You’ll be dead in 2 years, these words resounded in my head, knocked me for a loop.
I think that for anyone, to have these words spoken to you, would have been enough to send you into a tailspin, but for me, at 18, with no real support structure to speak of, this was a definite death sentence.
Up to that point, I had thought that all of my youthful intercessions, and missteps could be wiped away by a simple trajectory change.
And now, as I stood in this Admirals office, and he was telling me I was unfit for service in the armed forces because I would be dead in two years, these words not only took away the very breath from my lungs, but the hope I had for my future.
At the age of 18, I was diagnosed as being HIV Positive.
A crushing blow no doubt, and one that send me careening on a death spiral of drugs, alcohol, living as fast as I could and as hard as I could so I would go out on my terms.
In fact, I lived in a state of total denial until I was in my early 20’s when I began toying with the idea of going to see a doctor to begin treatment.
As the years slipped by, and I still did not die, I slowly began to see that I needed to make some sort of a change to this “Live until I die” mentality that I had been clinging so desperately to.
You see, no matter how many pills, no matter how much meth, or pot, or Acid you consume, when you keep waking up day after day after day, still alive, there comes a time when you have to agree to stop living to die and to start living to live.
But, this is often easier said than done.
For me, it took so many starts, false starts and relapses that I cannot tell you how many times I had fallen to rise up again.
Buddhism, Baha’i, the LDS Church, Shamanism, you name it, I tried it in an attempt to make some sense of why I had what I had, and why I was still alive despite my best efforts to the contrary.
When the Missionaries came knocking on my door, I had just finished snorting 2 lines of three off a mirror, slid the mirror under my couch and opened the door to be invited to hear all about Heavenly Fathers Plan.
Which I listened to, and accepted on the face value that these guys who bought into and adhered to this “plan” seemed to be everything I was not and yet wanted to be…Clean, bright, full of hope and sure that somewhere in heaven above there was a Father God who loved them and only wanted the best for them.
When became a Mormon, I did so with the best of intentions, the noblest of aspirations, and all the wrong reasons.
Man, I wish I had a dollar for every time I would pound my head against my pillow at night praying, pleading, wishing and hoping that God, the great heavenly Father would HEAL ME!!
I would sing his praises from Earth unto all of the heavens, if he would just make me like these guys I had met, like my friends in the ward whose only burden was finding a wife who they could take with them into eternity.
But my prayer, was always unanswered.
So, I dug in even more earnestly, I sought to be worthy and eligible to hold the priesthood, and to go to the temple.
Both of which I accomplished.
And in the Celestial Room, as I stood in rapt amazement and the deepest sense of serenity that I had ever known my prayer was yet the same, “Father, please HEAL ME!!”
And yet even in the haloed halls of this grand edifice, my prayers were falling on seemingly dear ears.
I could not truly date, I could not truly marry, I could not be the man that I desired in the very core of my being to become because somewhere in my cells lurked tiny time bombs just waiting to kill me, my hopes, my dreams and any woman foolish enough to believe with me…
Or so it seemed.
And it was in these moments of despair, of my perceived betrayal by heaven itself that I would slip into a life of self-sabotage in the worse ways.
It really wasn’t until I truly gave in to God, gave into the fact that he could have whatever he wanted of me and I no longer needed to nor wanted to control the narrative or outcome that he began to move me into the places he wanted me to go.
I married in 2009, to the only woman that I believe was faithful or foolish enough to believe that I was the man that the master of Heaven and Earth had set apart for her, we moved out in faith.
We moved out in faith that if we stepped out in faith, no matter how small our steps were or how timid these steps seemed to be that God would take care of everything and we would be whatever God wanted us to be.
We stepped out, and indeed God blessed our union and our lives and love.
Now, don’t get me wrong, we have had rockier patches in our marriage than a man of Christ ought to have.
You see, I am still working on these self-destruct sequences that years of running and hiding have hard wired seemingly into the very core of my being.
I get scared, I get confused by how I am going to build a life, 30 years too late.
But God is working on me, on my heart, my soul, and my mind.
HE has brought to me, so many great and wonderful things that I cannot help but know that he is answering my every uttered prayer in ways I could never have imagined.
I asked for healing, begged for healing, pleaded for healing.
And instead he gave me life.
One morning about 5 years ago this year I woke from a dream having seen in my dream myself holding a beautiful dark haired infant with tears in my eyes.
