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Jed Franklin

When You’re Against the Wall – Have you ever considered what life would be like if you could eliminate the pain from your past? You could be a different person; no burn injury, no hospital stays, no surgeries! Sounds great huh? But what would you risk losing that physical and mental pain gives you?

Let’s go back even farther to you as a child, when your parents said “No,” and you felt pain emotionally. It was for your best good that you were not allowed to play in the street. If you disobeyed, you were going to have more pain from your parent’s correction. This pain caused a difference in your life, for better or worse, depending on how you responded; you may have gotten angry and rebellious, or sad and discouraged, but better yet, you could learn from your pain, and get on with your life. In my experience, with the combination of physical and mental pain that a burn injury inflicts, I have had all of these reactions, and have come to hate the first of these responses because they trapped me in pain and prevented me from moving forward.

I was eight years old when my life was threatened by gasoline fumes from a generator I was filling with fuel. The building was completely engulfed with fire and I was thrown against the wall. I thought my life was over, but I couldn’t just quit and die without doing my best to live. The generator was in front of the door—my only way of escape. Gas had sprayed all over the inside of the room; the heat was unbelievable. Which way to go? I thought that if the generator had exploded, then it would have blown me across the room against the west wall. Since I couldn’t see anything I turned around and took three steps and jumped, over the generator, and it was the door! I was out by a miracle, now how bad was I? I was still on fire, so I rolled on the ground to put it out. Here came Mom. Good, she was OK! I was so hot! Mom was trying to get my clothes off, but they only melted onto her hands. “Mom, the pond!” She put me in it to cool. My skin dripped off like hot wax.

My rescue by wheelbarrow to helicopter is an amazing story for another time, my point for this story is overcoming. Forty percent of my body had third degree burns and I freely admit that I had a lot of pain and fear. A burn injury is a very hard experience to learn lessons from, but the alternative to overcoming is anger and rebellion, sadness and discouragement. These pains can last and last. It’s amazing how a few seconds of fire can last a lifetime, continuing to create emotional turmoil, if we let it.

I have learned, like you have, that painful experiences force us to change. My choice is to change for the better with God’s help. I still fight against negative emotions, but less and less. And I believe that I have become a better person through suffering than I would have been without it. My pain has lowered my self-centeredness and pride, which is painful, but good. I now look for happiness in helping others, family, God, work, and knowledge. This brings me much joy.

If I could go back twenty-four years to that Friday afternoon and put out that pilot light that started my pain with such force, should I? Would I dare? What would I be like now? Is there a possibility that I would be self -centered and unhappy, but better looking?

If you were allowed to do anything that your selfish heart wanted, with no corrections from your parents, you would not be a better person today. When we learn and grow from our pain, we gain a character and stability that draws joy and peace like a magnet and brings the best out in ourselves and others. But if we hold on to our pride and keep the pain of our injury ever before us and others with the accompanying depression and anger, we will bring out the worst in ourselves and in others. I choose to learn and grow. It’s a challenge to become an overcomer, but now I am content and happy. (Well, most of the time!)

My advice to those who find yourselves blown against a wall: please don’t quit! Go forward! It may mean the difference between life and death. It did for me.