The secrets of our deepest longings -- those stabs of joy, bittersweet pangs of homesickness for a home we've never had, are locked in ordinary moments. But they are also locked in moments of suffering. Moments of disaster. Moments of mournful longing.
Here's a story about this very truth -- the story of a troubled youth who finds a spark, like electric arrows from Heaven pointing to God, in the least likely place: a rock album called "Pop" by a certain Irish band.
This troubled youth once became a high school drop out for a day when he walked out of class in a panic without saying a word to anyone and walked right off campus (which was not allowed, of course). He then experienced (what he later learned) was a symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Symptom (something that doctors would diagnose in him a few months later). After he ditched his classes and ran away from his high school he wandered aimless and alone. The terrors and sorrows of certain troubles in his life had stalked him day and night, and finally they found him and sank their sharpest fangs in. That day the youth ended up in an ambulance when something akin to a panic attack paralyzed him (and he thought perhaps it was a heart attack).
As he lay in the ambulance, out the back window he could see stacks of white clouds billowing and drifting like air ships. A sting hit his heart, and he thought of his parents, and he grieved about what the ambulance ride would cost them. He wondered what would happen to him. Was he going to die? He seemed to be feeling better even as the ambulance reached the hospital.
They released him the same day. No one understood what was wrong. It wouldn't be for another few months until a doctor zeroed in on what was happening. (PTSD.)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is something usually associated with combat veterans, but it is more common than people realize in other situations that aren't necessarily on the battlefield.
So it was not a physical battlefield. But it was an unseen one -- a spiritual battlefield.
He was promptly removed from school that year, his junior year, and he spent the year in home study -- i.e. where a student completes all of their school work at home. No attending classes. No school trips. Very little contact with peers. Often alone.
Yet not alone.
"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."
In that solitude the love of God came like a warm memory, and, with the lion-like fierceness of Aslan, that Voice of love made a promise to the youth: "I will make these nightmarish stories unravel and turn back until they are untrue, and I will turn back the poison and siphon the night from your lungs so you can breathe again. Just wait patiently. Wait for me."
And in that dim light of waiting, music came, and it was an Irish tenor singing, "Wake up dead man."
In Part 2 I will tell you what happened to the troubled youth when the story came to an end.