This, was my child.
Now, because my Viral load, that is the amount of Virus in my blood is what they determine to be Non-Detectible, et the time of this post less than 5 parts per million, we as a “Serodiscordant Couple” her HIV Negative, me HIV Positive, can with care and planning, try to have children.
And when I had this wondrous, glorious dream we had been trying, and had even lost one child, but did not seem to be destined to be the parents we had dreamt we would be.
But shortly after I had this dream, my wife actually DID become pregnant.
Man, what a joy!!
However, when this child was born, there was no hair, and although this was one of the most indescribably joyous days of my life, in the back of my mind I wondered if I had gotten the dream wrong, where was this gorgeous dark haired baby I held in my arms?
Well, God answered this question a while later, we conceived again, and when this child was born, I held a gorgeous baby boy in my arms with hair as dark as night and my eyes wept the same tears they are wanting to cry once again as I saw my redemption not once but twice, no three times because my son, daughter and wife were all Negative and I had been redeemed.
Now there were bumps along the way.
My daughter was born early and with a kidney defect.
After her birth I could not even hold her, she was in the NIICU fighting for life and we prayed prayers to the entirety of heaven to preserve her, to save her and to let us hold her.
Man for you families that have ever had preemies in the NIICU, my heart is so broken for you, and my prayers are instantly uttered for you.
Even when my wife was released from the hospital, we would drive to the hospital every day to sit by little India Jaymes side sing to her, talk to her, pray for her, and in time feed her.
My little preemies is now an rambunctious four year old who will not stop twirling, talking and loving her Daddy, to who just last night she told me, “ I am the best Daddy”.
My son, while born a little early was a healthy eight pounds, but has sensory issues.
Man, for parents of children with sensory issues, my heart and prayer are as well with you, life is never easy and kids are never a walk in the park.
But until you have experienced the melt-downs that we experience, I do not want to hear about how all kids are difficult.
But despite these difficulties, I am supremely blessed, and for a while I was a little dumbfounded.
I knew that god wanted me to share this story with the world, but I did not really know how or why.
What was the moral of the story?
How could I take this from one man’s story to the story for us all?
This final piece of the puzzle was revealed to me this year in the worst of times.
My wife was in the hospital, and while there they had asked her if she wanted an HIV test after she told them that I was HIV Positive.
And although we had always had faith that God would, could and had shielded her from this virus, an actual honest to goodness test was not only a test for this virus but also a test of our faith.
I was there when the Doctor gave her the results and to tell you the truth I think my heart LITERALLY stopped beating while her read to her the results.
You see, ACTUAL faith versus THEORHETICAL faith are two broadly divergent things.
We had always had faith that God would preserve her, keep her safe and bring us Children.
However, that wounded portion of my soul that part that had been disappointed time after time after time, was not quite as certain.
But God is faithful, especially when, and even when we are not faithful or certain of who we are in Him.
When the Doctor told my wife that she was Negative, my heart leapt back to beating and inside I was screaming, crying rejoicing and loving what God had done in my life, and in our family.
And it was a short time after that while I was walking and praying that I know God revealed to me the WHY of the WHAT he had done.
You see, even in the miraculous nature of this work that he is doing in my life, in the pain, and the joy and the sorrow, and the miracles, this is not a termination point.
God wants for the World to see that in this act of Fatherly love, that in this act that only he could have done, he wants to do the same exact thing in everyone’s lives.
Well, not the same exact thing as in the serodiscordant couple, baby, restoration thing.
But he wants to take all of your lack and loss and pain and need, and not just take it way, or relieve it, but remake it into something which sings to his glory.
Somewhere in the bible it says that God searches the Earth for ways to show himself strong.
That he seeks out people and circumstances in which his actions can show that only He can do the big miracles.
But you have to be open to them, you need to surrender what you want, so that he can give you what you need.
I still have HIV, and until God decides to move in that miraculous direction of healing me completely, I will be so for the foreseeable future.
But he has restored to me all that the enemy had stolen.
I have everything I would have had without HIV and even more so.
I have a huge testimony to just how powerful God can be and can move in one man’s life, if you just let him do what HE wants to do.
Let go of everything you believe you need, or want and let God bring you what he has for you.
It will be so much richer than anything you could ever have truly dreamed of.
Trust me, I am living proof of that.