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Thursday, February 29, 2024 by Brave Knight Writers

But test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

Four in the morning, a world asleep. An empty street runs beyond the glow of neon in tavern windows. The streetlamps wash into the resolve of non-being. Halfway from nowhere, on my way to nowhere, I sit on my ego in a one-stoplight town. Short on patience, I wait, but not for the go light. Less than okay and bound for the fringe, I need a why. Flashed by deadly neon and awash in eerie mercury vapors, I’m stunned. Only a thin encasement of glass confines the gases creating these sick illuminations. Shadows deepen beneath a moonless night.

 Stricken with irony, I grin. Electricity is my livelihood. I know well that neon gas causes headache, dizziness, fatigue, vision disturbances, confusion, and death, the perfect medium to lure customers into bars. In addition, mercury vapors induce gastrointestinal issues, mood swings, memory issues, and sensation disturbances.

My abandoned head and heart flash with weird thoughts. To clear my head, I self-confess. These less-than-okay sentiments result from bad choices, not toxic gasses. Tonight, a friend invited me to celebrate his upcoming wedding, his happy time. His flamboyance induced cascading emotions and a deep disdain for my own bad choices. I maintained an outward appearance of good humor, while under a skin as fragile as glass, I seethed. My friend raved about his future as we downed a few bottles of ego booster. Our constant laughter sealed the cracks that had formed in my thin skin. An invincible shroud confined my raw emotion as I headed off into the night.

Miles from the laughter, stopped by this light, I lack a reason to move.

At age nineteen, I had owned the choices which put me on this road of hard knocks. Now I pay the tolls, with bits of spirit, and chunks of joy. Premature adulthood meant long hours of work, a ‘do what it takes’ commitment. Blinders in place, I donned the yoke of family. Yet, nothing can alter another’s dissatisfactions or a partner’s destructive choices. Nothing could smooth the bumps, not even a road crew of professional counselors. The end came with an abrupt crash—our son’s death, and complete spousal rejection.

Scars will form, but these wounds are fresh. My crushed dreams are nothing but aggregate on the footpaths of friends, neighbors, and other conspirators. To soothe my ego, I bought this motorcycle. But loose sand can’t fill voids in a broken heart. Without a dream, chaos reigns as I drift toward the fringe. Home is where I want to go, but I can’t get there from here.

Once powerful intentions now ebb away. No momentum forms, or even a vision of the way home. Empty streets, just paths into the abyss, so I sit in the sick illumination. Negative tapes roll in my head. Secret troubles—I have no support. Shame blocks my way, and death gains a certain appeal.

 In my mirror a singular light tears the ebony curtain at the edge of town. A roar shatters the night, and Satan himself rolls up next to me. A hulking powerpack comes to rest so close, dragon’s breath spewing in my face. His arrival triggers the light to go green. We rev, pop our clutches, and speed into obscurity. Thin headlamp beams center our focus. Concentric circles of vision dim, and a tiny patch of asphalt twenty feet ahead becomes the world. My odometer hits 85, then 90. I pull ahead, or maybe Satan backs off. In either case I declare I win.

Residual pockets of sun-warmed air linger in blackened flats in the valley. Crossing a bridge, pockets of chill break my flesh into shivers. The feel, smell, and taste of the road stimulates a sense of freedom undefined by words or rules. Turn after turn I dance, throttle down, lean in, and then accelerate. Nothing else offers such exuberance. This is spiritual.

Our graduation theme song, “One” by Three Dog Night, reverberates in my head. Speed has taken me back in time, to where this road of hard knocks began.

In my mirror, Satan’s headlight fades. Still, I crank the throttle in ignorance of a strained speedometer. Alone, my mind freed, bad vibes get swept away in the passing wind.

All the ugly cliches of the suburbs—phoniness, fake chatter, pretend friendships, parties, predators, and selfish choices—swirl off into the arena of nonbeing.

Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

This conclusion slaps my face. No one had done what they did, to harm me. Their actions centered on self, not me. Everything had happened around me, not to me. None cared but for themselves. In their defense, none even led me on with words of love or declarations of loyalty. Even my wife stated before our wedding that she didn’t want to marry me. None of my dreams found her acceptance. My insecurities and a desire to do right for a child drove the union. Joy and trust stripped away by age 27, in a loveless union.

