It was both happy and sad, the reunion of people from our high school youth group days. We had gathered to say goodbye to one of our own who passed away a week earlier after battling cancer for nearly a year.
Most of us hadn’t seen each other in a very long time. It was fantastic to get caught up with one another. Little did I know that just minutes after the above photo was taken that I would lose complete control of the left side of my body.
God was very gracious to my wife Judy and me, and we were able to get to the hospital in record time. I was calm most of that initial experience. It wasn’t until late that night that the gravity of my stroke hit me as I laid in a hospital bed. I cried.
The past nearly seven months have been like the memorial we attended the day this happened, both sad and joyful. For the most part, once I accepted the idea that it was this going to take a long time and was going to require much of both Judy and me, my attitude has been relatively good.
Am I anxious? Absolutely. Am I hopeful? Definitely. Do I have spells of depression? Yes. Do I believe that God has this? No question.
Like the leader of a local faith community who approached Jesus and confessed he was dealing with both faith and doubt, I am dealing with uncertainty even as I am confessing my faith.
Some people have asked me, “What do you think God is trying to teach you by this?”
My response has been that I am learning a lot by the experience, but I in no way believe that God caused this to happen. We live in a fallen, broken world, and our bodies simply break down. There are lessons to be learned, and for me, most of them have been spiritual. I try to see the possibilities in any situation.
My neuropsychologist warned that I should take a break from my role in counseling people from church. Basically, he was telling me, “Don’t get in a position where you’re having to listen to people because you will possibly be emotionally unstable.”
The funny thing is, the people I spent the most time listening to were not from our church or my friend groups, but were people on the hospital staff. I became known around rehab as Pastor Perry and had numerous conversations that led to Jesus. Honestly, I don’t think I could have avoided any of them, and I’m glad I didn’t.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is that I have amazing friends and am reaping the rewards of investing in people. Pouring into people is something that I tried to avoid when I was in high school and early college. But then the Lord grabbed hold of me and showed me that I needed to take the risk of loving people even though they may leave. (I moved around a lot as a child.)
I got a clear glimpse of my shallow response to friendships on an Australia trip back in 1980. My fellow teammates were crying their eyes out as we said goodbye to the people with whom we had spent a month, knowing they’d likely never see them again. Stoically, I was not crying and was just excited to be heading home.
The deeper love I saw in my teammates challenged me and changed my life. It was one of many moments that I’m reflecting on now—seeing how God moved me from one place to another for His purposes.
Push through. Not by denying our doubts, disappointment and disability—but by embracing our God who remains at our side. His love is deep, and He is faithful. He won’t leave us.
Perry serves on the YES! Young Enough to Serve board of directors. He has been candidly sharing his stroke recovery journey on Facebook and now on this blog site: https://faithanddoubt.life . We encourage you to visit the site and glean from Perry’s courage and insight in facing this unexpected challenge. No matter what we face, God is not finished with us, and He can use our trials to build our character and help others.