Why We Need Good Samaritans

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In my life, God has repeatedly demonstrated to me how important it is that everyone knows that each of us can help another person. In “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” Jesus clearly reveals the significance of the actions any of us can make if we are willing to take the time, step outside our own comfort zones and put forth personal effort to provide aid to another. Opportunities to help others happens all the time if we simply pay attention to what is happening all around us.

One such opportunity took place on August 21, 2016, when an officer in Yoba City (California) responded to a vehicle accident. When the officer contacted the men that were attempting to flee the scene of the accident, he was viciously attacked by both men in the physical struggle that ensued. As the officer was fighting for his life, one of the assailants gained control of the officer’s baton and “began striking the officer in the head with it”. It was at this moment a bystander intervened, disregarding his own safety to do the right thing. The Good Samaritan pushed the assailant off of the officer and fought with him until additional officers were able to respond.[1]

Another example occurred in Cleveland (Ohio) on May 6, 2013. On this days neighbors responded to the cries of a woman from a house she had been held hostage in for ten years. After these Good Samaritans helped free this woman and her daughter from the house, the police would find two more women that had been abducted and held in the home since 2002 and 2004, respectively. During their captivity these women had been repeatedly raped and beaten by their abductor. If these Good Samaritans had not responded to the cries for help on that fateful day, not only may these women and the little girl continued to be tormented, their abductor would have remained free to victimize other young women.

It does not take great risks to be a Good Samaritan, as even a simple act of kindness can make all the difference in the life of someone else. Today I read another story where a family with a young child was stranded on side of a busy road when their vehicle broke down. The family remained in their vehicle all night with the hood up and hazards on without anyone stopping to offer assistance or even calling 9-1-1. It would be early the next morning before a courtesy patrol vehicle would stop and offer them assistance. This frightening ordeal could have easily ended tragically. Sadly, no one traveling the road was willing to take the time to help, they were either too busy to notice or too afraid to get involved.

There are simply so many amazing opportunity each of us has to get involved and make an important difference in the life of another. It is this point that I passionately hope that I am able to convey. It is far too often that we fail to act on this lesson emphasized by Jesus in “The Parable of the Good Samaritan”. Whether we decide it is not our place to get involved or we simply believe we are to busy to stop and help, time and again people in our society ignore the opportunities to get involved. Instead they simply make the choice to leave it up to someone else to address the problem.

It is in Luke 10:25-37, that Jesus reminds us first of “The Most Important Commandment” followed by the “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” to emphasize the importance for each of us to to get involved when given the opportunity. As so often is the case, this message is as applicable to non-Christians as it is to Christians:

The Most Important Commandment:

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Parable of the Good Samaritan:

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. 

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ 

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

In his book “Studies in the Sermon of the Mount”, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones states:

“You remember the parable of the Good Samaritan told by our Lord in response to the question ‘who is my neighbor?’ The Jews traditionally hated the Samaritians and were their bitter enemies. However, our Lord tells us in the parable that when the Jew was attacked by thieves and robbers on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem, several Jews passed by and did not help him. But the Samaritain, the traditional enemy, went across the road and cared for him and did everything for him. That is loving our neighbour and our enemy. Who is my neighbour? Any man who is in need, any man who is down through sin or anything else. We must help him, whether he is a Jew or a Samaritain. Love your neighbour, even if it means loving your enemy. ‘Do good to them that hate you.’ And our Lord, of course, not only taught it, but He did it” [2]

The Apostle Paul echoes this theme in Romans 15:1-7:

 Romans 15:1-7: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up…For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope…May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”[3]

After Dad was executed in the Line-of-Duty, there were witnesses that came forward and admitted they had observed two men struggle with dad after he had stopped to help them. The witnesses did not initially do anything as they did not want to get involved. As in the case in Yoba City, Dad may have lived if these witnesses immediately called the police. Yet, they will never know if they could have made a difference. What they do know is that they did nothing and as the result a patrolman was brutally murdered.

