Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Suffering with God": Mitchell Smith Testimony

This is an incredible 7-minute testimony given by my good friend and a man I admire greatly, Mitchell J. Smith, at "Cornerstone", a monthly event for young adults put on jointly by Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO), the Diocese of Saskatoon Youth Ministry Office, and Face2Face Ministries. It is entitled, "Suffering with God".

It never ceases to amaze me what people will complain about in this world. It seems almost as if our default setting is to whine about every little thing that bothers us. I don’t really like whining – in fact, I can barely stand it – so I apologize if what I am about to say comes across like whining at first: it’s not my intention at all.

In my very short life I have gone through a lot of trials and tribulations. I was bullied horribly my entire childhood; my family had a lot of really bad issues; I lost some people very close to me at a young age; and I had a terrible time making or keeping friends – in fact, there are times in my past where I must admit I had no friends my own age. I retreated into myself for half of my high school years, and was basically mute for parts of high school (hard as that would be for a lot of you to believe) – only speaking if I was spoken to, and only if directly.

I started to do things all by myself all the time: I used to hang out by the railroad tracks watching trains, or go and feed some wild ducks, or read really large non-fiction books, or study and draw maps, or learn old comedy routines from the past. The more people were mean to me, the more I spent time by myself; the more I spent time by myself, the weirder they thought I was, and the more they made fun of me.

The only place I liked that had people in it was church. In the town I am from there is a beautiful co-cathedral full of paintings – it’s just awesome. It was really the only place that I felt at home. In church I felt whole because I knew Jesus would be my friend and I knew he had both done everything for me and would do anything for me. Despite my troubles I wanted to be a good person for my friend Jesus.

Skip forward to my adulthood, and my main complaint is my health. I am about 6 feet tall and as of this morning I weigh 137 pounds – not on purpose. I am not yet 25 years old and I have endured so many maladies and illnesses that it baffles anyone who hears the story. Before I turn 25 I will have fought through a dozen cancer scares, chronic pancreatitis, liver failure, viral infections in most of my organs, scoliosis, epilepsy, asthma, anaphylactic shock from allergies, and a heart attack. I’ve endured 17 biopsies, 10 minor surgeries, one major surgery, bone marrow tests, colonoscopies, scope tests, and had to have broken bones re-set on numerous occasions. I have suffered, and I am sorry to complain.

About a year and a half ago, I was in the hospital crying my eyes out and truly sick of suffering. I had endured so much and felt that I had gotten so little out of life. It was also at this time that my girlfriend broke up with me after a little over a year of being together. I was so upset with where my life was that I told a friend that God was punishing me for what I had done. She asked me what I had done, and I had no response because I could not figure it out either. She told me I was a good person, and I responded, “Yeah, and what has being a good person ever gotten me – nothing”. Well, that’s what I thought, anyway.

After coming back to university after Christmas, 2010, I made the decision to change my life forever. Despite the fact that I thought God was punishing me, I’d still be going to church every Sunday. Other than Sunday, though, I wouldn’t pray or read Scripture. I thought I would give God the bare minimum of what I had to.

Seemingly randomly, though, I woke up one January morning and went to daily Mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral. I don’t know what it was about that particular Mass but while I was in the church something washed over me, and I felt called to pray. It was that day that I decided to change my class schedule at university so that I could attend daily Mass everyday during the semester. I decided to give my troubles to God instead of blaming Him for them.

With this decision came a new life. My outlook on where my life was and where it was going were changed forever. I came to look on my trials not as punishments but as episodes in my life that had helped me stretch and see the world and Jesus in a different way. Suddenly I became aware that the things I had done as a child that everyone made fun of me for were now integral parts of my personality that people seemed to like for some reason. The true friends that I have made from Catholic events and CCO activities such as this one like my quirks, my hobbies, and my personality, and do not see my traits as weird things that make me unlovable but as unique things that make me stand out.

I had to thank God for putting me through all that suffering if it means that people will love the person I became as a result of it. And as for my health, I can look back on my many moments of weakness and see strength, stretching, and spiritual growth. Much as I have truly had a hard time, it made me a better person and a better Christian, because it taught me to walk with Jesus instead of by myself.

Lastly, I thank God for my illness some days because, well, it made my past girlfriend realize that she did not love me which made her break up with me – something I did not have the self-esteem to do even though I knew in my heart she was not the one for me and did not treat me right. Because of that, I was single and knew that I could only be with someone who loved me how I am and for who I am.

I am engaged, by the way – just so everyone knows. That day that I was talking about at the beginning was the 21st of October of 2010, and 11 months to the day later, I asked who I think is the most beautiful girl in the world to marry me, and, you know, it’s her problem that she said ‘Yes’. So, in 99 days, we’re going to get married, and ... well, that’s beautiful.

So if I have to endure a bunch of b.s. and being in the hospital for that, I will take it 10,000 times.

So there’s been a big change in me over the last year and a half. I’m not better, but my spirit soars. And though I suffer, and I am suffering, and I will continue to suffer, I have never been happier in my entire life. All I ever do is spend my days, sick or healthy, thanking God for creating me how I am and giving me the life and the perspective I have on it.

I’ve made my choice to give my troubles to God and out of sadness and pain came blessings and blessings and more blessings".

Mitchell and Kalyn

Mitchell and Wade
(in one of our more rebellious [cigars] - and handsome [i.e. sweater vest and kilt] moments)

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