The topic of this post has been gnawing at me for some time now. With the current pandemic, I believe there are many people wondering if there is a God, and if so, why is this happening? Or, in general, why do bad things happen?
I was raised Catholic and have always believed in God and the existence of Jesus Christ. Afterall, there’s compelling evidence Jesus walked the earth. But after many years of dealing with the evilness in this world I began to lose a grip on my faith and found myself wondering and questioning the validity of that evidence and the existence of God. I had all but given up on Catholicism for a myriad of reasons and barely held onto Christianity
by a thread. Even though I attended service on a somewhat regular basis I struggled to really hear the message.
When the Watts case occurred the level of evilness that was “allowed” drove me further away from God. After 17 hours (between August 15th and 16th) of recovering Shan’ann, Bella, CeCe, and Nico, I KNEW evil existed, but I questioned the existence of any kind of good God. Leaving the oil tank site on August 16th (infamously known as CERVI 3:19) and beginning the hour drive back to Frederick, I had a one-way conversation with God that did not go well. Needless to say there were many words I was yelling at God that weren’t words you’d use around your mother. I was angry and he got to hear it! I asked why this happened. What was the point of it? If all things happen for a reason, then what was the reason?
By the time I made it to Frederick I had no answers and came to terms with the idea there is no God or that God is not powerful enough to stop the evilness in this world. After recovering Shanann, the girls & Nico, my workload grew exponentially and in a way I was relieved to be working weekends. I had no interest in attending any kind of church service and I wasn’t ready to tell Lori (my wife) I had given up on my faith and lost respect for any God that existed.
A couple of weeks had passed before I started waking up hearing a song in my mind. I don’t normally wake that way, but if I did, it would be more like a Lynyrd Skynyrd or ZZ Top tune. I didn’t know what this song was but the lyrics playing over and over seemed familiar. I knew it was some type of worship song and I was annoyed. For another two weeks (or so) the lyrics, “In this chaos You are my peace.” Followed by, “In Your Name, we have overcome. In Your Name, darkness has been overthrown. Every curse broken by your grace. For my God defeated the grave” played continuously in my mind every morning and without fail. Oftentimes it even woke me up. With my state of mind then regarding God and how I felt he failed people, this was the last thing I wanted to hear, especially around 2-3 AM!
After a month of non-stop working the case, I finally had a day off and took a family trip to the mountains. On the way there those lyrics began playing through my head again. Annoyed, I asked Lori if she would search the lyrics of a song for me. I further explained that I could not get this song out of my head no matter what I did. She agreed and asked me what the lyrics were. As I said the words and she began typing into her phone, I could almost see a raised eyebrow from her. She was surprised a Christian song was stuck in my head because I’ve never been the type of person who really put much into worship music. Even today I change (Lori’s) car radio station from faith based music to classic rock. It’s not that I don’t like it but I just can’t listen to it every day.
After some searching Lori found the song and we learned it’s a Flatirons Community Church (our church) song named, “In your name.” Lori played a YouTube video https://youtu.be/pUA_dwgGi4s of the group singing it and I confirmed it was the song. I had some relief now knowing the song and where it came from but could only hope it would stop running through my head! Lori, who was, and is still strong in her faith, suggested God knew my mind was full of the evil perpetrated by Watts and was trying to send me a message. I reluctantly agreed but wasn’t really buying into that.
Not long after that other strange things started to happen. Rhetorically, how many times have you noticed “John 3:16” painted on the side of a building, barn, house, or whatever? I’ve noticed it dozens of times but never really had the interest to refresh my alterboy memory of what the verse represents. Not long after returning to work I began to notice a different verse reference and one that I don’t recall from my church going days. I kept seeing this verse referenced in many places and it happened enough times that I finally looked it up and was astonished! I had expected to read the verse (whatever it was) just to satisfy my curiosity and move on. What I expected vs. what actually happened after reading that verse changed me. The verse I’m referring to is Ephesians 6:12 and it reads, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." I now know this verse, coupled with the lyrics of “In your name,” was a wake up call from God telling me to pull my head out of my ass! That’s my perception, not God’s message.
