Friday afternoons were the time a few people struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder would stop in for coffee after their support group. This afternoon only Megan and Billy had time for a cup after their group. Megan suffered from flashbacks from her time in the war which at times caused her to have debilitating anxiety attacks. Billy was trying to emotionally recover from the terrible car accident his wife of thirty years died in when they were hit by a drunk driver. Billy being a retired teacher in his sixties was kind of a father figure for Megan, so they often had coffee after the group. Megan enjoyed playfully helping Billy get the hang of social media, and for Billy, well it was time away from the loneliness of an empty home. The Harbor had become Billy’s home away from home even though he had not shared much with the people working there. He usually would stop by in the mornings to do his crossword puzzle while enjoying a cup of coffee, so he was one of the regular gang, so much so, that everyone knew what he would order before he spoke. Megan loved to tease Billy about trying something different.
“Maybe next time you can try a mocha,” teased Megan.
“No, no, just a cup of joe is all I need.” Billy quickly asserted.
“How about a frappe?” Megan smiled as she was having a little fun with her friend.
“If God wanted us to have those fancy things, coffee beans would have grown flavored.” Billy retorted with an impish grin.
“Billy, I really appreciate you joining me after group on Fridays. I don’t know if I will ever get control of my anxiety, but the group helps me a lot.” Megan confided partly to share her heart and partly to encourage her friend. She knew Billy felt so alone since his wife died.
“Well anything to help a vet even if she is pushy about me changing my beverage of choice,” Billy replied in his usual playful banter. Megan liked the way the the old Irishman would joke with her.
“But seriously Megan, please don’t stop the group. I hope you can heal up from the anxiety. I just wish there was more I could do.” Billy tried to comfort the young woman he had grown to think of as a daughter.
“There is healing available,” interrupted the man sitting beside them.
Surprised, they turned to look at the man who seemed to rudely interrupt their personal time.
“Hey now, who are you?” Billy promptly responded. The protective papa bear was coming out of him.
The man sought to reassure them, “Let’s just say I am a person who once witnessed one of the most gruesome violent acts but that act led to my healing in all ways and I would love to share a little with you about it”
Megan jumped in, “Let’s start with who are you, what is your name and why are you imposing?”
The man apologized, “I am sorry. I don’t mean to cause any distress. My name is Simon. I originally came from a place called Cyrene. I am only visiting here for a brief time this afternoon and actually God sent me here to talk with the two of you, Billy and Megan.”
Startled, Billy inquired, “How do you know us? Were you at the hospital when we left the group? Have you been eavesdropping?’
“Oh my, no. My name is Simon. I just sat down, but I do know a little about both of you. Megan you are having troubles with post-traumatic stress from being in the war. Billy for you it is from being in the car accident your wife died in. I too once witnessed a terrible ordeal.” Simon reassured.
“Who told you all these things about us?” Billy insisted.
“As I told you, God sent me here to talk with you. Could I share a little about what I watched happen to an innocent man?” Simon asked.
Intrigued, Megan agreed. Billy did too but he was wary of the stranger.
Simon continued, “I left my home in Cyrene with my two sons Rufus and Alexander to go to Jerusalem for the Passover. That was the most important religious observance for Jews and being a Jew, I wanted my sons to experience one Passover in Jerusalem. We traveled with a caravan and I felt safe knowing Roman soldiers patrolled the roads. Then we arrived in Jerusalem and got a room. The next day we went out to get some food, but people were lined up in the streets shouting and shaking their fists in the air. I was concerned for the safety of my sons, so we got close to some Roman soldiers thinking we would be safe.”
Billy was growing impatient, “Nice little story, but what does that have to do with us?”
Simon calmly replied, “I understand. Let me get to that. The reason for the almost riot was a man was carrying a cross down the road for his own crucifixion. That was how Romans executed people. The man stumbled. The Roman soldiers all of the sudden grabbed me and ordered me to carry his cross. I heard his name yelled out, ‘Jesus’. I was shocked. I had heard about a Jesus who healed people and did miracles even back in Cyrene. So there I was carrying the cross of an innocent man, not able to understand why he was on his way to his death. The cross was heavy, so I was surprised he could have even carried it that far. He had been beaten badly. I was forced to carry his cross all the way to a place called Golgatha where prisoners were crucified. I stood there frozen in a dazed stunned fog. I couldn’t move. I was numb. I watched as the soldiers nailed him to the cross and then hoisted him up. It was the most horrific scene I ever observed.”
“So you are saying you saw Jesus killed? You were there?” Megan asked hesitatingly.
Simon wasn’t upset, “I realize this is hard to believe, but how else would I have known about you unless God had told me?”
Billy wanted to get to the point and let Simon know it.
“I think the main point is that I understand trauma whether it be experiencing it first hand or watching someone else go through it. That night after Jesus died, I couldn’t sleep. Images of Jesus and his beaten body hanging on the cross kept flashing through my mind. It was the longest night of my life. When sunrise came, I did the best I could to put the events out of my mind and focus on my sons, but emotionally I was still there at the cross and my heart was pounding in my chest,” Simon sought to share why he understood.
Megan was moved, fought back a tear, and asked, “So how did you get over that? What does all of that mean to us?”
Simon realized the moment was right, “What I was forced to do and what I saw done to Jesus was brutal to say the least, but my story doesn’t end there. I stayed in Jerusalem for a while because the journey was long back in those days. I needed to try to recover. I ran into some of his followers in the days after and they recognized me. They expressed their concern for me and wanted to know if I was okay. I heard rumors that Jesus was alive again, but that was unbelievable for me. Then one day some of his followers invited me and my sons to a gathering of about 500 people. While we were together, Jesus suddenly appeared. He was there. He was alive again. I realized that he was truly the one and only Son of God. I came to trust in him and when I did, I felt a rush of healing emotionally.”
Billy was close to bursting when he exclaimed, “So don’t leave us hanging. How does that apply to us?”
Simon gently looked at them and answered, “For anyone who receives Jesus, who trusts in him, Jesus will come into their lives. Jesus promised that anyone who believes in him that he and The Father will come live with them. We are also promised that anyone who believes in Jesus receives a spirit of adoption to be children of God and not slaves of fear. For some the inner healing happens quickly. For some it is step by step, but we can know he is always with us. There is healing in his name for our emotions and for our minds. That can be a process, but he will stay with us each and every step of the way. We can know that we will never be alone.”
Tears were running down Megan’s face as she asked Simon, “Does Jesus want to do that for me? I need help so badly. I need peace.”
Simon reassured her, “Yes, he wants to do that for you and he can give you peace for your soul.”
Billy ever the skeptic asserted, “I am almost there, but I am not sure about all of this.”
Simon smiled as he replied, “Yes, Billy, I was told you would need more. You will have another visitor in the future. Your life isn’t over. You still have things to do here”
Billy sighed, “oh great, another visitor.”
Megan laughed a little, “Papa bear, I think it will do you some good.”
Simon politely thanked them, “I appreciate you listening and letting me share about my experience. It is time for me to go. God Bless.”
With that Simon was gone. Megan looked at Billy and for the first time seemed lighter in her spirit, “You know Papa bear, I think it was supposed to be just us having coffee after group today. I feel like God might help me after all.”
Written by Matthew Kohrell
Note from the author- Thank you for reading my stories. If you have a person from the bible you want to see incorporated into a story or a story idea, let me know by sending me a comment.
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