There are days when it feels like the battle never ends, never lets up, it is just a constant steady intense firefight……and it feels often like I am losing.
I did not really even realize I was in a fight until long after it started, I wonder had I known from day one, would I be better equipped to fight it?
As best I know it began several years ago, during our first deployment to Iraq. Although I never set foot in Iraq myself, I have been there, fought there.
I fought there on my knees, praying for my son, praying for his brothers, praying for those deployed there.
I fought there as I struggled to live this “normal” life here, to work, to socialize, to attend church, to be part of the community, all while feeling out of place, how can anything be normal when there is war and my son is fighting in it? How could I have lived so normal while other sons were fighting it before him?
Sleep is difficult. How can you sleep when it is day there, and they are out behind the wire? So you sleep like they sleep. A little sleeping, a little fighting, a little sleeping, a little fighting, and it goes on and on….until he calls. And for a while you rest. The fight is not physical, it is mental and spiritual, and yet it takes a toil upon you.
Now I had no physical weapon to speak of, and I dodged no real bullets. My fights were struggles in prayer, against enemies of fear and worry, doubt and despair, grief and sorrow. My weapons were prayers of protection and safety, pleas for mercy and grace to be poured out, upon them, in that faraway place.
Foolishly, I thought the fight was over, as he stepped off that plane and onto American soil. The signs were minor, a little aversion to open places, rocks piled on the side of the road, boxes out for yards sales, white Toyota pick-ups, but for the most part they were minor and they seemed to pass quickly and all was well. I quickly forgot them.
I continued to pray for others deployed, I prayed strong, without fear or doubt, I prayed protection and grace and mercy. I wept at each name of the ones who fell.
And then our number came up again. So I prepared for round two…..Afghanistan. Another country that I have never set foot in, and yet I have fought there, struggled there, on behalf of my son, and those beside him, and on the behalf of adopted sons.
This battle was fought in a bad place, a very bad place, it filled me with fear and dread to even think of being there. I prayed hard. I asked God to wake me up anytime they needed prayer.
He was faithful, and I woke up most nights.
The battle was fierce, a battle between faith and hope, and darkness and despair. Men died. Good men, men for which I had prayed, men whose mothers were just like me, on their knees crying out for protection, for mercy. Bullets of doubt pierced my soul on many occasions, bullets of weakness stuck the legs from under me and left me helpless on the ground, unable to continue.
And yet strength would come, in time, and I would continue the battle, this never ending battle that drug on day after day, after day.
Being normal was even more difficult in this round, I simply could not fathom how everyone went about their day to day mundane lives without seeming to care at all of the battle that raged in a country far away. Was it possible that only those who knew and loved others who were there, were truly engaged in this fight? What would the battle look like if every soul in the country were engaged in it, as we who loved were engaged in it?
I weathered the storm, bedraggled and torn, but still standing. Some were wounded, some were killed, I had dreams in first person of war, with screams and gunfire, explosions and helicopters flying overhead, in grape fields, I put my dream hand on a wall, and my dream eyes looked down and inches from my hand was an IED. I felt my dream heart pounding in my chest as I ran across the grape field, gunfire all around, screams of commands from others all around, the helicopters loud above our heads.
I received a call, that the one I loved had been injured in an explosion. It was like being punched in the stomach, my legs began to fold under me, as I whispered into the phone…”how bad?’……as it turns out we were lucky, a concussion, nothing serious, although unknown to us at the time, TBI had just landed on our battlefield.
And finally the day approaches, we can see victory ahead, he is on home soil again, he is safe. We breathe out the breath we have held for this long nine months. All is well. The fight is over. Once again we foolishly believed that all was well, that we had won.
Or so we thought.
Oh how weak and stupid we were, how gullible and foolish. We let down our guard, we ceased our struggle thinking all was well. In truth the enemy now goes on full offense, and we are not prepared for the onslaught.
His eyes are different now, there is a pain within them, perhaps not visible to all, but clear to one who has known and loved him all his life. Something is amiss. He forgets things, does not always speak clearly, struggles at times to do simple tasks, has a deep love affair with his Glock and carries it everywhere. Perhaps time will make it right.
But time is not working, and we begin to see the true enemy that opposes the one we love. The enemy is well equipped. Darkness, all-encompassing darkness, overwhelming guilt, heavy sorrow, great loss, all are in his arsenal and he uses them well. This is a new enemy, we had not seen his face before, in the midst of all the battles, all the fears, who had until now remained silent and on the sidelines.
I leapt into the fight, doing all that I could to know my enemy, who is this that brings such devastation to my home, this place of light, this place of hope, this place of love, who is it that brings this wasteland to all that I hold dear…………his name is PTSD, and his fellow terrorist TBI.
They are a formidable pair.
They have unleashed a plethora of violence against us, flashbacks, the bottle, the pills disguised as help, broken relationships, broken hearts, despair, gut wrenching fear, the pain of loss….the doubt….will we be one of the 22? Can we win this fight? Is there truly any hope or is it just a matter of time?
Against this arsenal we have stood, sometimes defeated, sometimes victorious, sometimes in despair, sometimes in victory, the fight rages on. When victory seems certain they unleash their weapon of setbacks, this one almost always knocks us off our feet, but we continue to fight, wielding hope, and faith and peace and love, we fight on our knees, we call out to God, we fight with a love that is fierce and will not back down, will never stop, we fight with everything we have and anything we can find that might be helpful.
We will not stop fighting. We will keep our eyes on the Light, our eyes upon our Hope and we will go down fighting if need be, knowing that even in what seems to be defeat, we are victorious, for love conquers all.
To all the Moms and Dads, the Wives and Husbands, the Children and Friends of those who suffer from PTSD and TBI,
May your sword arm stay strong, and your shield stay high, and may your faith hold fast, may you be strengthened in this fight with all hope, all goodness, all mercy and grace and most of all,may your hearts be filled with a powerful love that is beyond all understanding, which flows from the fountain of grace.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests”
“Come to Me (Jesus), all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
hasn't always been this way
I remember brighter days
Before the dark ones came
Stole my mind
Wrapped my soul in chains
Now I live among the dead
Fighting voices in my head
Hoping someone hears me crying in the night
And carries me away
Set me free of the chains holding me
Is anybody out there hearing me?
Set me free
Morning breaks another day
Finds me crying in the rain
All alone with my demons I am
Who is this man that comes my way?
The dark ones shriek
They scream His name
Is this the One they say will set the captives free?
Jesus, rescue me
As the God man passes by
He looks straight through my eyes
And darkness cannot hide
Do you want to be free?
Lift your chains
I hold the key
All power on Heaven and Earth belong to me
You are free
You are free
You are free