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A Shout From The Attic: The Gerry Years - 9

"It seems as if I have always had to deal with the disagreeable bits of life. I know that I am not the only one, but that does not make it any easier to deal with. Particularly so because for most of my life I was not equipped to handle the downside,'' writes Ronnie Bray.

Who can tell what magic is in a moment, or what transformation can result from a transitory event that appears
to have little purpose, less meaning and no consequence? It is a mystery too deep to be fathomed. I do not know if the wise men of the world can answer that, but I can tell of one such moment and what it meant to me.

Any one whose life flows along like an unhurried river in sunny springtime, without care, melancholy, or pressing problems enjoys both my envy and admiration. It seems as if I have always had to deal with the disagreeable bits of life. I know that I am not the only one, but that does not make it any easier to deal with. Particularly so because for most of my life I was not equipped to handle the downside.

Discouragement and depression can come when we least expect them and whether or not we are qualified to cope.
Please understand, I am not complaining. It is just that now and then life can be a bit unpleasant and we do not have to like the distressing parts. Sometimes, the whole of our life’s scene is dark and oppressive. These are the moments that try our souls. It was in such a moment when my soul’s mettle was being tested and on the point of failure that I was wonderfully delivered.

I had been discharged from hospital after spending sixteen weeks in corrective traction for a fracture of my left femur that I sustained in a traffic accident. It was just another one of those things that, according to the superficial, are meant to try us. On discharge, my left leg was held rigid by a full length calliper that slotted into the heel of my shoe: an uncomfortable device that restricted mobility, requiring me to use a pair of walking sticks to stop falling over at critical moments.

Soon afterwards, my life went to pieces. Gerry left. She took our two children and promptly disappeared. Even though our marriage was far from satisfactory, I felt the emptiness of loneliness and the consuming pain of betrayal.

My mind moved towards dark themes, exacerbated by the growing anger that was my usual response to things I did not like, but for which I had no capacity to cope or change. The darkness showed in my journal notes, in my poetry, and in my oil paintings as the furthest reaches of my mind were broached.

And in this fashion, it seemed my life was doomed to continue: too weak to look to God for strength, yet too strong in self-pride to seek the help of willing friends. I hardened my heart against further pain, but as I did that, my heart was also hardened against goodness, gentleness, and mercy. It could have got much worse, resulting in my permanent alienation from humanity, but God had other plans for me.

I had to take the bus three times a week to travel to the hospital physiotherapy department. I climbed aboard, hindered from easy movement by my rigid calliper and relying heavily on two stout walking sticks that rubbed the skin off my palms unless I wore leather gloves.

One day, whilst making this journey, I almost lost my temper as the conductor rang the bell for the bus driver to set off before I was sat down. The sudden forward motion of the bus threw me up the aisle between the seats and I landed heavily and painfully on a side seat. My fury rose, but as I was about to deliver a cutting and intemperate rebuke, I noticed a little boy about two years old on the seat beside me. In one of those illuminating and humanising flashes of perception that can only come from heaven, the darkness of my soul was pierced and cleansed as he looked into my eyes and his face broke into the sunniest smile I had ever seen. In flooded the heavenly light of unashamed and freely given love, out surged the darkness and, miraculously, my soul was healed.

In life, evil laughs and rejoices when a single human being is made to feel an outsider. The soul thus blighted will wither and eventually die to all that is good and wholesome. This is the real nature of hopelessness. And this was the hopelessness that had pervaded my life, pointing me towards the beckoning grave.

Yet, God put a smile on the face of a child to rekindle the fire of hope in the soul of a man living in the darkness of despair, and called him into the light of his grace and the warmth of his love.

Who, but a smiling God could perform such a miracle and turn my life back from the very limit of desperation into the eternal sunshine of his smiling grace, and do it all with the angelic smile of an innocent boy?


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