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Conversely, Good Samaritans like my uncle, my high school counselor, and many others would prove to be critical to my ability to overcoming both the cold blooded murder of my dad as well as the events that took place when I was a freshman in high school. It was the willingness of these Good Samaritans to take time out of their busy lives to provide the support I needed which helped me become a survivor. Without this support, I would never have found my way back to the road I was meant to travel. The impact these Good Samaritans and my dad had on my life, along with the inaction of the witnesses of the abduction of my dad, would have a profound influence on the choices I would make the rest of my life.

As a result, I decided after I returned from Alaska, I never again wanted to come that close to quitting or giving into my fears again. I may make some mistakes along the way, which I have many times, yet I never again wanted to be afraid to face my fears. You just never know when you might do something that has a dramatic impact on someone’s life, including your own. You might even save a life. Doing nothing, especially if it is due to fear, has not been a option in my life ever since I was able to come to terms with my greatest fear, the fear I faced as a freshman in high school, when I failed to face my peers after becoming overwhelmed with years of repressed emotions.

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This approach to life is permeated with the potential of risk, yet I face the same risks if I choose to do nothing. In the film, The Patriot, there is a decisive moment when the main character Benjamin Martin states, “I have done nothing. And for that I am ashamed.”[4] It is this sentiment that I strive to avoid as it gives me a sick feeling in my gut whenever I think of the consequences of doing nothing. I believe God gives us opportunities by placing us in situations for a reason, and I believe that reason is seldom ever to do nothing. As a result, I have chosen to do my best to live my life and to tell my story with the hope it will do more good than harm.

God bless!

 

[1] “Yuba City Officer Beaten While Investigating Accident”. Chicoer.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

[2] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Studies in the Sermon of the Mount”, Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Company 1976, pg 272.

[3] New International Version (NIV).

[4] The Patriot is a 2000 American historical fiction war film directed by Roland Emmerich, written by Robert Rodat, and starring Mel Gibson, Chris Cooper, Heath Ledger, and Jason Isaacs. The film depicts the fictional patriotic character of Benjamin Martin which was a composite figure loosely based on American Revolutionary War heroes Andrew Pickens, Francis Marion, Daniel Morgan and Thomas Sumter.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

 

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Understanding Myself

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The American author and poet, Henry David Thoreau, claimed “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” I had certainly reached a point that I was lost, yet it would take years for me to come to understand how I had come to be lost. Although I did not know it at the time, I now can see that by leaving me no other option God was guiding me back to the path He had meant for me to take all along. It was at this point I began the process of “understanding myself” as I slowly came to realize the tenacity I had been born with would allow me to obtain my full potential or lead to my own demise. The choice was mine, I could make my own path or I could accept the guidance and unconditional love Christ had promised.

As a teenage boy without a father, Mom felt that it was important that I spend as much time with her brother as possible. My uncle and dad had been like brothers, and our families had spent a great deal of time together. My uncle’s oldest son was only a year younger than I was and our bond would develop over time to be more like brothers than cousins. My uncle was the perfect role model for me, perfect for anyone, and to this day I realize how fortunate I was to have my uncle make himself available to me, to be my Good Samaritan! Just as God would always be there for me, I have come to recognize that I could always rely on my uncle to be there for me.

A short time before dad was murdered, my uncle received a promotion and relocated his family to Southeastern Alaska. By my freshman year, I had spent a portion of several summers in Alaska with my uncle and his family. There is nothing in the world I would rather do than to be on a boat fishing for salmon with my uncle in Alaska. For me Alaska was a huge wondrous playground. While fishing I could watch bald eagles, humpback whales, and pods of orca (killer whales). On land as I hiked along paths and trails, I could watch salmon spawning in the streams, watch ice calving (breaking and falling) from a glacier, pick wild berries, and even get to see a bear from time to time. Amazingly, my cousin and I once even backpacked to an island at low tide so my uncle could pick us up with his boat at high tide the next day. Alaska was simply one of the most beautiful places I had ever experienced. I loved Alaska, loved to fish, and most of all loved spending time with my uncle and his family!

I do not remember it, yet Mom has reminded me that after I had stopped going to school during my freshman year (see blog posts: Avoiding the Darkness and the The Road Less Traveled) my uncle flew down from Alaska just to see if he could help me work things out so I could get back in school. I can only assume I have repressed this memory too as it simply has proven to be too painful for me to fully acknowledge this failure to my uncle.

