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Healing Waters

When I went off to college, I was filled with excitement. I made new friends, enjoyed my studies, and took advantage of all-you-can-eat at the cafeteria.

But it didn’t last. Unbeknownst to me, I had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). By late fall I was coming apart, struggling to maintain focus while reading textbooks, compelled to go back over lines again and again.

My poor mental health affected my social life. I was a lost soul on campus. Friends abandoned me. My grades collapsed. I struggled like Peter trying to walk on water.

Instead of reaching out to God for help, I made a jump for shore—I dropped out. Eventually I was formally diagnosed, prescribed medicine, and given behavioral therapy.

When I was thirty-four, I went back to college. I heard about a university-sponsored 40-mile canoe trip in Canada and decided to go. It was grueling, but there were blue skies and pristine lakes lined with trees changing color, burning bright in the late October sun.

At the end of the first day of paddle and portage, it was growing dark. Our young and dauntless group forged on, paddling quietly across a glassy lake illuminated by only the stars and a single strobe light on each boat.

The canoes landed and docked on a steep outcropping of an island campsite. My canoe partner got out, attempting to pull the canoe farther up the boulder. It tipped, and in I went.

Dark, frigid water enveloped me. I swam to a nearby canoe, holding on, then swam from it to the boulder, thinking I could walk up its face. It looked picturesque enough above water, but it had murderous intent underneath. My boots couldn’t get traction underwater. It was two steps up, three steps back. Cold and fatigue bored into me.

“Are you OK, Matt?” a classmate called in panic. No, I wasn’t. From somewhere deep inside, I knew I might be down to one last attempt at survival.

Then something wondrous happened. A paddle appeared in the darkness. I grabbed it with all my strength. Students from shore on the other end of the paddle pulled, and the lake grudgingly gave up its prize. When I looked into the faces filled with concern and saw the smiles of relief, I saw the face of Christ.

I realize now that God has a path for me. I don’t know how long I’ll travel it, but while I’m on it I’ll give thanks every day for his healing waters.

Abridged and adapted from “Healing Waters” by Matthew Liptak, originally published in the September 2016 issue of Liguorian magazine (© 2016 Liguorian. All rights reserved.)

Published inReflections