never knew there was a church right behind my apartment until just a little over a year ago. It was right across the street from me the whole time, but I couldn't see it. For a year or more, I walked straight out of my apartment and headed west towards the only grocery store I knew, which was well over a mile away. No one ever told me that there were churches and a stores right behind my apartment. I had always been afraid to walk out in that direction because that area was unfamiliar to me."

Steve continued. "One day, I was feeling so depressed that I almost committed suicide. I just didn't have the strength to go on living anymore. I had started drinking again and my life felt like nothing but a lonely, meaningless, miserable hell. I saw no hope or reason for living anymore. I wanted to die. I was sitting in the middle of my living room floor with a gun held between my legs. I was just about to blow my brains out when, for some reason, I jumped up from the floor and ran out the back door of my apartment. Sobbing with tears, I looked up towards the sky and cried out for help. It was the first time I had prayed in over 18 1/2 years."

Steve went on. "Without realizing, I had run out of my apartment in a direction that I had never ventured before. Suddenly, I realized that I was in unfamiliar territory and I was afraid! I realized, at that moment, I was lost, and needed help finding my way back home.

In complete desperation, I looked up again, and cried out from the depths of my heart, Lord! If you really love me, as everyone tells me you do; if you really want to save my life, you're going to have to show me something. At that instant, I saw in the distance a tall church steeple, with a cross on top of it, reaching high into the sky

Steve concluded. "Lost in darkness, I stumbled my way across the field and towards the church that evening, and it was there that I finally found the love, meaning and purpose I had been searching for all my life. If it weren't for that church being there that evening, I wouldn't be here today."

I knew the very minute I heard Steve's story that I wanted to write a piece about his amazing and inspiring life. I didn't want to write it without his permission, so I went back to his apartment to ask him if it would be all right with him if I wrote it.

Steve was flattered by the offer, but did not feel worthy of such an honor. He couldn't understand why I felt his life was so great and believed it to be worthy of writing about. He didn't see his faith as being as strong as I saw it

He told me, "Sometimes I have a problem with the man upstairs and the way He goes about doing things. Sometimes I still wonder if He even exists. I have my difficulties on that matter. There are a lot of things I just don't understand about this life and the things we have to go through, so who am I to be an example of faith and courage to anyone else."

Steve had just come home from a very hard and trying day when I knocked on his door that evening. He told me it was one of the worst days of his life. He shared some of the details of it with me, and I could understand why he was feeling so alone and discouraged that day. I could certainly relate. We all have days like that from time to time

I tried to reassure him that he was not alone in this world, and that his life did have meaning and purpose. I assured him again him that his story was inspiring, and that people could learn from his experience and example. He thanked me for saying so, but still didn't believe his experience or example was anything worth writing about

Since first meeting Steve, I've seen his faith in action, even though he's not so sure that it even exists. His thoughts and words may be imperfect, but his love and concern for others, and his church, is very real. I've watched him at work, serving the homeless of his city. He stands at the door of the church and welcomes the needy into the building as they come in seeking shelter from the cold. I've watched him as he helps cater to their needs. I see how he deeply cares for them and I can see how much he sincerely desires to be of service to others in any way he can.

Although I know Steve still struggles daily in his own life, he tries his best not to show it. He doesn't want to pitied, and he does not expect any special favors in life. He always carries a smile on his face and a word of encouragement for every person he encounters. He's always joking with people trying to make them laugh. He usually uses himself as the object of the joke. Once he said to me, "When you wake up one day to suddenly find that you are completely blind, totally paralyzed, and wearing a big dirty diaper, you better have a sense of humor!"

