Earlier in my life I discovered just how amazingly easy it was to be lonely. Lonely is no respecter of persons. It doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are, or the color of your skin, or whether you are male or female, or where you work, etc. I found out that loneliness doesn’t have anything to do with how many people are around either. I was shocked at how lonely one can feel while married. Or in a crowd.
A crowd? Yes. Especially a crowd. My expectation was that certainly in a crowd more people would pay attention to me. Certainly I would be accepted. But the exact opposite occurred. I felt more lonely in those crowds. I started looking for reasons to avoid holiday parties. But staying home alone didn’t seem to help. The walls felt like they were closing in on me.
With the loneliness came worry, fears, and eventually depression. I became more of a hermit. I didn’t want to meet anyone. I didn’t feel fit to be in public. I stopped going to church. I felt embarrassed to be anywhere in public. And I reached a point where I felt absolutely worthless. I felt like I was pulling down everyone around me. And then the seeds of suicide started to occur. And I entertained them. I thought it about it enough to choose how I would go. As a guy who loved the outdoors, I decided it would be poison. Poison I could find that was naturally occurring. I didn’t have to buy it. No one would know. I was near the bottom of the Pit of Self Pity. It’s the most horrible place I have been.
And all of this happened after I was a good, church-going, Bible-reading, praying Christian. In fact, it is after I was a Sunday school teacher, a praise and worship leader, and even an Associate Pastor. Sad, isn’t it?
What got me out this? It was my parents complete and total acceptance for me even after I told them about my impending divorce. It was the hardest 7-hr drive from Maryland to Ohio thinking about how to tell my parents I had failed. At marriage. A Christian marriage. They made me feel love I had never experienced. I was a flop and they still loved me. It was God’s Love.
I had nothing left inside of me. I decided that all the wallowing around in self pity had got me nothing except closer to the end of my life. I chose to distract myself with something I loved. Birding. It was my escape for a year. It was my Big Year. It was actually a year I spent running away from self pity. And I ran hard towards the one thing I thought I could still do. Go birding.
I had a great year and met many wonderful people. It turned out to be pretty good therapy and a good start to recovery. I continued to live. Because now I knew my parents wanted me around. And my brothers and sister, too. And I had a number of birding friends, too.
By 2001, when I was diagnosed with Leukemia (ALL) and was given a 50-50 chance of living, I had enough will to live that I had some courage to endure the bouts with chemo. I thank God every day now that I’m alive. I’m so happy to wake up. To see a snowflake. Or a drop of rain. Or an orange traffic cone. Or someone cutting me off on the road. Why? I’m alive. And I’m no longer in a hospital room.
It’s been a wild ride with a book and movie about the birding part of my life. I love to talk to folks about an ordinary guy having an extraordinary experience. I get to inspire people to enjoy life more.
One of the Scriptures that meant the most to me through all this is in Hebrews 6:18-19. It says that hope is the anchor of the soul. And soul in the original language means the inner seat of your affections; our emotions. It’s where we get our English word for psychology. What does an anchor do? It keeps a ship steady in a storm. What happens in life? Storms. Lots of them. How do we get through it? An anchor. The Anchor of Hope.
And hope in the Greek is elpis. Like Elvis with a “p”. Now you’ve got a mental picture of cool sunglasses and raised collars. Bible hope is not the same as our wishy-washy hope. Our hope says things like “I wish it wasn’t so cold” or “I wish I had more money”. There may be a remote, but usually very distant possibility that something might happen in our favor. The Bible hope? It literally means “eager anticipation”. It’s the kind of excitement that a kid gets when you tell him/her that it’s time to open presents early today on Christmas.
When you are worried, it is because you have an underlying fear. You have a forboding that something bad is going to happen. The opposite of that is hope. When you have an expectaton that something good is going to happen to you it changes your life! It’s what I call the Compass of Expectation. Let go of the worry and fear. Point the Compass of Expectation in the opposite direction. Replace those thoughts in your mind with the good things that God says about you. His favor is toward you. He wants to bless you with good, not evil. Learn to play a good, positive movie in the movie screen of your mind. You are in the movie. Good things are happening. Expect it every day. Those other movies you’ve been playing? Get rid of them. They don’t belong there!
And the reason I’m writing this? Because this story is my recovery. A second chance at life. It helped me. Maybe it will help someone else. Even if it’s only one person. If that’s you, allow God to bless you like this. Just tell Him you are at the end of yourself. Ask Him to reveal His love for you. Give Him your worries, fears, pain, torment, and sorrow–whatever is plaguing you. Ask Him to fill you with His hope. You can have a brand new start. God loves you so much that He gave his Son, Jesus, as a substitute for all your failures. You give Him your weaknesses and indaquacies. And He will give you new life. It’s a good deal.
And Merry Christmas to all!