My Never Quit Story
I honestly feel foolish sending this story in to you two guys. Marcus your book really helped me through some tough times and was so very inspirational to me. When I was reading your story was in the deep dark depth of my never quit story and I didn’t even realize it until I started listening to the team never quite podcast. Sometimes a person can get so far down in the depths of a void of hope that the very things keeping him afloat aren’t even noticed.
My story starts in my childhood. I grew up on the plains of West Texas. A romantic place for any Texan. My relatives helped settle Texas and even named a county. I grew up with cotton farmers, ranchers, and every day people in the friendliest town on earth. The ugliest yes, but also the friendliest. Lubbock, Texas.
My family is Jewish and I can honestly say that I only knew two other Jewish people in my town growing up. One of them just happened to be a Holocaust survivor. (Talk about a never quit story) Although we were Jewish my father became a follower of Jesus in the early 1970’s and so we are known as Messianic Jews. Jews who believe Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah. Although my father and mother instilled in us the importance of God, the Bible and faith in general there was a severe disconnect between what my father said, and what he did. The number of times my parents fought is uncountable. My brother and sister and I used to pray that they would get divorced. There was constant violent behavior in the home. My mother was physically abused, emotionally abused. As a young child I was molested by two older kids at different times. I lay in bed every night screaming at God in my mind, “If your so good, if your so powerful, why does the devil always win!!??!!”. When I was 11, my brother and I devised a plan. We would run away and live in Colorado. Not really sure why we chose something so far away, but we had read “My Side of the Mountain” a half dozen times and figured that was the nearest place with trees big enough to hollow out I guess. So I asked for a shotgun for my 12th birthday. This was the last piece in our puzzle to run away. A weapon for food and defense. But alas we chickened out thinking that the repercussions might be taken out upon my mother in our absence. Time and time again my heart broke for my mother. One time my father stopped our car and kicked her out onto the curb across town from our house. She didn’t show up until the next day. I thought she was dead, again screaming in my head at night and shaking my fist at God. The same God my father taught about on Sunday mornings at our local church. I could go on and on about different incidents which occurred in our daily life, but they weren’t my never quite story. Yet when I look back upon how horrific my childhood was, I can only help but think that it prepared me to never quit when it mattered most. In the end, the physical disappears and only the mind can keep you going.
Fast forward 20 years. I am a married father of four and have spent the last decade becoming what some have labeled me as a master carpenter cabinet maker, though I know true masters and could never call my self one. (Yes thats right I’m a Jewish Carpenter) My family and I moved from Lubbock to Eastern North Carolina. I got a job working at a local cabinet shop building furniture and Cabinets. We lived with my in-laws while we looked for a house. I woke up the day after Christmas 2011 with severe Vertigo. It was as if a 2000 foot cliff was behind me and I was continually falling. I couldn’t walk for three days and called a good friend who is a Neurologist. He said that I likely had a virus and that it should clear up. I missed about three days of work and chalked it up to “just one of those things”. Two weeks later it happened again. Same Vertigo, same M.O. A few months went by with severe fatigue and reoccurring fevers, but I figured I was just working hard as we were now getting ready to move into our first house. I was busy fixing this and that and painting the interior. While we were getting ready to move in I again awoke with Vertigo for a third time, but also with severe muscle spasms and body aches. My urine was the color of dirt which I didn’t know at the time meant that my muscles were eating themselves at a high rate.
I called my Neurologist buddy again at UNC Chapel Hill and he made me an appointment with a Doc in my town. He ran some tests and called me back to his office which I knew wasn’t good, because otherwise they just tell you over the phone. He looked at me and said “Well Raleigh there is no good way to tell you this. You have something seriously wrong with you. I don’t know exactly what it is, but it is one of a handful of things. It could be Multiple Sclerosis, Late onset Muscular Dystrophy, ALS, or some other kind of muscle myopathy auto immune disease. I simply can’t tell for sure here in my office I am going to send you to Duke.”
I was in shock. The only good news he had was that he didn’t think I was going to die. Yay!!!! I didn’t know what to tell my wife, my kids. My kids knew daddy wasn’t feeling well, but as a dad you must grin and bare it right!! My boss was not the kind of man to be sympathetic to me missing any work and my body was still reeling from loosing so much muscle. I marched into his office and explained that I would be taking a few days here and there to go to Duke to get some tests done, but that I would let him know and work late to make up for anything I need to get done to cover. To be honest as I stood there every muscle in my body was burning as though I had just run a marathon. In fact my doctor said that the test results he got back looked more like the blood of a person who had just run a marathon, not a person who just got out of bed for the first time in a week. I somehow kept working the next few weeks as my appointments at Duke awaited me. I began to loose dexterity in my hands and within about a month it became difficult for me to button my shirts, or handle the zipper on my pants. If I wasn’t working, I was sleeping. The weekends were spent sleeping on the couch, or my bed.
