I had an offline conversation with Miracle and we agreed to cross pollinate to each other’s blogs. He proposed that we could write an article about something in our lives and we could learn from each other by showing how our faith or lack thereof affected this pivotal moment. I proposed the first article should be about how we got through our lowest point in our life. Me without God, Miracle with Him. Anyway, here is my posting. Miracle’s post will be up on Friday. I will probably respond on Monday and let miracle respond to me whenever he is ready. Check out Miracle’s site when you have a chance: http://altnoise.net.
Also, there was a great article about gaining/losing faith while in a war zone. Check out: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18367801/site/newsweek/
And Finally, here is the first post in the series of conversations between Miracle and I entitled “Who Needs God?”
When I talk to Believers and ask how they know God exists, the most common answer I get is a personal story of how God helped them through a difficult time. Unless someone leads the most charmed existence, some tough times are in store for everyone. It’s how we handle them that determines our fate. In the midst of a crisis, I would be the last person to criticize one’s ability to get through the ordeal. However, many Believers cling to their faith years later. It seems to me that they give God far too much credit.
At the age of eighteen, I was enrolled at the United States Air Force Academy. I had literally dedicated six years of my life to reach my goal of being accepted. Once I was accepted, feelings of triumph quickly turned to fear. The day I left for the Academy, I was afraid to be exposed for a fraud. I thought I was going to learn that I was a big fish in a small pond. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to hack it academically or physically. I was afraid of failure.
I made it through Basic Training all the same and my fear subsided quite a bit. I arrived in shape and mentally prepared and had earned a certain degree of respect from the upperclassmen. The school year started and to my surprise, I was thriving academically. The fear was being pushed aside and was being replaced with confidence. I started to believe that I wasn’t lucky to be there, but I belonged there.
A month into the academic year, I woke up feeling sick. Nothing too bad, just a cold. I decided I could tough it out, except it didn’t get better. By Friday, I decided to go to the clinic hoping that I could be put on bed rest. Several hours of uninterrupted sleep, I was convinced, would get me over the sickness. If I could get off duty Friday, I would have the rest of the weekend to recover and be fine by the next week.
Except, I didn’t get bed rest. I got handed a prescription for Amoxicillin and was told that I had a sinus infection. I dutifully took the antibiotics, as prescribed. Several days later, I was actually feeling much better but still taking the drugs. I was instructed to finish the bottle of two doses daily for ten days.
On the eighth day of the cycle, something strange began to happen. I had a rash all over my chest and neck and my eye swelled shut. I went to the emergency room on base and was treated. Amazingly, I was told to finish the cycle. The very next day I went into anaphylactic shock. I spent the next three days in an Intensive Care Unit on base under constant observation.
On the third day I was discharged. I had just came through a very near fatal medical condition and was sent back to my squadron with one week’s worth of “academics only” restrictions and then it was back to full duty. The only problem was that when I was sent back, I was nowhere near the condition I was before the incident. Physically, I was ruined. My knees refused to straighten all the way and my shoulders were so swollen that I could barely do pushups. Even worse, I was put on a regimen that included taking prescription level Benadryl five times a day for the next six weeks (chief side effect: extreme drowsiness).
The transition from high school to college is tough. The transition from civilian to military is tough. Doing it high out of your mind is extremely tough. In my mind, I had two choices which included dropping out or beating this problem. I was singular in my focus but determined and made up my mind not to fail. I averaged about five to six hours of sleep a night (I like to get eight hours if possible) and taking huge amounts of Benadryl. I had to stand up in all of my classes to stay awake and whatever free time I had was dedicated to studying. I was away from my family, I didn’t know anyone coming into the Academy, and had so little time to socialize that I didn’t have many friends. I was alone.
I never once even thought to turn to prayer. This was my problem and my problem only. There was one way to solve the problem and that was through sheer force of will. No matter how tired I got, no matter how much abuse was heaped on me, I refused to quit. I never once used my illness as an excuse. On a Friday night, I fell asleep at 6PM and didn’t wake up until 9AM the next day. When my roommate told me he went to get pizza, I was indignant that he didn’t invite me. He told me that he and two of my classmates were literally shaking me at around 8 and I refused to wake up. He figured if I was THAT tired that they should leave me be.
By the time finals rolled around, I was off the drugs and mentally much clearer. I finished my first semester making both academic and military honors – the majority of the time completely high. It wasn’t faith in a deity that got my through, it was unwavering faith in myself. To credit God with this accomplishment would negate the effort and willpower I put into making this happen.
The predicament I found myself was not a moral judgment. My illness wasn’t caused by stupidity, addiction, or bad life decisions. It was random bad luck following an expert medical opinion. My severe drug allergy is rare and the vast majority of people would have been fine following my course of treatment. This was not a life lesson – I don’t know what I would learn besides never take Amoxicillin again. To think that my life was pre-planned by the divine, to me, would be the height of arrogance. I do know that I made up my mind to get through it and I did on my own.
In American football, the most thankless job is that of the field goal kicker. The kicker is a specialized position that may play only a very few downs per game. They do not advance the ball or defend the field. They come in only when their specialized skill is required. They do not make or break tackles and they rarely even break a sweat during the course of a game. Since they do not take the physical punishment that virtually every other position doles out on its players, they are often underappreciated by their teammates and the fans. If a kicker makes a field goal, they are not celebrated and are thought to be just doing their job. If the kicker misses – then they are a worthless bum who should be fired. It’s a very difficult position to be in. The Believers have somehow turned God into the opposite of a field goal kicker. If they pray and they’re prayers are answered then they give credit to God. If they pray and the prayers are not answered, then they convince themselves that God had other plans for them.
Instead of prayer and faith in the reverse field goal kicker, why not turn to hard work and faith in oneself? If experience has taught me anything, it’s that I am far more dependable than God.