I saw Jesus on the CrossMy story is a long one but I hope worth your time. When I was in the hospital on a respirator, I had a vision of Jesus on the cross.
During this brief time I heard the voice of God and spoke to Him.
I've been a quadriplegic since a 1982 diving accident when, after hitting my head on the muddy bottom of an incorrectly marked shallow lake, my vertebrae was crushed at level C4-5 instantly and permanently causing me to become paralyzed from the shoulders down.
One day I was a music teacher with the ability to play several instruments. Then suddenly, in a split second, my life was destroyed and my talents laid waste -- or so I thought -- and I wondered how or even why I should continue to live.
I had so many questions along the lines of why bad things happen, not just to "good" people, but why they happen at all. I never thought about it in my rose colored world before the accident. I had been given so much and I dedicated all my talents and efforts to God. Then I lost everything. Two years after the accident, my brief, untested marriage crumbled and I had to move in with my parents who lived in another town, far away from all my friends. Then to top it all off, less than five months after I moved in with them, my father succumbed to unbearable bone cancer. It was hard for me not to envy him as he slipped into eternity but I also know how hard it must have been for him in his last days to see his youngest son totally paralyzed. At least now he is in paradise and knows the reason for it all. I spent the next few years living with my loving mother, holding on to my fraying faith, and praying that God could somehow sustain me as I struggled to learn this bizarre new way of life where I had to rely on someone else for virtually every detail.
In a few years my faith was rewarded. I found a wonderful woman to be my wife, we have a child, and thanks to the remarkable progress of computer and music technology, I'm able to create music again. Living as a quad, in itself, is not an easy existence but life is enjoyabl again and my firmly planted faith in God has harvested a relationship with Him that, without the storms of suffering and desperation I have endured, I never would have known.
THE VOICE AND THE VISIONIn early March of 1998, I was admitted to the ICU at a local hospital suffering from pneumonia. I was hooked up to a respirator for the fourth time in the [now 18] years since my accident and as I laid there, I remember just wanting to go home to be with my family. On Friday the 13th, my 41st birthday, my wife walked in with some CD's and a portable CD player. This quickly became one way I was able to escape reality and lose myself in the music of my headphones. Inevitably, though, the music would end and I would find myself back in that cold room of the ICU at the mercy of my frail mortal shell and its current dependence on the man made breathing machine. Sometimes I would lie there and wonder where God is when we suffer. The next day I would find out.
Early Saturday morning, March 14th, I was deep in my slumber, breathing in time with the respirator that was connected to me through a tracheotomy going through my neck into my lungs. The time for what had become the daily routine of doctors and nurses had not yet come. Quietly, I was awakened by a warm, soothing voice. "Jeff, it's time to wake up." The voice was friendly and welcoming. I opened my eyes expecting to see a doctor but there was no one in the room with me. Above me on the ceiling, however, was the life-size image (like a large black and white photograph) of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. His head was down to the right and still. His eyes were closed and His muscular arms were stretched tightly across the center of the rugged crossbeam, held in place by those horrible spikes.
His physique was that of a perfect human. He had a broad chest and you could count every rib as they rippled His tortured skin. His hair was shoulder length and like His beard, was tattered from the beating of that day. Upon His head was the tightly woven crown of thorns and I am sure that whoever was ordered to create this spiny head piece received several major wounds in the process. The vision was in shades of gray, so the blood that had dripped from the thorns in His brow appeared only as so much sweat. There was no wound in His side so I believe it must have been the moment in time He gave up His Spirit but before the Roman soldier plunged the spear into His perfect side. It was horrible. It was beautiful. It was frightening. It was enlightening. It was dreadful. It was divine. It was God's perfect love manifested right there before my eyes. This is the result of my sin. If I was not paralyzed on my back, I would have been prostrate with my face to the ground.
As I laid there, silently gazing at that awesome vision, I realized I had been granted an audience with the Lord God. If I asked Him a question, would He answer it? Would He reveal to me any of the secrets of the universe? I thought of my Dad. I wondered about what sort of activities he's doing in heaven. I figured that this would be a unique question to ask the only Person Who could convey this classified information, but before I could even formulate the question in my mind, the Voice said, "I'm your Father now." I felt His interest in the here and now and that I should only be concerned with that. Hearing Him refer to Himself as my Father, I knew I was truly an heir with Christ.
I don't remember my next words. I do remember, for whatever reason, He said, "Don't repeat history." I will examine this later.
