The thoughts in my head mirrored my vocalizations as I laid on the ground screaming in pain. I'm never going to walk again. Make it stop. I can't take it. Life will never be the same. AHHHHH! There wasn't the slightest glimmer of hope. Instantly I knew that I was paralyzed. One moment my life was filled with freedom and adventure, the next it was burdened with obstacles.
"I'm going to walk again." The words came out of my mouth with such confidence as I spoke to the paraplegic that came to visit me. "Yeah, I said that too when I was in the hospital," he replied with a laugh as though he already knew what was going to happen. For the longest time I hated the fact that I was paralyzed. It was crushing to my spirit to know that a major portion of my body was useless. There seemed to be no possible way to overcome it. Research? Slow and unlikely. Physical therapy? Makes me stronger, but doesn't heal the spinal cord. What was I to do? Most of my life revolved around physical activities. Sports, mountain biking, snowboarding. All of a sudden I was running into obstacles as simple as finding a way up a set of stairs. Obstacle after obstacle with no way to overcome them, physically or mentally. I became depressed.
I probably read a couple dozen self-help books in an effort to heal my depression. None of them worked. I just became more determined to find a way to heal my body. Some of the things I did made me feel better, but they were only bandaids on top of a deeper issue. I was building myself up for a let-down. There was still no way I was going to walk anytime soon, and the self-pity I had over it was leading me down a dangerous road.
All the self-help reading I did somehow brought me to a dark, toxic corner of the internet that I don't even want to name for fear of leading anyone else there. The main premise of this subculture is developing strategies to sleep with a lot of women. I figured if I could get a lot of women to like me I would somehow be validated, and my pain would go away. As you can probably guess, this didn't turn out well. The things I was learning were based on manipulation and disregard of everyone else, things that will lead a person in the opposite direction of happiness. I started turning into a sociopath. I was even doing things like trying to seduce my friends' girlfriends. Not good. I was digging myself a hole of bitterness, anger, and resentment that ultimately led to loneliness. And my body still didn't work.
Paralysis was still staring me right in the face. I could think of only one place I had not turned to. It was a place I was very apprehensive about turning to. Somewhat because of the stereotypes surrounding it, and somewhat due to the resistance I had built up through college. I also knew my entire concept of life would be challenged, and that it would be difficult to admit I was wrong. However, desperation prevailed. I finally opened up the Bible. I had never read it before. I went to church as a kid, but I never read the Bible. I also never really felt connected to God. It was more just something I knew. Asking the question, "Is God real?" would have been like asking, "Is the sky blue." It was just common sense. Nothing deeper.
As I started reading the Bible, the words spoke to me in a way nothing else ever had. I felt like I was obtaining more knowledge from this one book, than from everything else I had ever read, combined. The book of Proverbs, alone, taught me the values of honesty, humility, integrity, and hard work. There was so much value. Then I learned that we are all sinners, flawed in some way. I had heard this concept before, but for some reason it never registered. Maybe because as a kid I hadn't really considered myself a sinner and all the terrible things I did happened after I left the church. Maybe it was because I thought right and wrong were subjective, and thus had very loose morals. Or maybe it was simply a resistance to admitting I wasn't perfect when my pride was through the ceiling. Whatever it was, I finally acknowledged that I had done wrong.
At first this was terrifying. Having to face a Holy and Perfect God and try to explain all the terrible things I had done was not the first thing I wanted to do. However, when I finally confessed my sins, it felt like a dump truck full of rocks was lifted off my shoulders. God always provides a way out. He did it over and over again with the Israelites, and finally He did it with Jesus. By the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, our sins are atoned for. Now I realize this can sound pretty crazy, but that's actually reason to believe it is true. It's not logical that someone would make this up. The writing is so straightforward that it doesn't even resemble a typical story. It's also not logical that the people who started the church would suffer imprisonment and torture to perpetuate something that was make believe. There is way more to it that I can't explain here. If you read the Bible in its entirety, and see the big picture, you will understand what I am talking about much better. I also encourage you to pray to God for understanding. I know this may be weird if you have never done it before. Just go somewhere private and say with full intention, "Jesus, please help me understand the reality of your existence." If you are willing, you may receive a revelation this way as well. That's what happened to me. God's message hit me loud and clear, literally, through a dream. If you think God doesn't work in current times like He did in the Bible, you just aren't paying attention.
As soon as I realized the reality of Jesus, and that He forgives sins, everything changed. Suddenly the obstacle of paralysis sort of disappeared. There was a much bigger picture to look at. Our bodies are only temporary, but our souls are eternal. The flesh we inhabit is not the only thing in life. It takes faith to understand this. Without it I was completely missing the mark. The reason I was in so much pain was that I was so focused on my body that I neglected what is truly important, the soul. Every soul. Not only mine, but also the friends and family that love me. Not only theirs, but also the enemies that hate me. Every soul matters. This isn't to say that I want to go out and proselytize everyone. I think that leads to self-righteousness and resentment, and as I look back to my own conversion, it wasn't because anyone told me to do it. It occurred organically through my own yearning and the will of the Lord Jesus. What I'm talking about is loving one another. This is what Jesus taught us to do.
There is great peace in my life now because of God and I want to share it with anyone who is suffering spiritually. I know how bad the pain can be. I know how impossible it is to overcome it on your own. Something is wrong, but it's not obvious. It just hurts. I know because I've been there. I've been through depression. I've been through addiction. I've been through abuse. I've been through trauma. I was never able to deal with the pain from these things until I encountered Jesus. And you know what? He's been through that pain too. He is able to sympathize with us in every aspect of our lives. This is one of the reasons why it is so important He lived as a human. This is what makes Christianity so much different from every other religion. God's love is so amazing, that He humbled Himself and came to us so that we could be with Him for eternity. I want to let people know that the faith that has made me happier as a paraplegic than I was as a fully functioning person is freely available to them through the love of God.
This isn't to say that I've been transformed into the perfect person. Far from it. I still struggle with temptation. I still struggle with mental disorder. I still struggle with pain. The obstacles I had before are still there, but I have a different perspective now. I realize they are only surface level obstacles. My faith in God has transformed the very core of who I am. Whenever I encounter a problem I can turn to God and listen, and every time the problem gets resolved.
Without Jesus, I don't think I would have ever realized how great my life is. I would have been stuck on the obstacles. The faith God gave me helped me to accept things the way they are. There are great riches in contentment, another lesson the Bible teaches. All my life I tried to be someone I wasn't. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be liked. I would even lie to make myself look better. Finally, I can accept myself the way I am, including as a paraplegic. If God loves me, then why would I care what other people think?
When I finally realized that paralysis wasn't going to be a hindrance to my life, even more was revealed to me. It is actually a gift. I now have an amazing story to tell. As a writer and aspiring filmmaker this is greater than gold. However, there is a major responsibility that comes with a gift like this. I have to use it. God has given me a second chance at life and I don't want to waste it. It is time to tell a story. I hope you will listen.
William Joseph Scheremet