In need of change, new stand-alone choices, I search. The biggest change will be to control all of my reactions to the conduct of others. Ten cents worth of consideration could buy labels for the innocent and the guilty. Whatever it takes, whatever my loss, I will take care of my children and their mother. She is not a wife, but always their mother.

In an instant, somewhere above the road, time slows with an injection of adrenaline. Twice my motorcycle rotates end over end, each time pounding the front wheel tighter against the engine’s frame. Unleashed forces overcome my will as I crash to earth. Several bounces on asphalt turn into a slide. The motorcycle bounces alongside me, and above me. In slow motion a vision forms, six hundred pounds of steel crushing my body.

As I spin out of control, my feet find the gas tank and push it aside. My helmet shreds and cracks. A ramp of road crud launches me over the curb. Airborne in a gauntlet of trees and shrubs, the branches welt my flesh until the railroad bed catches me. My body slams onto the steel rails, splintery ties and sharp gravel, leaving my insides jarred. In the dark, breathless, and in a state of nothingness, and soundlessness, I have no pain.

Shock, a walking death, offers its form of mercy. I heave myself to my feet, but drop to all fours to climb the embankment to the road. Touching the twisted iron of my bike, I stand too dumb and numb to take the next step.

A voice sounds down the tunnel of my stupor.

“What are you doing man?” Satan grabs my arm.

“I have to get home.”

“You need to lie down, you’re a bloody mess. And your bike is totaled.”

The biker explains as I fade “This crossing on a bend has tossed a lot of cars into those guardrails, otherwise you would have been cut in half. Tracks three inches higher than the road surface caught your rims. You must not be familiar with this road.”

I knew better. I’ve been on this road before. When I wake in the ambulance, they are cutting away chunks of denim and making notes of my visible injuries. Sprains, no broken bones, but skin loss on my hands, shoulder and buttocks. My shoes had torn away along with foot flesh; the paramedics noted white bones in bloody red meat.

Broken and alone but not dead, my body turns purple from the neck down.   Six weeks unable to walk, I make my way from the spare bedroom to the bathroom in a crawl. An infection in my foot requires antibiotic footbaths with some talk of amputation, but the flesh heals.

Six weeks in bed gives me time to think of long-term resolutions and a need for God’s strength. One thing I know, to salvage a life takes resolve, and you can’t out run the Devil.

A new structure, forward movement, a focus on what is best for my children and their futures. A two-parent household, even damaged, offers the most hope.

When my son was dying, I prayed a lot. I also cursed a lot. God has touched me, it’s a story in and of itself. I came to terms with my loss and saw it as a five-year blessing of a wonderful child. Gratitude offered comfort, God blessed me.

But although I persevere, I had refrained from glorifying God. As guilty as Israel in the Old Testament, I had witnessed a miracle before my son’s death, and moved on without embracing or glorifying God.

Physical restraints leave my mind free to embrace spiritual answers. Turn everything over to God, let it be by His will, not mine. Given this second chance, I need a new focus. An answer forms as God’s will vs my will, grace instead of my disgrace. Even so, new mistakes and bad choices lay ahead. My destroyed trust, the secret of a troubled marriage still plague me but I fend off bitterness. Disgrace gets tucked away in the shadows. Self-doubt, vulnerability, and a fragile ego surface. Comfort arrives with the light of truth—a belief that everyone’s fate lies between them and God, not them and any other person.

“What is done for love always occurs beyond good and evil.” –Friedrich Nietzsche

A salvaged life requires ownership, confessions, and God’s forgiveness. Revenge belongs to the Lord; he can deal with offenders. I need to get on with life, celebrate a second chance, and enjoy my children. The key to maintaining sanity is to embrace gratitude for all the little blessings.

Luke 6:37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

1 John 3:18 Dear children let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

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Comments

Linda Turner From Grenville, Pennsylva At 2/29/2024 8:36:32 PM

Very well written...put us there with you. God's truth and love shines through.. Heart felt. Apprecitate yoou. God is good.

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