by Pat Coburn
Editor’s Note: Pat Coburn, a member of St. James Church, died in December 2012 due to a major coronary incident. The Lord saw fit to bring Pat back to life and he continues to testify to God’s goodness even after his coronary, subsequent brain injury and the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that originated from his military service in Vietnam and is exacerbated by his recent health crisis. This insightful message comes from him and it’s amazing what we can learn from a man who died!
My wife has asked me to post more about my experiences with brain injury & PTSD to help others understand. I will try. I’m better at answering questions than thinking up something myself, so here is the question she asked me this morning:
Gretchen: “Depression, unprovoked irritability, & violent anger are the 3 most common symptoms of both brain injury & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Why don’t you exhibit any of them at any time?”
Me: I don’t know, but the Lord does. I have never been a depressed or angry person, so it does not come naturally to me. I like the word our counselor uses: resilient. Yes, I am resilient. When I get knocked down I take a deep breath, get up, & walk toward something good (like the woods) instead of something bad (like my childhood home). I think that is a core character gift from the Lord that remains with me through everything.
Also, when I died, I gave everything to the Lord, including my life, the love of my life, my health, just everything. I didn’t hold anything back. I know I was a sincere Christian before my death, but there was that little tiny bit (that 1% if you will) in which was hidden my fear, distrust, & self-power. Once I gave every bit of it up to God’s loving & saving power, I was completely fulfilled. I am now living moment by moment in the Lord. Or the Lord is living in me moment by moment. (I guess it is both.) If I do experience any distraction from that core focus (depression, irritability, anger, etc.), the Holy Spirit immediately makes me notice & I immediately move back to the center of my life in the Lord. It is easy to make a minute correction immediately. It might be overwhelming if I strayed far away & tried to work my way back. In fact, I can’t even work my way back one step. All I can do is call out to the Lord and let Him reel me back in. I am reminded of Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
And also I have to give a lot of the credit to the Lord for giving me a patient, attentive, loving wife. I trust her & the Lord completely. Even though I can’t depend on my mind to tell me the truth, I know my wife will never lie to me & will always be looking out for me. Sometimes I start to feel or think a certain way & then I look at my wife & know from her words & actions whether there is a reason I am experiencing what I am, or if I can stand down & take it easy. Some people have said I shouldn’t depend on her so much, that I should be as independent as possible. I don’t necessarily agree. I want to be strong & independent as the Lord empowers me, but the Lord has given me a wife who loves me totally & unselfishly & I would be crazy if I didn’t embrace the divine gift. Didn’t God create us “male & female” in His image so that we can enjoy the same kind of undivided fellowship He enjoys with the Son & the Holy Spirit? Isn’t that what “one flesh” really means? When we read Ephesians 5:22-33, we mean it to each other, by God’s grace. I am so thankful that God made her for me & me for her. Together we can face anything in the power of the Lord.
That’s more than enough for now. If you struggle from trauma stress, or you love someone who does, maybe some of what I say will be helpful. Meanwhile, it’s a good time for a nap!