Dodging lightning… (another memoir piece)

It seemed like pretty much everything dear to me was taken from me. It wasn’t true, of course. I still had Jesus, my kids, my friends, and my extended family. But in a couple of months I had morphed from a married, healthy, hardworking pastor and respected member of the community into a jilted, frail, and pitiful wreck. My heart could hardly beat for despondency.     

I couldn’t drive. I was in too much pain, and could hardly turn my head from side to side, so Bob was chauffeuring me from place to place. This was one of dozens of such times. We had just come from the county clinic in Daly City and were on our way to the pharmacy in South San Francisco to pick up pain medication, which I hoped would numb my body and mind – the more numb the better.

While in route, frustration built and I began to feel like the most forsaken man on the planet. If God still loved me he had a funny way of showing it. Everything seemed against me. I’d worked hard all my adult life, I’d tried to live responsibly before God and man, and now I have a wound in my heart that I can’t account for and a pain in my neck that I can’t pay for.  The timing of it all was atrocious.  I had had expensive full-coverage health insurance through the church for decades and hardly used it for myself for anything more than prescriptions. Now that I’m broken and broke, I’m insurance-less. On this day I was waiting in clinics, which were designed for the poorest of the community, begging for a break. This slug in the solar plexus left me breathless.

It was humiliating, standing in the “poor lines” asking for free services, having to answer questions like:

“How much do you earn?”


“Married, single, or divorced?”

In the process of divorce. (Saying it was excruciating!)

“Any money in the bank?”

Not much.

I never dreamed I’d have that conversation.

My angst percolated as Bob drove us south bound on Highway 280. About half way to our destination I exploded. It was a “Where-The-H***-Are-You-God?!” type of melt down.

“What is this? Is this how you treat me after so many years?! If you hate me, then take me. I don’t want to live here anymore! If you’re pulling some sort of cosmic joke on me, I’m not laughing!” (There was more, but I think I’ll leave it at that. You get the gist.)

It might have been my imagination, but it seemed to me that while I was raging at God, Bob started swerving down the freeway – pretty much within his own lane, of course. I supposed he was trying to avoid any potential punitive lightning bolts, all the while praying intensely in his spiritual language. To his credit, he didn’t try to stop my catharsis. He just didn’t want to be collateral damage if God were to decide to react with judgment on the vehicle and all who travelled therein.

I imagined the interpretation to his prayer in tongues:  “It’s not me, it’s him. I’m just the driver here. At least on me, have mercy, Lord! If you can save him too, all the better!”

At the end of the day, pain meds were ingested and taking effect, and all lightning strikes were averted. We went for deli sandwiches at Tony’s on El Camino and had a good laugh together – laughter mingled with tears.

5 Replies to “Dodging lightning… (another memoir piece)”

  1. Thanks Barney. The “poor line” really is not that far away for many of us. All it takes is one catastrophic incident and we land there with that thud to the solar plexus. Words that help convey what you were feeling emotionally during this time are particularly poignant. Phrases like “could hardly beat for despondency” help me relate to what you were going through. Feeling words help me connect. Thanks for sharing your journey brother.


    1. Yeah, man. He made us to feel, both the great and the not-so-great. Maybe we need the one in order to experience the other. I don’t know. He has both horrible and happy feelings too. I guess that’s where we got ’em. Bless you!


  2. What a fun way to dodge the lightning! And to have a friend with you. You are waaaay more than encouragement to me. I do love how we can talk to Jesus exactly how we feel about situations. We pray for you everyday.


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