Shortly after returning from Wisconsin Lori shared an amazing experience she had regarding this same verse. She explained that because the week was in chaos upon my return she hadn’t been reading her daily devotionals. They had been piling up in her inbox so she decided to just clear them while laying in bed. She was too tired to read each one so she started skimming the topics in the subject lines of each email. She came across one that said, Praying For Your Husband From Head to Toe. Considering the state I was in she decided to keep this one and read it in the morning. However, it kept gnawing at her so she grabbed her phone and opened the email. It’s original date on the post was February 18th. Each post has a verse attached to it which somehow correlates to the post. What do you suppose the verse was attached to this post? That’s right, EPH 6:12!
Even being skeptical and doubting things in general, I accepted that message as it was all too coincidental to be something other than a wake up call. And it wasn’t just that, it was a feeling of someone being there, in my presence. It was like that feeling of someone watching you but without the creepiness. It was the feeling of someone having my back and I could trust having them behind me. Not at my six but more at a 5 o’clock position and sometimes so strong I’d turn to see who was there. This feeling spanned well beyond the February 18th meeting in Wisconsin and even into my PTSD therapy.
If you’re not familiar with EMDR therapy, it’s basically a way to stimulate the left and right sides of your brain while you hash out (re-experience) traumatic events to file them away correctly. One of my targets, and probably the most significant one, is the occurrences surrounding the recovery at the CERVI 3:19 tank site. Occurrences you won’t read in reports or watch on TV because there was no evidentiary reason to write about them. At one point an EMDR session shifted and I relived the drive back to Frederick from the tank site and my disappointment in God.
My EMDR sessions typically recall memories in video like format and this one was no different with the exception of feeling a presence. I recall distinctly being pissed at God but this time Jesus was sitting in the passenger seat of my police car, so naturally I took it out on him. I ripped him up one side and down the other the entire time I was driving down I-76. Asking where the hell was he when this was happening. He never acknowledged my rants and just stared out the windshield. At the same time I could feel a female presence in the back seat behind Jesus but I could never turn far enough to see who it was. I don’t know why I feel the presence was female, but it/she was clearly uncomfortable that I was cursing out Jesus. Finally, when I was done, there was a long moment of silence that made me even more angry. The silence broke when Jesus turned to me, smiled and said, “I’ve always been here.” That pretty much shut me up.
The timeline of when Jesus made his presence known to me is a bit fuzzy but I know many times I felt him right in front of me and could see him the way I did in my EMDR session. And yes, he’s still here and is one of my EMDR allies. Some have asked what he looks like. To me, he doesn’t resemble the many illustrations I’ve seen over the years. He’s more friendly looking, for a lack of a better description. There are many things I remember distinctly about the way he looks but I’ll share that in a different setting.
To some, the content of this post may seem far fetched and prior to having this experience I would have been one to doubt it. Today, after a year of trauma therapy, without the use of psychotropic drugs, I’m of sound body and mind and stand firm on the experience I’ve shared in this post. I struggled greatly with the “why” part of the Watts case for a long time but have since learned there may not be an answer. At least not in this earthly life.
When looking at this pandemic, the natural question is, “Why is this happening?” I don’t know for sure but I think it has something to do with God’s free will. What we make of our lives, and of this world, is based on our choice(s). People will argue who or what is responsible for deadly acts, viruses, etc. but at the end of the day it’s on all of us and how we act, or fail to act, and it’s not up to God to clean up our mess. Encouragingly, although domestic violence cases and liquor sales are way up right now, so are bibles.
On this day nearly 2000 years ago, Jesus rose from the dead and he is here now. There is evidence of this happening and it provides us hope! Happy Easter!
John 11:25–26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.