After talking to me, my uncle thought if he drove me to school I would be fine. As my uncle was driving me to school it became quite clear to him that I was not ready to return to school so he changed course. Instead of driving me to school, my uncle drove around with me for several hours in one of the nearby scenic national parks. Although I have no recollection of what was said, as I look back on this today I have no doubt God was involved as this would prove to be another strand in the unbreakable bond of the faith God has instilled between my uncle and me. Just as God had proven to me that He was always there that day I threw the rock, I have come to know I can always count on my uncle to be there for me in good times, tough times, and all the times in between.

Just as the profit Isaiah said in Isaiah 41:10:

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”[1]

As my mom gently pressed me to return to school, I realized the only way to convince her I could handle things myself was for me to start taking my first steps, retracing my way back down the road I had traveled. This gentle pressure forced me to overcome my fear of another misstep that would again lead into this same darkness I had narrowly avoided. Thus, I carefully started retracing my first few steps back down the road I had traveled. Interestingly, my reaction was similar to an example provided in the study “Men, Masculinity, And The Contexts Of Help Seeking” conducted by Dr. Addis and Dr. Mahalik:

“…if the same man is unable to solve the problem on his own, he may choose to see a counselor and characterize his choice as one of taking control or not letting the problem beat him. In doing so, he simultaneously supports the norm of emotional control while seeking help and constructing masculinity as a competition with one’s emotional self.”[2]

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In my case, I agreed to work with my school academic counselor that graciously offered to helped me determine the correspondence courses I was required to complete to move forward to my sophomore year in high school. It was in this way “I” would take the first steps to prove to my mom that I was “taking control” and “not letting the problem beat” me. Ironically, it would be the same stubborn resolve that led me down the wrong road in the first place that would push me to take the first few steps back in the right direction. It would be these first few steps that would help me avoid dropping out of school. All thanks to the loving push from my mom, as she provided her loving patient support.

As I meticulously worked to remain in school, my uncle had received another promotion, so that following summer he was to report to his new post in Washington, DC. As a result, arrangements were made to send me up to Alaska to spend one last summer with my uncle under the pretext that he needed someone to ride along with him as he drove his truck with his camper to Colorado to store it before proceeding on to his new post. As Alaska was a world away from whatever had happened at my school, I was more than willing to go and spend a last few weeks with my uncle in Alaska and then keep him company as he drove his camper down to Colorado.

Arriving in Alaska did not magically resolve all the issues I was facing. I still could not see the road I was meant to take. As I moved back down the road I was never meant to take, I was moving slow and deliberately, taking small careful steps to avoid another misstep. Honestly, I did not even know what I was looking for, as I still did not understand where I had made the mistakes as I was still trying to do things on my own. Nonetheless, it was a relief to be in a place that was a world away from my school and my peers. Although I know my uncle and aunt knew I had had trouble with school, I do not recall anyone saying a word about it. As it had been during my other summer trips, I was treated as if I was another son, just another member of the family, with chores just like my cousin, and the same unconditional love as if I was one of their own.

Alaska was far from home and would provide me the time and space essential for me to continue to work my way back to the road I was meant to be on. It was the loving support I received from my uncle and his family that would be key to God guiding me back to a road that did not lead into the darkness. The key for me was removing me from the situation as it allowed me to see life without the cloud of the embarrassment I felt from not being able to stand up to my fears. As I realized I was being treated just as I had been before, just like any other member of the family, my vision began to clear. I started to gain a new fresh perspective, I began to realized my life had not been ruined, I was still loved as much after my perceived failure as I had been before.

With the gift of time, I can now look back and see what God was doing in my life. I was still working my way through the fog that clouds our judgment when we have taken the wrong road, the road that leads to the evil trap that lies in the darkness. The fog is there to block out the light, to prevent us from seeing we are not alone, that all is not lost, that there is still hope. Hope is the light that cuts through the fog, that helps us realize we are not alone, that there are always other options. I now understand that Jesus was the source of my hope as He remained at my side patiently waiting for me to find my way back to Him. Although I had never lost my faith, I had turned away from Christ which would make my journey back to the road I was meant to take all the more difficult. As I tenaciously refused to ask for any help, choosing instead to make it on my own, I still had not fully understood the message of Christ.

