I realize I already posted today...
But I wanted to share another essay with you guys because the last one I posted got so many views.
This one is more of a personal paper.
It was written for me Evil and Its Symbols class [RE 104, if you're a Laurier student. It's a really interesting course. You should check it out if you're interested in the relationship between psychology and religion.]
The essay is about a personal experience of suffering.
Anyways, without further ado...
Strength Made Perfect in Weakness
I had never really experienced any loss in my life until this year. In January, one of my really close friends’ dad passed away suddenly of a heart attack. It hit me really hard, but I did not get a taste of suffering until May. In a way, I’m glad that it happened because I learned a lot from the experience, and it allowed me to get closer to God.
I arrived at school one day to everyone talking about “what had happened” on the weekend. I walked up to my group of friends and inquired about what was going on. I was told that three guys who had graduated the year before, two of them being close friends of mine, had been in a horrific car accident. My two friends had not been wearing seatbelts and had been thrown from the car. My heart sank as I listened to the recount of the weekend’s events.
Cody DeNoble and Greg Bell were in my vocal class during my grade 11 year. Both boys were talented beyond all belief at playing the guitar. I loved listening to them play together. There is nothing better than music made when two best friends play together.
Greg was goofy, and always got everyone laughing with his performances. His personality always came through in his songs, and that was the best part about listening to his music. He was dating a friend of mine named Kelsey Marsh, that I knew through theatre. They were so happy together, and really cared about each other.
Cody was something else. I’ll admit, I had a huge crush on him. He was sweet, and talented, and not to mention devastatingly handsome. Cody and I worked together on projects throughout the semester, and I loved every second that I spent with him. It was amazing to watch him play the guitar. He was so passionate about his music and it was always inspiring. I loved just sitting and talking with him as well.
Cody and Greg had graduated at the end of my grade 11 year, after taking a second grade 12 year. I hadn’ t seen them around very often, but they stopped by the school to say hi every once in a while.
In my grade 12 music class, I had the opportunity to get to know Cody’s younger brother Dustin, who is the same age as I am. He, like his brother, was very passionate about his music. I enjoyed working with Dustin.
I left school that day feeling helpless. I wanted to do something that would make everything better, but I couldn’t. I was worried about Dustin. There was nothing I could say that would take everything away. I was trapped. It was like I was watching everything happen around me, but could not lift a finger to affect anything. This was the beginning of my suffering. The only thing I could do was pray. So that’s what I did. I prayed with every spare moment and breath I had. I left it in God’s hands.
Two weeks went by, and Leadership Camp came and went. Things started to get more and more busy with the musical, as I had the lead role. I wanted to go and see Cody in the hospital. It hurt to picture him lying in the hospital bed. He had been in a coma since the accident. There were some things that I needed to say; like how much he had affected my life by just existing.
I never seemed to have time. “I’ll go when the play is done; that’s only one more week,” I decided. The doctors had been saying that Cody’s condition was improving. I knew I still had time.
On May 21st, 2010, I went to go see Taylor Swift in concert. It was one of the best nights that I had had in a long time. My friend Jon had gotten me the tickets for Christmas. There we sat, listening to our favourite artist perform. All of the stress of school, the play, and Cody melted away. I was euphoric.
Jon and I were on the highway to get home, when my cell phone buzzed. There it was, in black and white: Cody DeNoble died today. It was my friend Rachael, who had also gone to school with Cody (they were in the same year) texting me the news.
I’m not sure how to describe how I felt at that moment. Pain crept through my body, devouring any sense of happiness that I had ever felt. My throat ached and my eyes burned. Once the tears came, I couldn’t stop them.
I cried for the entire car ride home. Jon did his best to talk to me about it. What can you say? There isn’t anything that will take away the feeling of loss.
We went to my friend Ginessa’s house to hang out with our friends. I pretended nothing was wrong. I went on as though everything was fine. It helped to try to not think of Cody for a while. I can only imagine that I was still in denial that he had died; stage one of the grief cycle.
