Writing about my two years in Memphis challenges me because of all the complexities, as well as the emotional memories. How can I distill those memories into a blog post that makes sense?
The constructs of this blog don’t allow me to detail all the frustrations I went through at King’s Daughters and Sons Home. And I need to say that, as legitimate as my grievances were, my reactive behaviors dishonored the Lord. I’m not writing this for purposes of self-flagellation, however; I merely want to demonstrate how easily I compromised with sin and how faithfully the Lord preserved me from making a shipwreck of my faith.
I adjusted poorly to my new life in Memphis. I loved my three days a week at the Love In Action office (with the exception of using a Mac rather than a PC), but Central Church seemed big, impersonal and pretentious. Oddly, they put me through the New Members class after I officially joined, and that class taught me only that I’d joined the wrong church.
But if I disliked the church, I hated living in the nursing home. I found myself imprisoned by their schedule, terrible food and fellow residents that couldn’t carry on interesting conversations. The cockroaches that hid in my wheelchair battery, set off my smoke detector and crawled on my lap bothered me far less than the nurses aids who, by their refusal to let me use the commode in my own room, made frequent enemas necessary. They resisted shaving my legs and underarms so resolutely that I decided it wasn’t a hill worth dying on, and those I crossed would give me the silent treatment for months at a time.
At first, friends from Love In Action and women from Central Church visited me fairly often (though not as often as I would have liked). At that time, Kings Daughters and Sons Home was located in a particularly seamy section of Memphis, so my co-workers didn’t like their wives and girlfriends driving in there to see me. Eventually I was urged to build a social life with the other nursing home residents, most of whom had cognitive disabilities and/or poor social skills.
One resident, a handsome man that I’ll call Jimmy Joe (not his real name), seemed to notice my various struggles. He caught my attention both by his sense of humor and by encouraging me to look to Jesus for comfort. A car accident several years earlier caused him to suffer a Traumatic Brain Injury that put him in a wheelchair and affected some of his cognitive skills.
A little over a year after I moved to Memphis, Jimmy Joe and I acknowledged an attraction for each other. I’d recently begun to attend Calvary Chapel Memphis, which suited me much better than Central Church, so I felt much happier.
Although our disabilities prevented us from going “all the way,” Jimmie Joe and I had a relationship that dishonored the Lord we both claimed to love. I’d read the Bible to him, and we’d pray together…but then we’d end up doing things that made it hard for me to go to work the next day. I remember typing counseling letters on Love In Action’s behalf, struggling with conviction because I hadn’t maintained the purity that I admonished my clients toward. I also felt the weight of my hypocrisy during church, but the pain was at its worst at work.
I thought that agreeing to marry Jimmy Joe would ease the guilt. But as I realized that the marriage would mean spending the rest of my life at KDSH, I felt trapped. I’d had an encounter with a nursing assistant that was abusive enough to get her banned from the building. To make matters worse, I heard conflicting rumors about Jimmy Joe and a female resident. Of course, my anger exploded almost daily, and I offered my resignation at Love In Action in May of 1997–exactly 12 years after I started.
God opened doors for me to return to California. I planned to spend a year learning to manage my anger while Jimmy Joe while learned to control his sexuality. But in December of that year, Jimmy Joe ended our engagement without explanation.. In His faithfulness (though I couldn’t see it at the time) the Lord kept me from a marriage that would have ruined me.