As it asserts in the Gospel of John 15:4-8:

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit…”[3]

Thankfully, God had afforded me the opportunity, time, and the support to learn a critical lesson in life. I had been forced to face the embarrassment of my failure to face my fear in an extremely public manner that include all of my friends and family. Yet, God had instilled in me the intuition to stop before I stepped into the evil trap that was hidden in the darkness down the road I was traveling. Even though I was not focused on Him at the time, God remained with me and helped me rediscover the endless inner strength my positive memories of dad God had preserved for me. With a push from my mom, God had helped me harness the intense desire never to let anything beat me, including the fierce resolve never to come that close to quitting anything again in my life. Through my uncle, God revealed and clarified the essence of unconditional love God had given me as represented by the loving support I would always have from family.

God bless!

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[1] New Living Translation (NLT)

[2] Addis, Michael E., and James R. Mahalik. 2003. “Men, Masculinity, And The Contexts Of Help Seeking.”. American Psychologist 58 (1): 5-14. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.58.1.5.

[3] New International Version (NIV).

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

The Unthinkable Happens:

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The last thing you can imagine when you are a nine year old boy is that anything could ever happen to your dad. This is a magical time in the life of many young boys, a time when you do not just believe, you know that your dad is the best. My dad was one of the good guys, he helped people when they had a car accident, and arrested the people that had done something wrong. Not even my favorite football player, the great Dallas Cowboy Quarterback Roger Staubach, was as cool my dad. My dad was my hero, I believed there was nothing my dad could not do. So it seemed at the moment I learned Dad had been murdered in the Line-of-Duty.

It may have been over forty years ago that Dad was kidnapped after he stopped to try to help someone with a stalled car and then was murdered in cold blood, execution style, on that cold winter morning. Out of all the days of my life, I remember this day as if it had only happened yesterday. This day I wish could have never had happened. The moment I realized Dad was not invincible just because he was a patrolman, had a badge, and a gun. This day I learned Dad was not perfect. This was the moment I learned just how cruel the world truly could be. The point in life I came to understand we all have a time to die, even my dad.

These memories are different than most any other memories I have ever had. I can still recall vivid frame by frame details of images as though I am still there in the moment, as if I can travel back in time and relive every detail. Although I can still remember the same emotions that were felt when these events firsts took place, as I recall these vivid memories today I am only reminded of the acute pain and anguish. Thankfully, the gift of time now spares me from reliving the pain of these intense emotions of the events from my past. Yet, the emotions and images are there to playback as I think back to that fateful day.

In my first vivid recollection from the morning of December 27, 1973, I am able to stop and pan around the front living room of our old house on E. Cleveland Street. I can even stop and see out the front window of the living room that looks out onto the street that runs in front of our old tract house across from the trailer park. It is strangely silent in my memory, as though it is an opening scene in a movie as the camera pans to set the stage. I am kneeling in the living room, rolling newspapers along with a friend who lived in the house across the alley behind our house. Mom watched my friend and his younger sister while both their parents worked during the day.

As my friend and I were rolling the newspapers for my weekly Thursday newspaper route, Mom was in the kitchen. As I was facing the growing stack of rolled newspapers, my younger sister seemed to be behind me along with my little brother and my friends little sister playing. At this moment everyone and everything seemed just like any other normal Thursday morning when we did not have school. It is at this moment in time that everything begins to change, slowly, as though it is all happening in slow motion.

It is at this point in time that my attention along with the other kids in the front living room was drawn to the window in the living room from which we could see the street in front of the house as one to two cars drove up and parked in front of our home. I remember being confused as I did not know what this meant at the time. I must have sensed something was wrong as it is at this moment that my memory flashes back and forth from a man in a Colorado State Patrol Uniform that was walking up the sidewalk toward our house and Mom moving from the kitchen in the back of the house to our front door.