Steve refuses to allow his lack of eyesight to cripple the rest of his life and his love for others. He wakes up and goes to work every day, never asking for, or expecting, a free handout. Most days, as soon as he gets off work, he walks over to the church to see how he might be of service to others

After my visit with Steve was over, we left his apartment and walked back over to the church. I watched, as he circled the large building, checking every exterior door, to ensure the building security. This was not something he was required to do by the church, it was something he did because he cares for the church and doesn't want to see any harm come to it

Steve inspires me, the way he chooses to live his life, day by day, despite his physical limitations. Here's a man who has every reason in the world to feel sorry for him, but refuses to live his life in despair. He made up his mind that he's going to make the best of his situation, and devote the remaining of his days to loving and blessing others, in hopes that they might somehow find strength in his weakness, and wisdom from his mistakes.

Steve gave me permission to write his story if I wanted to, but on that particular day, his faith was really shaken. He was feeling especially alone and un-cared for when I showed up and knocked on his door that night. I could sense, from our talk that he wasn't sure what he believed in anymore. He was feeling very discouraged about his whole life. He told me he had no choice but to walk home from work in the pouring rain because there was no one available to give him a ride. He informed me that he's unable to see at all in the rain, and that it's very dangerous for him to have to walk in it alone... His clothes were dripping with water as he talked with me, and his feeling were very hurt that no one offered to help him that day

Steve shared with me a message that his ex-girlfriend had left him on his voice mail that day. She had been drinking and was calling to see if he would give her some money so that she could buy more alcohol. When he denied her the money, she left a series of cruel messages on his phone that deeply hurt and humiliated him. Most of her cruel comments aimed at his disabilities. How he was something less than a person, now, that he had these disabilities to manage. I could see he was fighting back tears as he told me the things she had to say to him. It was obvious that he still loved and cared for her.

After talking a short while longer, I told Steve I needed to be moving along. I needed to get to the gym to exercise before it got too late. I was surprised when he asked me if he could go with me. He informed me that he had a membership at the same gym. I asked him how he could possibly get around in a gym, and how would he even know how much weight he was trying to lift. "I count the plates," he said. "I've been going to that gym for over a year now. I'm very familiar with the place. Don't worry. Let me grab my gym bag and we'll get out of here." He seemed excited to have a friend to workout with that day.

I helped Steve into my car and started driving toward the gym. We hadn't driven even a block when Steve asked me to stop driving. He had just remembered that he had promised the church that he would be there that evening to help with a seminar they were giving. He remembered that he had left his sunglasses in the very same room where the seminar was to take place, and he needed his glasses in order to go to the gym. There was no way of retrieving them without going back into the church and entering into the room, where he was supposed to be assisting, to get them.

Steve said, "I'm going to take this as a sign. I promised I was going to help with the event this evening, and maybe there's a reason why I'm supposed to be there. Maybe they're going to share something I need to hear. As much as I'd love to go to the gym with you right now, it's not the right thing for me to do. I need to go back to the church and do as I promised."

There was once told a story of a man who had two sons. One day he came to the first and said, "Son, I want you to go and work in my vineyard today. The son answered and said, "I will not," but afterward he repented, and went. He came to the second son and said likewise. He said, "I go, sir." and went not. Then the question, "Which of the two sons did the will of his father?"

We all can see that the first son, who at first refused, but later repented and went and did that which he knew would please his father, was the obedient son, rather than the son who said he would, but then didn't do as he promised

I know there are times when my friend Steve becomes discouraged with the trials of his life and his faith is tested. He tells me there are times when he's not sure there's anything more to believe in than himself.

Does he really believe that down deep in his heart? I don't believe he does, because his actions prove different. Despite his temptation to quit believing, he forces himself up out of that depression and goes straight to work at doing the will of his father, which he's not even sure he believes in. He doesn't do this just sometimes; he does it all the time

Now ask yourself, would a person, diligently, get up every single day and whole-heartedly serve a purpose they don't believe in, for any other reward than the satisfaction of being faithful to it? I don't believe so. I believe my friend Steve is a man of faith whether he understands himself to be or not, and I believe his story and life example are worthy of being told

Who or what do you believe in? Are you a person true to your faith despite your circumstances, or are you like the son who said, Yes, I will go, and then you go not.

M Adam Roberts lives and writes from Clearwater, Florida.

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