Since I was on a respirator, I was unable to speak audibly, so all my words to Him traveled by thought. His words to me were not spoken from the vision (from the cross) but rather as though He was standing beside me, speaking right into my ear. I had had a terrific dream the night before where I was involved with making a music video at a carnival and I experienced the thrill of going on all the rides. I thought it was a great birthday present. I have always cherished my dreams, at least the good ones, because I'm not paralyzed in them. And if it's a lucid dream, where I have some control, it's better still. So I asked the Holy Presence, "What are lucid dreams?" He told me, "Lucid dreams are the Holy Spirit, man." *
His answer amused me in that he would use modern vernacular. He made me feel so at ease. I was talking to my God, my Father, my Friend. It didn't matter that I was paralyzed and confined to a respirator. Asking Him about my healing didn't even cross my mind, although He did later rescue me from the grip of that infernal breathing apparatus. I wanted to know about bigger things. My mind began swimming with all the countless things I've wondered about all my life but before I could go on He said softly, "Get ready..." Then, as I laid there in the quiet stillness of that hospital room, I felt the warm breath of God as He blew across my right cheek. I thought I was going to melt. I felt so humbled that He had graced me with His holy presence. Who was I that He should choose to visit me in this way?
Suddenly, the vision changed. Now, instead of a frontal view of the crucifixion, I saw the scene from above. There I saw so clearly that horrible crown of thorns and the crucified Son as God saw Him that day. It was not there long, however, and it was then He spoke His final words to me, "Remember Jesus and the cross, Jesus and the cross, Jesus and the cross..." and it was over as quickly as it began.
That night I had a horrible dream. I was in a wheelchair, which I seldom am in my dreams, but I had absolutely no control of it. I was being pushed around by someone running with no regard for my safety or my feelings. I was shown men in various activities, I suppose to illustrate their value to society. The nightmare ended with me being pushed into the corner of a room filled with other discarded disabled men in wheelchairs. We all faced away from each other toward a barren wall. Then a horrible, frightening voice like that of a dragon awakened me saying, "Your life isn't worth squat!" I knew to whom this evil voice belonged. I also knew he wanted to use profanity but I felt the Holy Spirit suppress him.
When I opened my eyes and realized it was just a dream, I laughed and laughed and laughed (as much as one could with a tube running down his throat). Tears of joy rolled out of my eyes and into my ears and I proclaimed in my mind, "Satan, you have nothing on me for I have within me the power of the living God!" I know that he has been responsible for trying to break my spirit but he will never succeed for I am a child of God. And "Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world!" ( I John 4:4, KJV) With dreams being the Holy Spirit, I later wondered how nightmares entered into the equation. Then, I found this verse. "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Eph. 6:12, NIV) And what's evil doing in heavenly realms? Maybe the spirit world in the earthly plane is like heaven in that it is spirit. But the heaven that is paradise would be absent from evil but not unaware of its existence on earth. (This is only conjecture. If you have an opinion, please email me.) As our dreams are also the result of whatever we allow into our minds; what we watch, read, hear, taste, and smell become part of our spirit and these things feed our conscience. If you're good to your body and mind, theoretically, it should lead to pleasant dreams. If you abuse your body and mind and expose yourself to evil, you're only allowing a foothold for the enemy to make his house in your heart and mind.
"'When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.' Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation." (Matt. 12:43-45 NIV)
"DON'T REPEAT HISTORY"A few years before my accident I had written a song called "New Creation" and in it was the line, "And now the man I used to be is just a page in history." His statement to me may have been a reference to this song. In any case it caused me to examine my life and to see where He would want me to make specific changes. I never considered myself a bad person. In fact, I've always tried to be quite the opposite. When I became paralyzed, I thought my temptations would be paralyzed, too. I mean, how can a person who can't move sin. I thought if anything, I am the victim. And to that end, because of my suffering I should now be allowed some imperfections. But I also knew because it was hidden in my heart, and now His vision has nailed it to my soul, that I should continue, no matter what, to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness." (Matt. 6:33 NIV) Now I ask myself every day: What did I do with my life today? Was I constructive or was my time wasted? What best described my speech? Was it always kind and uplifting or was it sometimes tainted with insults and idle gossip? What did I read? What did I watch? Did these things enrich my soul and honor God? Was I responsible with my finances? Did I consider others who are suffering? Did I pray? Did I spend time in the Word? Did people see Jesus in me? Did I love others as Jesus loves me?
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." (Eph. 6:10-20, NIV)