As this all seems to be all so surreal, slowly frame by frame I become aware of the memories of my other senses and feelings. Most of all the my emotions are becoming more pronounced. In addition to my personal feelings and emotions, I am becoming aware of the emotional energy and the tension of the other people in the house, Mom most of all. The silence of my memory is shattered the moment Mom makes it to the front door and opens it, recognizing it is the Colorado State Patrol Lieutenant that has come to our house.

It is at this instance that the emotions of Mom instantly change. As she recognizes it is my dad’s Lieutenant that had come to the house, she hears him tell her that he needs to talk to her about something that has happened to Dad. Mom was quickly overwhelmed with emotions and started crying out “no!” and saying “he is dead, isn’t he!”. As the Lieutenant reached out to her, Mom pulled away and was so overpowered with emotion she was shaking, crying, and screaming all at the same time. Dad had told Mom that if something ever happened to him on the job, a supervisor would come to our house to personally tell her. Although she never truly considered it would happen, when she saw the Lieutenant she instantly knew something terrible had happened to Dad.

I was so focused on the Colorado State Patrol Lieutenant that I do not even recall seeing our close family friend who was right behind him. She had heard on the radio that Dad had been killed, jumped in her car, and drove across the small town to arrive at our house seconds after the Lieutenant. This must have been why I seemed to recall there was one car and then there were two. Mom recalls seeing her friend standing off to the side, behind the Lieutenant when Mom opened the door. All I remember is Mom was screaming and more people seemed to arrive from nowhere.

The slow frame by frame detail recall of a stressful or traumatic event is extremely common. When David Eagleman was eight years old he experienced a fall from a roof in which he remembered every detail as though it was happening in slow motion. David Eagleman would grow up to be Dr. David Eagleman, a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine and one of his specialties is exploring how our brains perceive and understand time. According to his research, our minds are not slowing everything down, instead our memories are saving all the details that we normally discard:

Think about walking down a crowded street: You see a lot of faces, street signs, all kinds of stimuli. Most of this, though, never becomes a part of your memory. But if a car suddenly swerves and heads straight for you, your memory shifts gears. Now it’s writing down everything – every cloud, every piece of dirt, every little fleeting thought, anything that might be useful.

 Because of this, David believes, you accumulate a tremendous amount of memory in an unusually short amount of time. The slow-motion effect may be your brain’s way of making sense of all this extra information. “When you read that back out,” David says, “the experience feels like it must have taken a very long time.” But really, in a crisis situation, you’re getting a peek into all the pictures and smells and thoughts that usually just pass through your brain and float away, forgotten forever.”[1]

As I recall this painful event of the notification of the cold blooded murder of Dad in the Line-of-Duty, I realize my mind processed my memories of all the details of this event just as Dr. David Eagleman describes. I believe God has helped me remember these painful details to help me learn lessons that would help shape my character and help guide my survival later in my life. I particularly believe this because of what happened next.

As everything continues in slow motion, I can remember frame by frame seeing Mom being overwhelmed with emotion, she was pulling back away from the front door back in the direction of the kitchen. As I can hear her screaming and crying hysterically “no”, I realize all of us kids are now crying as we are just beginning to grasp that something terrible has happened to our dad. I remember beginning to feel overwhelmed, not knowing what to do. I had never seen Mom in this much pain, so out of control, and just wanted everything to stop. Even as I type these words today, I feel a tremble in my hands as I still find it difficult to remember what Mom was going through and that gut wrenching hopeless feeling that I could not help her. It was the worst feeling in the world, even worse than the pain I felt for the loss of Dad.

It is at this point my memory begins to cut out. It is a strange sensation to have such a vivid frame by frame memory and then have everything go black with no memory at all. According to Mom, I became so upset that I ran past her and went down into our basement which was just past the kitchen. Mom said I was scared, was crying, and she felt I was going into shock. According to Mom I refused to come back upstairs and remained hiding in the basement until Mom came downstairs to get me. Afterwards, Mom gathered all of us kids together and she said we cried and prayed together as we all regained control of our emotions. I have no doubt this is true, I just have absolutely no memory of any of this ever happening.

