Jean’s Story

”Underneath The Beautiful” is a heart set on Jesus.

Ecclesiastes 3 says that “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (vv. 1, 4). Yes, there are times when we need to weep and mourn, but eventually God calls us to exchange those times for laughing and dancing. I’ve seen this on full display in the life of Jean, a joyful and wise man who attends my Monday and Thursday Life Groups.

This is Jean’ Story

He’s a PK (pastor’s kid) and worked as a lawyer in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

One busy morning on Jan. 12, 2010 a catastrophic earthquake, with a magnitude, of 7.0 hit Haiti. The epicenter was near the town of Léogâne, approximately 25 kilometers of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital. