When I was two months old my mom and dad received news that no parent wants to hear, news that would change my life forever. My skull was expanding too rapidly and I needed to have brain surgery to fix the problem. To counteract this problem, surgeons put a device in my brain called a shunt, which drained my brain fluid for me. Despite a successful surgery, I wasn’t expected to walk or talk at all. Defying those expectations, I lived a carefree life with minimal physical restrictions. That all changed in 2004 when I was serving a mission in Kentucky.
I started getting headaches, and they increased rapidly every day without subsiding. I credited it to the stresses of the work and shook off the pain. Overtime the pain became so severe that I would pass out and have to be revived. One night, in the middle of this, I had a very distinct impression that I had to go to the hospital. The next morning, my companion and I went.
Numerous tests were done and it was concluded that my shunt, which I’d had since birth, was malfunctioning. An emergency surgery was scheduled. I remember the surgeon’s tone elevating as he barked orders to get me into the operating room immediately because I only had a short time to live. My shunt was basically flooding my brain and time was running out. I called my father and frantically told him what was about to happen.
I was given a priesthood blessing, and in it I was told that this was going to be one of many trials in my life. The surgery was a success, but the recovery afterward was difficult. I lost motor function in my arms and legs and I could not dress or feed myself well. I had to stop proselyting for a few months and became very discouraged.
One day, I was reading in 3 Nephi 17, and I wept as I read the account of Christ healing the Nephites. It touched my heart, and somehow I knew I would be healed one day. I finished my mission and was in good health for two years. Then one day while at college, the headaches returned.
My shunt malfunctioned yet again, and I had to drop out of school because of the surgery. Thirteen surgeries and three years later, I was depressed and worn out. I ended up having three more surgeries, this time on my back because of an injury, and I started to wonder why I was being left alone and why God was not helping me. During this time, I decided to turn to the scriptures for guidance.
I was reading the account of Christ watching the apostles as they were being tossed in the sea during the early hours of the morning, or as it is worded in the scriptures, “the fourth watch.” I always wondered why He didn’t calm the sea like He had done previously, but instead, waited until late at night to go out to His disciples.
While on the sea, Christ still did not calm the waters, but instead waited. Peter inquired after the Lord and went out of the boat to meet Him. He was able to walk on the water — no one else but Christ was able to do that — and he started towards the Savior. The waves were boisterous, the winds blew, and Peter took His eyes off of Christ, thus starting to sink. He cried out, “Lord, save me,” and the scripture says that Christ immediately “stretched forth His hand and caught him.”
That scripture hit me with such power. The lesson I needed to learn was that sometimes in life, our trials and difficulties are not taken away, and sometimes they are increased without letting up, but that does not mean the Savior or our Heavenly Father are turning their backs on us. They are symbolically on the hill watching over us as we are treading through the waters of life. We always need to keep our eyes on the Savior in order for Him to protect us. I found myself looking at the waves of my life instead of the gospel, and it was as I was reading that passage that it finally hit me — I needed to change my focus.
Why didn’t Christ stop the waves? He most certainly could have. But the key point of this story is that Christ, being the Son of God, was teaching His disciples a valuable lesson on faith. Christ knows our potential and wants us to be the ones to “come down out of the ship” to walk towards Him, even when the waves of life are all around us.
I have been given numerous priesthood blessings in my adulthood, and every one talked about me being “healed”. Looking back, I can say that although I was not completely healed physically, the spiritual healing has been a life-saver. I have felt the infinite power of Christ and His Atonement in my life.
Through my health issues that I still struggle with today, I take comfort in the fact that even though my burden may never be taken away, I have the Captain by my side, ever watchful of my storms in mortality.
Writing has become a way for him to express his testimony and life lessons with those around him with the hopes of helping people who may be struggling.