I find this so remarkable that not only would God create us with the ability to recall certain events in vivid slow motion so we could learn all the we needed to from it, God would also design us with the capacity to turn off our memory when our emotions are about to overwhelm us. In Psychology this is known as “Dissociative Amnesia”, and I understand this can be particularly common for children that experience an emotionally distressing traumatic events such as I did. For me, the vivid details of the intricate memories I do have more than make up for any of the memories I appear to have repressed so I have never felt as though there was much that I was missing, just more of the same. Yet this experience helped me be more open minded and has given me a greater understanding of what others may have gone through themselves. This would allow me to be more compassionate with greater empathy than I may have otherwise had.

I do not know exactly when my next vivid memory from this day took place, I just imagine it was a short time after I had come up from the basement. It is at this point when I remember crying my last tear that day. As I was crying, a man, possibly another law enforcement officer, had is arm around me and told me that I was the man of the house now so I would need to be strong for my mother. I remember looking around and all I could see was my mom, my sister and my brother, crying as they were in this emotional hell that naturally comes with this type of tragedy. I did not understand that all this crying and emotion was normal, I just wanted it all to stop.

I wanted to be strong for my mother, brother, and sister. I wanted to be the man Dad had raised me to be, so I felt I had to make a difference. It was at this moment I simply made the choice to stop feeling the pain I was experiencing from the loss of Dad and stopped crying. Instead, I buried the pain with the thought I could ignore it and never have to deal with it again. As idiotic as it sounds, I somehow thought this would help Mom, she could see I was okay, giving her one less thing to worry about. It is hard to express how desperately I wanted Mom to stop hurting, for everyone to stop crying, for everyone to be okay again. Of course this is not how it works, it was just how a nine year old boy wanted it to work.

Over the next several days, I remembered numerous people commenting on how strong I was being for Mom and how well I was handling everything. This just reinforced my resolve that I was doing the right thing, making me feel better, and giving me a false sense I had some control over what was happening. I liked the feeling that I had a choice on how I allowed this tragedy to effect me. I had no idea why this choice I had made was a bad choice, that there was a terrible price to be paid by your body for repressing strong emotions like these. Nonetheless, I felt empowered at the time for how I had chosen to deal with my pain, and most of all how I thought I was helping Mom!

 

[1] Abumad, Had, and Robert Krulwich. 2010. “Why A Brush With Death Triggers The Slow-Mo Effect”. NPR.Org. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129112147

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Faith is Essential for a Survivor:

Recently I had the extraordinary privilege to witness the testimony of one of the men involved in the firefight that took place when the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi was attacked on September 11, 2012. Not having read the book based on their eye witness accounts, “13 Hours”, nor having seen the movie adaptation of the book, I knew little of the role the six elite security contractors played in this tragedy. With so much focus on the political issues tied to this tragic event, years of experience in law enforcement has taught me to be skeptical and avoid the public accounts reported in the media in such matters.

The riveting testimonial of the vital significance faith played in the survival of these heroic men was inspiring and humbling. Not only did these men survive the fight of their lives, two members of this close knit security team did not survive the ferocious assault as they were killed fighting along side of their brothers-in-arms. The very public affirmation of three of the surviving security contractors credits God and their Christian faith for their survival:

  • “We had so many times we could have quit and because of our faith in God and our faith in each other, we didn’t”
  • “I know that His presence was there with me and it’s what got me through.”
  • “So that’s what I hope that people get…Have faith in God that He will help you overcome any obstacle. Have faith that you’re in a situation that whether it’s good or bad, you’re there for a reason and keep your faith in Him.”[1]
  • “Faith means quite a bit to me, it’s just something that kind of guides you. It’s not about dying, it’s about how you live your life.”[2]

Although my experiences pale in comparison to what these extraordinarily brave survivors endured, the sentiments they expressed are consistent to the lessons I have learned through my trials and that which I have observed through the experiences of others. I have been blessed to have been shown that there are choices we can make that will help us become a survivor just like these brave men of faith, instead of accepting the mentality of a victim. The difference between the two is a state of mind. A victim accepts their plight, surrendering to the adversity that has befallen them. Conversely, a survivor is unwilling to allow any tragedy to define who they are and actively works to overcome the adversity they now face. A survivor never gives up, as God is always with us during our times of greatest need.