When we studied the story of Job in class, I immediately thought of how I felt when I woke up the morning of the concert. Why, God? Why did you take Cody away from me? I was angry. I was heartbroken. I felt guilty. He never knew how much he meant to me, or how much I cared about him. Had I done enough to share my faith with him? I didn’t understand. However, the question of God being good and all-powerful that Harold Kushner presents when analyzing the story of Job never came to my mind. I knew that God had a perfect plan, and somehow, Cody passing away fit into that perfect plan. It wasn’t up to me to understand. I’m only human and cannot comprehend the greatness of God to its full extent.
The following Tuesday was the visitation. Walking into that room gave me a sense of finality. Everywhere I turned, someone was in tears, or hugging someone else. Dustin and his parents were so brave. I wished I could hold it together for their sake.
The next morning was my first show of the musical. The other music students and I decided to dedicate our performance to Cody. I knew that would be what he would want. I wanted to make him proud.
I took my bow, and then ran off stage, got out of costume, and headed out to the funeral. I arrived just in time to hear the sermon. Listening to his encouraging words, I started to feel better. I sat quietly in my seat and closed my eyes. Without speaking, I asked God for peace, and peace came. It washed over me like a tsunami. I still felt sad, but I wasn’t suffering anymore. When I surrendered my pain to God, he took it and gave me understanding. I now understood that there was something to be learned from the experience. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “9But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” (NIV) This verse has been a great encouragement to me, and I believe that it explains what I felt that day at the funeral perfectly.
Dr. Ross explained four meanings of suffering in Lecture 4, Theodicy arising from the Book of Job. The two meanings that explain my suffering best are instructional, and transformative.
Instructional applies to my suffering because I learned things from experiencing the suffering. I learned that you should always say what you need to say, because you never know when the chance may be taken away from you. I also learned that you should always live as though you’ll die tomorrow because we are human and do not know God’s plan and do not know when our time will come. Since having this experience, I make a point of telling the people I care about that I love them, so I will never again have to live with the pain of not being able to tell someone that I love them. I also learned about the power of prayer. Greg was not supposed to live, and even if he did, the doctors said that he would never be able to play guitar again, he may never be able to walk or talk properly, and would probably be in a diaper for the rest of his life. However, through God’s healing, Greg is alive and well, and fully functioning. It is a miracle. Although my faith was a little shaken because Cody had passed, I was reminded of how amazing God is when I received the news that Greg had woken out of the coma that was supposed to be his deathbed.
Transformative is another great way to explain my suffering. My world-view has been completely changed by this experience. I live every day to the fullest, and my faith has been greatly enhanced because of the miracles that God brought out of the tragedy. My God is bigger, and my God is stronger. I can use this experience to tell others about God. I am called to be a pastor, and I know that suffering is God’s way of perfecting me for His purpose. This experience will help me teach others about surrendering their suffering.
Cody’s parents decided to start a music scholarship in Cody’s name that will be awarded every year to a student at my high school who is planning on going to post-secondary for music. I love this idea. This is the perfect way to remember Cody. He will always be remembered through music. This passed June, the music department planned a benefit concert to raise money for the scholarship fund, and they are planning on making it an annual event. I hope that I will be able to be involved with the concert every year, as my way of remembering Cody.
I’ll remember Cody every time I pick up my guitar, and he’ll always remain a part of me.
Kushner, Harold S. When Bad Things Happen to Good People. 1st ed. New York, NY: Anchor Books, 2004. Print.
Richards, Larry, and Sue Poorman. Richards. "2 Corinthians 12:9." Teen Study Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1998. Print.
Ross, Christopher. "Theodicy arising from the Book of Job." Lecture 4 - RE 104. Wilfrid Laurier University, 23/09/2010. Lecture.
Again, please comment or email me with questions or suggestions! And please... Wear a seatbelt.