Based on the severity of my brain injury, it’s a miracle that I can still learn anything at all. But I'm very thankful that I can because God had a whole lot more to teach me and there were many things I needed to relearn. I needed to start relearning so much about who He is and what it means to truly live out my faith, things I either didn’t quite understand before or things I didn’t know at all.
1. God can make us "strong in our weakness."
After my brain injury, many of my strengths were now my weaknesses. This was quite devastating and I didn't know how to process this sudden and unexpected loss. But when I started reading the Bible and learning what it had to say, I realized that God empowers those of us who aren’t afraid to admit our weaknesses. I think it’s just another one of the ways He likes to reveal Himself and His amazing power.
"But 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. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
2 Corinthians 12:9,10
2. Life is short.
I know this is a short and simple statement and that it sounds very cliche. But I don’t think I appreciated how true it is until I came so close to losing my own life. Ever since then, I've been doing my very best to treat everyday like it could be my last. Now, I’m not perfect at this and still sometimes take God for granted but I’m learning to appreciate how good He is and consider how He wants to use me each and every day.
3. Actions speak louder than words.
I now realize how important the way I’m living matches what I’m saying. I need to back up my words with action. In the past, I’m not sure if this was always true of me. I think I would often have the right words to say but do nothing else. However, God has been teaching me that many times words just aren’t enough.
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
4. Jesus came to give us life, both here on this Earth and life everlasting.
I always knew that Jesus came and died so that I could go to Heaven one day but I never really gave much consideration to what believing in and trusting Him meant for my life today. Now, I still believe that living with Jesus forever in Heaven will be better than anything this world has to offer but I now understand how Jesus came to give us a real, purposeful, and joy-filled life here on Earth.
5. Treat people like people and not as projects.
I think there were times in my life when I went into a relationship with some sort of hidden agenda. I don’t think my intentions were wrong or bad but I’ve learned it probably wasn’t the most ideal way to interact with others. I understand now that, as Christians, we are all called to treat others with kindness and respect and to display the love of Jesus in everything we say and do regardless of how they might respond. We do it simply because it’s the right thing to do and because it’s what Jesus did.
6. I learned to stop asking the question “why me” and began asking, instead, “why not me.”
I learned this valuable lesson from my wife, Jacqui. I guess when I was still lying in a hospital bed and my future prognosis didn't look very promising, people would tell her they didn't understand why this had happened to us. They said it didn't make sense for something so terrible to happen to such good people. But she would respond to these people by simply saying "Why not us?" She seemed to understand God was in control of the situation and knew He could somehow use what we were going through and whatever happened as a result for his purposes, and ultimately for something good. Her faith in the midst of this great uncertainty was how and why I began learning to be confident in God's plans even when things make absolutely no sense to me.
7. God gives us all a story to tell and our stories are one of the instruments He wants to use for his purposes.
I used to complain about not having a story to tell about myself that could help or impact others. But I now realize how wrong my thinking was. Despite what we tend to think and what the world seems to be constantly trying to convince us, our stories don’t need some sort of emotionally driven plot line to make a difference or to serve a purpose. We all have a story that God can use for something good.
8. We were not created to do life on our own.
As a result of my brain injury, I’ve had to start using many new tools to help me function in my everyday life. I’ve had to start using schedules, reminders, and notes to keep me on track and to help me remember what I have going on. And I’ve also learned how much I need the help of other people, My friends and family have been amazing in the way they’ve accepted and helped me with my “neediness.” But most importantly, I’ve learned how much I need God’s help, a God who had been there all along just waiting for me to give up on trying to do it all myself.
9. Don’t judge where someone's at because you don’t know where they started.
This is such an important thing I’ve learned, because as a result, I believe I’ve become less judgmental over how someone is living their life. I have a very long way to go on this one but I now know how important it is to remember that everyone we encounter in life has their own story. Their lives and experiences are very different than our own, and as a result, they won’t always think the same way and believe in the same things we do. I believe this is so important to remember if we want to relate to and connect with all the different types of people God will place in our lives.
10. Remember to take a look at your list of priorities on a regular basis and make changes to the order if and when necessary.
Following my brain injury, I had to take a close look at my list of priorities. Many things that were once important to me I could no longer do so those were immediately taken off the list. For the things I could still do, I had to decide which ones were most important and focus on these. This meant saying "no" to a lot of good so I could say "yes" to the better. Even if you don’t have a brain injury, I think this is a great practice to implement in your life.