Through the course of my life, I have observed an essential factor in developing the mentality of a survivor is faith in something greater than ourselves. It was my Christian faith that gave me the strength to never give up hope, to have the courage to continue to believe even when all seemed to be lost in my life. President Theodore Roosevelt contended, “Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.” Faith gives us the strength of courage, the ability to maintain hope, to incessantly continue to believe against all odds that all is never lost.

When the unthinkable happens, I have found the Bible offers guidance that can allow us to avoid becoming a victim or stop being a victim. Likewise, the Bible reveals the choices that must be made to become a survivor. Not only does it help us to recover, the Bible discloses to us how to take what has happened and helps us become stronger than we were before. Using this newly found strength, we can have an even greater positive influence on the people around us.

In his commentaries of the Apostle Paul’s teachings The Epistle to the Romans, prominent Welsh Protestant minister Martyn Lloyd-Jones offers the following interpretation of how God can make use of tragedies and difficult times to develop and shape our character:

“The initial hope comes from understanding the blessing of being justified by faith. We begin the Christian life full of faith and hope. Then we get hit by difficult trials. We cling to God like we’ve never had to cling before. We prove His faithfulness and He develops proven character in us as we endure. We come out the other side more certain of the hope of eternal glory with Him than we were before the trials. Our hope is stronger because it has been tempered in the flames of affliction.”[3]

As I continue my study and grow in my understanding of the Bible, the more I find this is a book is both written for everyone in the world, yet at the same time a personal message from God to each of us individually. Incredibly, it is in this way the Bible is able to address examples of every experience we may encounter. When I read and reflect on the guidance we are given in the Bible, I am consistently reminded of how God has already applied so many of the lessons in my life.

This was never more evident to me than during the most difficult time I have experience in my life, the callous execution styled murder of dad in the Line-of-Duty. Dad, a Colorado State Patrol Patrolman, was killed two days after Christmas, and less than a month before my tenth birthday. Not only would God guide me through this most devastating event, and the difficult times that would follow, I would come to marvel how God would use my journey through these painful periods to help others. Just as God used people to help me through my difficult times, God has used these traumatic events to shape my character into a survivor so I could help others.

In Ephesians 2:8-10, the Apostle Paul teaches us:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”[4]

Every time I read this scripture, I am astonished at how God has applied it in my life. It is astounding to look back at the tragic death of Dad and see how God would use this unthinkable experience to “prepared me in advance” so I could take such a horrifying experience to “do good works”, to somehow help by sharing what I had experienced with another so they too may know they are not alone. Knowing this they may find the same comfort, hope, and peace God had given me.

 

[1] “Men Of ’13 Hours: Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi’ Felt God’s Protection In Midst Of Battle”. Christian Post. N.p., 2016. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

[2] “Heroes Of ’13 Hours’ Say ‘God Was With Us’ In Benghazi Terror Attack”. Christian Post. N.p., 2016. Web. 30 Apr. 2016.

[3] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Romans: Assurance” [Zondervan], p. 71.

[4] New International Version (NIV).

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Perspective:

Perspective

Although it has been over forty years ago since Dad was kidnapped and then murdered in the Line-of-Duty, the moment we were notified of his death is still frozen in my memory, as if it had only happened yesterday. As I look back, I can still relive the shock, along with the visceral physical and emotional pain, that engulfs a young boy in that moment, and the days that follow, as he learns as great as his dad was, his dad was still mortal. In this moment and the days that follow, it is impossible to envision how life can possibly continue, how a young son can possibly survive the most painful traumatic loss without the dad he has always looked to for strength.

Yet today, with the gift of time, I can now look back over my life and see how the story plays out. This gift of time allows for a perspective that was impossible to have in the hours, days, months, and even years that follow the tragic discovery of just how cruel the world can be. Despite forever altering my life, that traumatizing moment when my dad was brutally murdered would not prove to be a life defining event. Instead, my life has proven again and again to have been defined by the faith instilled in me by a loving father. It is with this gift of time that I can now look back and see how the faith, and the lessons based on that faith, imparted in me by my dad in the nine plus years of my life that he was alive would define my character for a lifetime.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.