Saturday was my home church’s monthly men’s breakfast. The guy who shared was a man named Daniel. I have known Daniel and his wife for a few years, but had never heard his story until that morning.
He shared of growing up with a learning/process disability as well as a physical/coordination delay. He shared of receiving therapy for both. He shared of the teasing and “aloneness.” He shared of growing up in an agnostic home. He shared of making it through college, moving to Texas for grad school (where he knew no one), then returning to the Northwest. And then…he shared this:
by Daniel Starr
I met the man shortly after I returned to the Northwest. He was dressed in ordinary clothes – a solid red button-down, brown cords with a belt, and a black leather jacket – and looked so clean his face seemed to sparkle, white against his long combed back dark brown hair and smooth trimmed beard. He was certainly no one I knew, but something seemed strangely and powerfully familiar about him. I could swear I saw him watching me when I sang with the boy choir, or in passing at college while walking and talking with my best friend about life and values and what the future held in store for us. I would glimpse his face, no more than a flicker, but he was always smiling. And now that I thought about it, these were the happiest times of my life. I was having a good time, my attitude generally confident and upbeat, and then his image flashed, surrounding me with an aura of peace and strength. As I would later come to understand, his aura uniquely inspired and united all who sensed it. And to sense it, all you had to do was make the time and effort to notice.
I introduced myself, but he already knew me. "I have been watching you for a long time, Daniel," he said to me. "I know you have a lot to offer, but you are all too often holding back. You struggle with the pains and burden of your past, and the weight of what others say about you. I can help you, if you are willing to let me."
My mind was racing. Was he really who I thought he was? I had heard stories, and all that my best friends had told me, and I was filled with wonder. Not overly doubting and skeptical as I usually was with anything concerning myself, but strangely comfortable. I just felt like I needed proof.
"If you truly know me, then you know how badly I stumble," I said. "I have no physical skills, I can’t act on the spot, and I often have trouble speaking clearly, even when I know exactly what and how I need to communicate. I hate it, but that’s just the way I am. This world is competitive, and I find it impossibly hard to stand up."
He looked angry, but not at me. "That is the Evil One talking," he said calmly.
"He makes you doubt. But you were made the way you are for a purpose. I can help you discover that purpose. It is nothing I can simply explain to you; you must experience it
for yourself. You must trust me."
"I want to believe… " I started to say, then trailed off.
"There are millions in this world just like you, Daniel," he went on. "They see their limitations and believe they must operate within that set of boundaries, and that life
similarly has to follow a list of rules that can be rationally or scientifically explained. They do not know how to fight that vision, and so the Evil One can feast on their torment. But they can choose to fight, to seek the greater good, if they turn to me, just as you can.
Come with me. I can show you a place where hate and rejection are unknown and unheard of. Follow me, fight for me, and I will carry your burden."
I was speechless, divided. I desperately wanted to break free of the depression that constantly took hold of me while many harsh realities consumed me, but fighting meant abandoning everything I’d ever known and turning my back on my own family.
As if he were reading my thoughts, he asked me, "Have you ever been truly happy, Daniel? I am asking you to make a sacrifice, to give your life, but you have nothing to fear, because I will guide you. What I offer is like two men who came to a river to drink. Gazing into the water, they both saw a reflection that was different from their actual appearance, images marked by great strength and respect. The first man was frightened and did not believe, immediately fled home and lay down for the night, and when he awoke and looked in the mirror, he saw his own reflection, and continued living a lonely and uneventful life. But the second man was filled with wonder and inspiration, and he drank his fill, went home and lay down for the night, and when he awoke and looked in the mirror, he saw the reflection from the river. He went and gave his all, did many good deeds, and his life was blessed with happiness and reward. My father knows who you are most truly, and he will work through you and bring out that person, if you let him. If you accept me, you will believe. You can choose."
My parents observed me talking to him. Concerned, they asked him to leave their house.
"Remember, you can choose to fight," he said to me on his way out the door.
I watched him walk down the front steps and across the street. He made his way up the hill, and met me standing at the top. I had been sprinting, yet I was barely winded.
Dropping to my knees, I looked up, straight into the eyes of Jesus Christ. "I will fight," I said to Him.
Thank you Daniel. Your willingness to share your story has made all of our stories richer.