Not happy ending: happy continuation

by
12 May 2017

Rebekah Gregory lost a leg in the Boston Marathon bombing. In a new book, she reflects on what it took to survive

Counting her blessings: Felicia, Rebekah Gregory’s prosthetic leg

Counting her blessings: Felicia, Rebekah Gregory’s prosthetic leg

HUMAN nature being what it is, we are a mix of good and bad, and everyone around us is, too. No matter what church we join, we find ourselves surrounded by the walking wounded.

There have always been pretenders whose faith was no reflection of their identity behind closed doors. And people of faith are under attack from both unbelievers outside the Church and hypocrites within the community.

One valuable lesson I have managed to learn is to forget the dream of a happy ending. We focus too much on happy endings. Why focus on what ends? In our house these days, we go for happy continuations.

When my spirits are low, I am still capable of doubting everything I do. It is then that my relationship with Christ calls me back to the things that matter most in my life and always will, no matter what: being a mum to my son and daughter, a loving wife to my husband, and an active member of my family. The stability I find there centres me in the greater stability of the Lord. It’s my skeleton, holding me up.

I don’t hear an audible voice speaking to me in answer to my prayers. Nevertheless, I feel a silent pull: strong, and compelling as gravity itself. It keeps me focused when I would otherwise be lost. God doesn’t solve problems for me like a magical servant. What he does is far greater. He puts strength back into my legs when they would otherwise fail me. He deflects despair. He protects me from the terrors of struggling alone. He shows me a smoother path.

 

SO, A bomb explodes and changes your life. Simply by taking place, the event serves as a stark reminder of the ticking clock that we all carry. My story, and your story, is one of a spiritual arc, extending over time. These arcs stretch from wherever each life begins, to wherever it will end. All along each arc, strength rises and falls with the challenges that lead us either closer to Christ or away from him. We each have our own story. We can choose our reactions to daily challenges, but they will never stop coming.

For me, as one Christian woman, mother, and wife, neither the extreme conformity of an OPD (“Obedient Preacher’s Daughter”) nor the clench of internal stress can consume me if I pull my fears out of the way and allow that space to be filled with God’s love. Of course, distractions are always present. I don’t have any special method for dealing with them other than to stop myself as soon as I notice that I’m off course, and then reset my personal focus. I pray for patience, and for strength, and suit up to play again.

People ask me what my secret is. Anyone who tries to follow Jesus already knows that “the secret” isn’t a piece of information. It’s trust. It’s trusting that God has control. It’s growing in my faith even as I face obstacles. It’s asking myself how Jesus would ask me to look at life.

As a Christian, I believe that this perspective is available to anyone who seeks it. It will filter out all of the distractions, and guide our journey to becoming the person God wants us to be. There is no secret to it.

I got to this point in life by the power of the Holy Spirit and after being forced to learn how to care for myself in spite of an inner narrative that assured me of failure. Repairing my body wouldn’t have had much point if my spirit couldn’t have thrived. The power of Christ alone sustained my strength. It enabled me to do my best in situations when I otherwise would have fallen down.

 

TODAY, when I meet people who tell me about feeling various forms of darkness in their lives, I focus on asking what is covering their light. Sometimes, that darkness can remind us to tend to our souls. If we do that with conviction, the truth that we share will resonate with others, perhaps many others.

As for life’s misfortunes, I don’t look to my relationship with Christ to keep misfortune away, or to protect me from tragedy above anyone else. But I have already found, so many times, that this thing we Christians call salvation allows me peaceful confidence. We stand assured of love and existence beyond the physical limits of our lives. The more I pray on that, the less compulsive I feel.

 

WHEN I speak of taking my life back, I am not referring to a specific end-point. My journey isn’t over. It’s just that I have this uncovered light, now, because I see the effects of its presence all through my journey of recovery.

I wonder if it’s the same “lightbulb moment” as when life flares in a struggling premature baby. The light calls to me. My ambition is to share it to the great benefit of others.

I understand clearly how much has been done for me, and my family, by kind people who also allow that light to guide them. When we look back at the people in our lives who did or said things that truly stuck with us in Christlike ways, my experience is that these are moments when they were letting their inner lights shine.

We keep one another afloat with moments of rejoicing. Fellowship can take place in a passing exchange between strangers just as well as in a hall full of the faithful. For me, that goal is the bull’s-eye of my personal target: live today and each day as a happy continuation. The light that guides me is the simple secret to how I took my life back.

I wish nothing less for you.

 

Extracted with permission from Taking My Life Back: My story of faith, determination, and surviving the Boston Marathon bombing by Rebekah Gregory with Anthony Flacco, published in paperback by Revell at £9.99 (CT Bookshop £9).

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