When I was a boy, I had visions.
I had no context for such things. They were not religious experiences per se, but they did leave a mark. I feared them. This singular vision repeating over a long childhood left an indelible mark upon me as I entered adolescence.
It came upon me with fever. And it formed a narrative over time. Near the end, the vision was so encompassing I had to be locked away for my own safety. When they first started, my mother would dab my head with a cold compress and whisper encouraging words. She would calm me until the vision passed. But near the end, my mom had to barricade me until the sickness passed.
The first vision was a stone. It was big, but not too big. I could pick it up. I could carry it. But it was still heavy. And I knew that it was mine to bear. In my fevered state I would lament about having to take care of it. I was sad that I had to bear this stone wherever I went. The fever passed, and the stone became just a weird dream.
The second vision was a boulder. The stone had grown as I grew. I was at my grandmothers, a nice home in a sinking city called Flint. The fever caught me, and the vision returned. I rolled out of bed only to find the stone upon my back. I began slowly crawling to the living room. I needed my mother to save me. The stone pushed me to the ground. I cried out in fear, afraid it was going to crush me into paste under it’s growing weight. I tried to push it off me, and it crashed through the hallway floor and fell to the basement. I knew if I left it there it would hurt my family. I was desperate to get it. I tried to get to the basement so I could once again take my place under the growing weight. My mom caught me in that panic. I explained to her that she was in danger, that I was sorry for trying to get rid of the stone. Sorry for the hole in the floor. Sorry for not being strong enough. I was not even ten years old.
The last vision found me as a teenager. I was 250 pounds, and towered over my mother at a solid 6 feet tall. My room was in the basement, and the vision once again followed the fever. The stone was too great to bear. I needed to go and tell people to run. It was going to kill me and then everyone in the neighborhood. I was adamant about my need to go and warn our neighbors. My mother wisely bolted the basement door and waited me out. I finally passed out on the stairs and the vision passed.
I tried to not think about these hallucinations. They were obviously fevered insanity. But the narrative bothered me. How did that vision grow with me? Why was it always the same stone. The color, the feel, the smell was a constant. I feared sickness, and through force of will was able to keep most flus and colds at bay. Not only did I power through disease, but I lived a life of fear. Fear was the emotion that drove my life. I was afraid all the time. I think that stone left some kind of mark on me. It was a symbol of my guilt. It was punishment, and I knew it was coming for me.
I was 15 when I called on the name of Jesus. That event forever changed my life. I had no context for God, but when I encountered Jesus and His Church, it was like coming near a song I had been humming my whole life but had never known the words. It was like the one piece that brings the whole puzzle into perspective. The love of God manifested in the work of Jesus changed every part of my being. That lifelong fear was dealt a deadly blow, and it has been dying ever since.
That was a long time ago. In the 25 years that have passed, the stone has never returned. Perfect love has cast away fear. Do I still fever out? Yeah. I did once on my first trip to India. The fevered dream was goofy and silly with land sharks lurking on the streets below. But even in my fevered state the burden did not return. My lifelong burden of fear and guilt is no longer mine to carry. For that freedom, I give thanks to God.
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