A Baby Boomer— I am one. I am part of that generation. We were also flower children. I do not know if that means we were blossoming idiots or just a growth on somebody’s shelf. We were and are a generation that changed the destiny of a nation.
I am in somewhat of a reflective mood as I write, remembering how God has saved me from death, saved me from sin, and saved me from myself. Sometimes I think I am my own worst enemy. In reality, that is true of all of us.
From the mid 70’s through the 80’s, while my children were growing up, so was their dad. After my injury in Vietnam, I had to start all over. I was trying to find myself. During those years, my wife and children endured some of the hardest days a family could know.
From the mid 70’s through the 80’s, while my children were growing up, so was their dad.
Telling you this requires two things of you. One, that you understand that this is not easy. Two, that you understand you are not alone in your suffering. You will find comfort in these words because other people have faced some of the same fears and anxieties of life that you are facing., and, having conquered them, they have emerged on the other side as better people.
In public, I learned to make people laugh, but in private, I could only remember how to cry. I would sit in front of a mirror, looking at myself with immense hatred and rejection. I despised my scars and abhorred everything I saw. I would berate myself with immeasurable disdain while my wife would weep and try to comfort me.
I would push her away saying,”Baby, you can’t understand. That is not me anymore. That thing in the mirror is not me! I want my face back. I want my fingers back. I want my life back!”
There were times when I would load a pistol, hold it to my head, and beg God to please kill me before I killed myself. All of my life I had been taught to believe that if I killed myself, I would go to hell. I felt that if somehow I could talk God into killing me, I would go to Heaven.
I wanted somebody to do something, and to do it quickly. I just could not take it anymore. What I did not know was that somebody was doing something.
My young daughter was standing outside my bedroom door during these episodes. She heard me reject her mother’s pleas. She heard me curse myself. In terror she would run to her room, crawl up into her bed, and pray, “Jesus, please help Daddy not to hurt himself!”
The words and actions that I assumed were hidden behind closed doors were being laid at the gates of Heaven through the prayers of a child. The Bible says to “…pray for eeach other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person (a child in this case) is powerful and effective.”1
In 1993, I traveled back to Vietnam. I went back to the bank of the river where in 1969 my face was ripped from me by a hand grenade explosion, where fingers were left dangling by tendons, where my chest was ripped open, and I could see my heart beating, where nearly half of my skin and 60 pounds of flesh were blown off my body.
When I returned to the site of my injury, I was trying to close the gap in the viscous cycle my life had been on for 25 years. How could this have happened to me? How did I survive? Just being there brought healing.
I returned home from that trip, and my daughter, who was a teenager by that time, met me with a song that she had written. The song spoke of a little girl standing by her momma and daddy’s door “hearing things that she could not ignore.” The song went on to say it was a forgiving love and a forgiving grace, “the kind that held my momma’s and daddy’s love firmly fixed in place.”
As she sang to me, I realized that all the things I thought were so cleverly hidden had been exposed to my family.
It would be terribly wrong of me not to tell why I do not think of suicide any more and do not continually curse and berate myself. It is the same reason I have filled so many pulpits, spoken in so many schools, and traveled all over the world speaking to the military.
It is not because I am a good man. It is simply because God answered the prayers of my beloved wife. God answered the prayers of my precious daughter.
I realize that God spared me from certain death in Vietnam, and He spared me from self-destruction through the loving support of my family and friends.
Sometimes I fear that an unrealistic image has been cast of me as a man who has sailed through personal injury and disfigurement without marital stress and without deep scarring of the soul. The truth is, my spirit was battered and my marriage suffered greatly, but God… God intervened! God gave me tremendous victory. Out of my chaos, peace was restored.
Perhaps now, you can understand my passion for reaching out to our young wounded warriors. If God can take this beat-up, burned-up, piece of clay and restore me, He can do the same in their lives, too.
Just for the record, you do not have to be blown-up in Vietnam or injured in Iraq or Afghanistan to be a wounded warrior. Some of you live with great physical pain every day. Some of you have had your very hearts ripped from you by the loss of love either through death, divorce, or infidelity. Some of you are haunted with memories of the past. Many of you have experienced such emotional trauma that it seems it would be easier to quit than to go on.
Let me remind you that Jesus endured the stripes on His back for your healing. How do I know that God will help you? He came to me, and I am a living example that God intervines in man’s affairs.
With everything in me, I believe I have endured what I have so that I can say to you today,”…the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; … to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound…”2
God came to me in my darkest hour, and He delivered me from myself.
Trust Him. There is immeasurable hope for you that only He can give. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”3
If you are dealing with this issue, you do not need to face the challenge alone. Jesus has conquered every challenge so you can move from your present situation to a life of overcoming hope. Invite him to lead you in your journey. He will forgive, comfort, and heal you.
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1 James 5:16 Today's New International Version
2 Isaiah 61:1 Amplified Bible
3 Jeremiah 29:11 Today's New International Version