I spent several months trekking back and forth from Duke to UNC Chapel Hill. Countless tests, docs, and confusion. All the while my work was slipping. I was making mistakes and those mistakes were costing my boss money. He sat me down and said if I made one more mistake I would be fired. I pleaded with him for more grace and he relented. I was totally broken and as I sat with my Neurologist at UNC I just wanted answers. I didn’t care what it was. I didn’t care if he said I was going to die, I just needed resolution. But it didn’t come. He said that it was most likely Multiple Sclerosis, but that he wasn’t sure. He wanted to start over with more tests and sent me home with some drugs. As I lay on the couch one of the most pivotal points in my life occurred. Unable to get up and totally exhausted, one of my children crying asked my wife, “Is daddy going to be ok?”. I was unable to even respond. I felt like a total and utter failure. Not only was I about to be fired, but I couldn’t even muster enough strength to put on a good face and grit and bare it. There was no grit left. I don’t even remember what my wife said, but I know she was praying for me. I longed for death, but I remembered some of the darkness of my own childhood and how my father who was one of the strongest most healthy people I have ever known, was never there for me, or my brother, or sister, or mother. I was determined to fight back. I MUST be here for my children. I MUST get better. F- the doctors. I began to pray. I began to ask for a miracle.
I wish I could tell you that I got better right then and there, but I didn’t. I ended up loosing my job. My boss said it was because he was short on work, but I knew the truth. I was costing him money even if I wasn’t making mistakes I just couldn’t keep up with the work load.
By the Grace of God, I got a job working for another cabinet shop and day by day gained some strength back. I felt like I was getting a little better. After a few months I even started to run three days a week. My dexterity came back. My mental clarity came back. Yet my vertigo remained plaguing me every morning and my evenings and weekends were still spent sleeping to recover for another week of work. I stopped taking my medication and started on some natural supplements.
Then even more bad news. My father in-law was diagnosed with Cancer. Only 50 years old.
In the book of James, James says to humble one’s self and go before the elders of your church and ask to be anointed with oil and pray for healing. My father in law was a believer and deacon in his Church but didn’t want to do this. Inside I judged him for this. Thinking to myself and even saying to my wife, “This is something he needs to do, he could be healed why is he being so prideful!”
Every year a group of my college buddies get together for a weekend of rest and encouragement and I had never gone. I ended up going and during one of the prayer sessions, I brought up my father in law and how he refused to go before his elders and ask for prayer. I was immediately convicted and felt like the biggest shmuck in history. Here I am, dealing with some kind of disease that although seems to be somewhat in “remission” (docs words) is still plaguing me, yet I was judging a man with cancer who refused to do the very thing that I was refusing to do. What a hypocrite I was!!! I was crushed by the weight of my own sin. I broke down and cried like a baby in front of all my friends. I asked that they pray for me and anoint me with oil as James says to do. They did and of all the times in my life that I longed for a brotherhood like Marcus talks about, I finally knew what that felt like. True friends who would go the the depths with you.
From that moment on I have not had one episode from the auto-immune disease they said I had. My father in law did go and get prayed for by his elders, and two years later we spread his ashes over the Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps when we see our savior face to face He will explain why we suffer, why some die and others don’t. Or perhaps once we see His glory we won’t need to ask. His is the greatest never quit story. Not only did he never quit on His mission to die for all humanity, but He also never quit’s on us as his brothers who although we always screw up, his Love endures.
Perhaps the most amazing thing to me about my never quit story, is that I never quit on my Dad. Forgiveness is the most freeing thing a person can give. I forgave my father for every evil act he has ever done just as my heavenly father forgave me. Today we talk everyday. He is one of my best friends. I can never forget the nightmare that was my childhood, but the love of God can move mountains of hate, into a sea of peace and forgiveness.
David and Marcus. Thank you for all you are doing. I am truly inspired by your attitude, work, and Rut’s inability to say the “r” at the end of Brother.
So Brotha’s God Bless and keep you, may He make his face shine upon you and bring you peace.
Oh and one more thing. I organize and lead trips to Israel. If ya’ll would ever want to go to Israel with a Jewish Carpenter from West Texas, I’m there!!