From god of academia to the Christ of the Cross
It takes a real journey of the spirit to go to the difficult places I am being called to go to. I am here for God’s purpose to help set the captives free. I am here to show them if Christ can heal a soul like mine with all the abuse I experienced from my manic depressive, schizophrenic father and even forgive him , our Lord can do that with all who seek Him. Our Lord can give a new life and hope to all who stop fighting against their logic and reason, and say that He is God.
As I reflect upon my own life, while I believed in God as a child, the love of Christ did not burn within my soul. I was too angry at God for feeling He had abandoned me as that wounded boy. What I was too hurt then to see is that God would be using my painful experiences to be a wounded healer of others. My Lord was wise. Had I known then the plan He was shaping for my life, I would have run away from it. I would have shouted at Him, “Go find someone else! If you’re not going to be with me when I’m abused, then why should I trust You for anything?” Through the darkness of my abuse I would come to see how much God loves me. I would learn I could trust Him with my very life.
In my terror at age five I cried out to my Lord under the willow tree by our home. The hot and humid wind of July was felt upon my face. I asked my Lord to rescue me from my private hell. Six years later God showed that He was God. A confluence of circumstances unlike any other day happened, that I believe God orchestrated. The other driver for my father’s taxi business for the first time just happened to be unavailable. He had called in sick the night before. Mom seized the opportunity the Lord had planned. We would escape in the morning.
One of my stories from that horrific time tells my journey of how like C.S. Lewis, I came to the realization that He was God. At age 20 I gave up my struggling and finally said that Jesus Christ was the divine Son of God. So many of us fight Him. They can manage their own life without God just fine. Yet, as I have spoken with many of those who claim to be devout atheists, a picture emerges of shattered trust. Somewhere along the way a Christian who was trusted abused it and said awful, untrue and hurtful things about them. If they had any shred of belief in God it eroded away. They then want nothing to do with Him or this plan they are told He has for every life. They turn to the gods of science, logic and reason to give them comfort, to numb the gnawing pain that eats away at their souls.
I on some levels was like them. Academia had become my god. I could control that. I couldn’t control my abuse. I would rub it into my father’s face and all my critics that I had an intelligent mind.
I did an analysis of a poem in Grade 10 English that my teacher gave me a zero on. I had written that it was about a middle-aged man who looked back upon his life disillusioned, knowing he was a failure. It was a poem about broken dreams. Mr. Marshall thought I had cheated. This was the kind of analysis he argued that is seen in university English. He said it wasn’t my own work, but it was. It took a note from my mom saying she had given me no help with the poem to get the grade I deserved. Deserved — how when I reflect upon that time, academics had become a driving obsession to dull the pain of my abuse.
In Grade 12 I was a skilled debater. I won every argument I put forth. With as little as five minutes preparation, I could prepare a logical defense of my position on any topic. I got bonus marks for helping on other debate teams. Yet, even as I worshiped the god of academia, God was using the beautiful mind He gave me for a far greater purpose than I could have planned for myself. I would be called into a life of serving Christ, my Commander-in-Chief, through a ministry of being a counselor in corrections, teacher, singer, songwriter, professor, pastor, missionary in South Korea and in social advocacy for the poor and the physically and developmentally challenged. The chapters of my story are still being written as they are for you.
In Grade 13 Law class I would debate with my teacher, Mr. Whistler, that I deserved more marks on a test. If I showed a logical reason for it, I was given the marks. Sometimes, this would boost my mark by a much as 10%.
I had also determined that although there was some unknown health challenge preventing me from getting top marks all the time, I would again prove that I wasn’t the lazy and stupid person my father said I was. I wasn’t some clumsy and awkward good for nothing. I would prove to him that I was smarter than my brother, no matter how hard I had to work to teach him a lesson about myself and my abilities he would never forget.
I would go on to get my Bachelor of Theology degree with honours, even though this unknown illness was making the journey to obtain the degree much longer than I had wanted it to be. But it wasn’t about me or my hopes and dreams; it was about the plans my Lord had for me.
Later, at the age of 38, I would be diagnosed with pernicious anemia, which is also known as B12 deficiency. The illness resulted from a greatly reduced ability to absorb vitamin B12. I had been fighting this auto immune disease since birth. It helped explain why I was home from school quite often fighting off one bug after the other. If it wasn’t the flu I would get whooping cough, mumps and the measles.
At age 17 I had a fever that went to 105 degrees farenheit. My mom put ice packs on me wrapped in tinfoil, to insulate the ice enough, so it wouldn’t melt quickly. She rushed me to the ER. I had been walking. Then, I collapsed in my mother’s arms as the doctors fought that night applying ice bag after ice bag and antibiotics to bring the fever down. As morning came, the immediate danger had passed. My temperature had gone down to 102 degrees farenheit.
I was told I was far from being out of the woods. I felt so weak, so drained. Yet, the first thought on my mind and heart was that I would be missing a lot of school. There was no way I would get top marks now. Academics had taken over my life. When I should have been thankful I was still alive, I thought much more about my marks than my own health. The Enemy must have been laughing at how much academia had become my god.
God would use my near-death experience to show more of His divine hand at work in my life. I was home a month before I was cleared by the doctors to go back to school. For several days I only ate my mom’s delicious chicken soup. She added dumplings to them that were so good! I was put on doctor’s orders to stay in bed as much as possible.
