My heart used to tremble in fear of what lies ahead. I remember as a child being intuitively frightened of death, but more than just death. I was scared of martyrdom. Specifically, being beheaded.
I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. In fact my home was quite pagan. My grandmother was a medium, I used to read Tarot cards and did many other forms of witchcraft, all from which I have been delivered from, Thank you God!
However, this was all I knew.
I was raised Portuguese and my family were non-practicing Catholics. I went to Catholic school for a few years, but one thing I really appreciated was the history I was taught in during those years in both my home life and school life.
It was middle school–I was eleven, curious and afraid. I remember using pencils to contact spirits and watching many bizarre spiritual things during that time–the stuff some horror stories are made of. But one thing kept me from getting in too deep. It was my fear of martyrdom.
I knew about Marie Antoinette and madam guillotine. I was taught European history from my family during the same time I was in Catholic school. I was learning about Hitler from first hand accounts from my grandmother who was in Europe during the Third Reich.
It was a bombardment of truth in the midst of living among lies.
The truth of millions that have died for a cause, for a belief, for a reason and mostly, for the name of Jesus.
The one thing I really respect about the Catholic church is that they don’t have an empty cross in their churches. Their crosses portray a suffering, dying Jesus, serving as a constant reminder that we too, will suffer and possibly die for His name’s sake.
While learning all of this history and starting to realize death as a plausible fate, my eleven year old brain started to ask questions. My mom and dad were divorced at the time and my dad was a Christian. I would see him during summer vacations and every other holiday. But from afar, my dad made sure that I read my Bible and memorized Bible verses. I didn’t really know Jesus yet or much how to pray so I did what I knew to do; I picked up a deck of playing cards.
I started asking the deck of cards questions about my life, in my heart the questions were to God, but again I knew more about witchcraft than praying. I remember I asked God three questions using the deck of playing cards. But something was listening. Something powerful enough to influence what cards I picked up because the deck of cards somehow answered my questions. I phrased the questions like this, “If my grandmother is going to die, then let me pull the 5 of spades.”
Sure enough, I pulled it.
I can’t remember my first two questions but I remember that I got each random card I asked for after my questions. The third question is the one I will never forget.
I decided to ask it my most dreaded question.
I remember sitting on my bedroom floor on the brown apartment carpet, between my dresser and desk. Knowing something was answering me at this point, I asked, “Am I going to die?”
Thinking of the Ace of Diamonds, I reached for the deck, picked up a chunk of cards and low and behold, the Ace of Diamonds appeared.
I was done. I mean what else is there after death to a 6th grader? I remember the utter dread in fearing how it would happen and how much it would hurt and how long it would take. I recall the pit in my stomach because of that answer and the anxiety that it has left me with since then.
Fast-Forward to 2015 where everything on the news points to death, be-headings and martyrdom and I am drawn back into that memory of my heart-sinking into that reality.
The reality of death, suffering and dying for Jesus’ sake.
Except this time my heart isn’t sinking.
It’s not even shaking anymore.
I am still.
I don’t think I am numb because I can still cry. In fact, I just finished crying to God about death, but I noticed that this time the dread was absent.
I had one of those heart-to-heart moments with God where I just knew He was listening and I was listening back. I got on my face and prayed. I just knew that God wanted me to open my Bible, so I did.
What I read was dreadful. It wasn’t pretty, but it was relevant for what is going on in the world today and I believe it was ever so relevant to this nation and its future.
However, it wasn’t what I wanted to read, but in the end, He spoke, rather He whispered:
“I would rather gather you unto me than let you suffer.”
I felt love at that point and I know perfect love casts out all fear.
And those are the words that I will rest upon from here on out.