My Pillar of Faith

By Rev. Richard Maraj
My Pillar of Faith

I had never been so frightened. At age 19, I was being rushed to the hospital in an ambulance after being injured in an automobile accident.

It happened so fast. Just after being thrown from the passenger seat, I was hit by the car. Covered with blood and in extreme pain, I knew I had been hurt, and my anxiety over just how badly I had been hurt grew with each passing minute during the ambulance ride.

Suddenly I was jarred out of my thoughts when the doors of the ambulance opened. Immediately I saw a familiar face waiting outside the emergency room entrance to the hospital. Love took on visible form in that moment—in the face of my mother. Her love enfolded me, even before she reached my side and kissed my head. Without having to speak a word, she told me through her love and faith that everything would be okay.

Later, however, when I learned I was paralyzed from the waist down, I thought my life was over, at least the life I had known as an athlete—captain of the basketball team and city high-jump champion. I lost all faith—in God and in myself—but my mother's faith never wavered; she continued to love me and pray for me. Even seeing me at my worst—physically and emotionally—she never lost faith, never gave up on me.

One of my worst moments came when [she] was exercising my legs. She would lift and move my legs, doing for me what I could no longer do myself. Feeling such anger over my condition, I lashed out, yelling and thrashing my arms around in the air. I knocked over a lamp and a nearby basket of clothes. I hit the pillow, the wall, and then my head.

She knew when to say something and when not to say anything. After I had finished venting, [she] calmly picked up the lamp and the clothes, tapped my leg and said, “Let's keep it going,” then started exercising my legs again.

I was tortured by not being able to walk, but I was even more tortured by thoughts of unforgiveness. The day I was injured, the young man driving the car had fallen asleep at the wheel and caused the crash. Neither he nor my girlfriend, who was sitting in the back, was injured. I hated him for what he had done to me. I took pleasure in revenge fantasies: How I could pay him back? That hate was crippling me more than the paralysis.

One day, I happened to pick up a little magazine my mother read every day. I knew Daily Word helped her have faith, so I opened it to the message for that day. As I read, I had an overwhelming feeling that someone had written that message just for me. It was on forgiveness—how the person who forgave is always the first to be blessed. That message held a mirror up to me and said, ”Brother, look at what you are doing to yourself.” I understood that through forgiveness, I had the power to free myself from the hate that was ruining my life.

Forgiveness was the beginning of a new life for me. That new life has not been easy, but it is always meaningful. I'm a minister in that new life—driving, traveling by air and walking—with the aid of braces and crutches.

I love and appreciate life now even more than I did before the accident. I love and appreciate my mom. No one has inspired or touched my life as she has. She has been my loving, constant pillar of faith. Through her, I came into the world. With her help, I was able to move from hatred to forgiveness, which opened the door to God. Mom provided the loving environment I needed to learn, and God worked wonders through that loving environment.

I have walked and not walked. I would love to walk alone, using my legs and giving my arms a rest, but I don't need that to happen. I'm not waiting for life to be perfect. I'm living and enjoying life now.

Rev. Richard Maraj is the lead minister at Unity of Phoenix. He wrote this feature for DAILY WORD for Families: Linking My Heart With Those I Love.