Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: PHOTOS and/or SOUVENIR(S) (vacation) (07/16/15)
By Gary Ritter
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For many years I’d experienced a deep sense of need that nothing could fulfill. I had a huge hole in my heart, a desire to be other than what I was. Being surrounded by such loving people showed me the way to mend.
My pastor encouraged me to take a vacation to truly find and become myself. During this time she persuaded me that only by seeking and acting on my deeply held beliefs would I ever experience the sum total of whom I was meant to be.
I had a slight operation that I’d been putting off and combined that with my soul journey. Medical vacations had come to my attention in recent years, so I booked my excursion. A friend from church accompanied me and we headed for Phoenix, excitedly anticipating both the guy things we’d do and my passage into wellness.
For the first several days Larry and I took driving expeditions, exploring the countryside and hiking in the bountiful wilderness areas. We enjoyed the parched, yet colorful, deserts and refreshing mountain streams. The photos we took showed a couple of crazies sitting gingerly on the outstretched arm of giant saguaro cactus and scampering up steep, rocky trails. It was good, but highlighted the desolation I knew would soon end.
The clinic performed the minor surgery I needed and followed up with my additional request. The doctor asked me whether I was sure I truly wanted to proceed, and I assured him this was the dream of a lifetime. He had his reservations but proved to be a terrific sport. My preparations before the trip were extensive. The clinic was one of the few that would carry out operations such as mine, although more private practices were opening their doors to this kind of procedure every day.
When I regained consciousness after the operation I saw Larry sitting by my bedside grinning at me. He might have been more excited than me. Still groggy I asked him, “Have you looked yet?” When I pulled back the covers I almost fainted from delight.
The heavily bandaged stumps of my two previously healthy legs lay against the sheets. “Quick, get your camera!” I urged my friend.
He snapped several pictures and I gazed at them in wonder. The desire of a lifetime had been realized. I’d been physically whole but incomplete as a person. Now that I’d had my legs amputated and was physically deficient, I’d become the whole man I was meant to be. I knew that as a newly transabled individual I would no longer suffer the deficiency in my heart, the longing to be less in order to be more. I thanked God for His mercy.
I had to be careful once they released me, but my joy knew no bounds. Larry and I drove into the desert and he carefully helped me into my new wheelchair. With difficulty he positioned me by a cactus and took a new series of photos. I thought of them as the after shots contrasting to our earlier exploits; mementos of a dream vacation.
Returning home I arranged with my pastor to make a small presentation to our congregation that next Sunday. On that morning, beaming to all who affirmed me I spoke of how their love and encouragement had given me the fortitude to pursue my passion. Afterwards, many of my friends clustered around me to offer their congratulations.
Someone I didn’t recognize came up to me in a lull, her face full of hurt. “How could you do that?” she asked.
“To fill the void in my heart.” I responded. “To be all that God meant me to be.”
She shook her head, obviously at a loss. “But what about Jesus? Isn’t He enough? Why didn’t you pursue Him?”
“What’s He got to do with any of this?”
“He’s the One you should seek. You’ll never find wholeness within your own heart. Haven’t they taught you that at this church?”
My heart raced. Her question confused me. I realized then: I knew nothing about Jesus.
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