Mom warned me it had been a close call. I was still at risk. If I ventured out too soon I could die. Yet, even knowing that, my mom had to keep a watchful eye to see that I didn’t try to go to school.
A few weeks into my recovery I did make an attempt to go to school. I was dressed, but every movement was exhausting. Pain from the flu wracked my body. I got dizzy and weak. Even with all these warning signs I was going to violate doctor’s orders and risk damaging my mom’s trust in me by going to school. I had to keep getting good marks. I must get to school. I must.
I had put the books i would need into my nap sack. Suddenly, the dizziness worsened. I felt like I was going to collapse. I fought against the swirling dizziness and increasing nausea.
The fever worsened. I was burning up. My legs became like rubber. As I was about to collapse my mom rushed towards me. She broke my fall by grabbing on to me with both of her arms. We had been fighting. I was determined I was going to school against her wishes. Wise woman that she was, she let me take the natural consequences of my actions.
I will never forget her words that day as the fight I had fought to go to school was lost. “Kevin, I know you want to go back to school, but you see now that it’s way too soon to do that. I let you get dressed so you could see just how sick you are. Get your butt back into bed now!”
I had resigned myself to the fact that I was far from well. Sighing and dejected, I made what seemed the longest journey of my life back to bed with my mom’s help as I wobbled my way down the long hallway of our apartment, to the rest my body was now craving.
My stubbornness that day, my unhealthy obsession with marks, extended the time I would need to recover. I apologized to my mom for my foolishness.
I hadn’t learned to trust God enough that He was working everything out. His perfect plan for my life was unfolding. I wasn’t aware that a few weeks into the time of my flu all of my teachers had put my name on their agenda, to see what working together they could do to help me. It was unanimously agreed upon that they would just grade me on my coursework I had done throughout the term. There would be no assignments or tests upon my eventual return to school. There would be no final exam in June for any of my courses.
I had been God-smacked. Upon returning to school I asked my teachers why they had given me this gift. This is what my theater arts teacher said. “Kevin, your mom told us about how sick you became. We decided to only grade you on the coursework you did, because we have never known a student who works as hard as you do. This was our way of rewarding you for the dedication you have put into your studies.”
God had used my unhealthy pursuit of marks to show others that I was a dedicated young man. That’s what He had my teachers see.
It took so many late nights staying up often after 2:00 a.m. to absorb the things which I was studying, to pound facts, figures, concepts, and dates in history into my head.
I proved my father and all my critics wrong. The long and agonizing hours of study paid off. I graduated high school in Grade 13 (which was later considered by many schools as being the equivalent of first year university) with honors. I was named as an Ontario Scholar.
However, the sweet taste of victory and also the sense that I had stuck it to my objectors was fleeting and rather hollow. Academia had become my god. The Lord wasn’t going to have anymore of this worship of a false god. He wanted me to go on further with His education, not my own.
I was called at age 20 in the bitter cold of March 1983 to have my heart warmed by the gift of salvation at a Salvation Army church service. It was on that night that I put the god of academia at the throne of God’s grace, and asked Him to heal me of it.
God’s hand was at work in a meeting I had with Dr. Charles McVety, President at Canada Christian College & Graduate School in 1994. I read in a Christian newspaper that Canada Christian College had started operations in Etobicoke, which is just outside of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I felt the Holy Spirit tug at my heart that studying here was part of the plan He had for my life.
I went into the meeting expecting that with study at then Ontario Bible College (now Tyndale University), The Salvation Army William Booth Memorial College for Officers Training and studies taken at The Salvation Army Territorial Education Department in Christian Journalism, Psychology and an Honors Diploma in Biblical Studies, that I would at best get two years of credit towards my Bachelor of Theology degree. God had a different plan beyond what I could have ever hoped for or imagined.
I was shocked by what Dr. McVety said next. It went something like this. “Kevin, God has an awesome plan for your life! If it was up to me I would give you seven years of post-secondary credit. You have done a lot for the Kingdom between your ministry experience and education. Unfortunately, I am bound by the laws of the province of Ontario that I can only give you 96 credits towards a 120 credit Bachelor of Theology degree.”
Dr. McVety was expecting me to be disappointed, but I was overjoyed. It would be one of God’s many miracles for Him. With further study and my missionary teaching experience in South Korea, combined with an intensive journalism internship under the direction of Dr. Will Rooen, I graduated with honors June 1997.
About five years ago Will’s wife, Betty, told me he was called home after a long battle with congestive heart failure and other health problems. His pain is no more. He’s in Heaven now. I will miss him terribly. He was my friend, fellow brother in Christ, mentor and professor.
If Will was here he would be telling me as he did in one of our conversations, to soar like the eagle to the dreams that God has put upon my heart. Will, I will fly for my Lord and you. I will be the truth speaker you said we are called to be as journalists. I will take the leaps of faith just as you advised me to before leaving to become a missionary in South Korea.
Will was a hugger. You learned to expect it. I will miss those hugs. One day I will meet him. when my work for my Lord is done and I am called home to that sweet gift of eternity in Heaven. He’ll come running to give me a teddy bear hug. What a day of rejoicing that will be!
WHY ARE WE FUND-RAISING?
We’re starting a fund-raising drive to build or purchase a Church, our first in Florida, probably in Jacksonville. Every contributor, no matter what the amount, will be lifted up at every celebration of the Holy Eucharist—their prayer intentions too.
Holy Catholic Church International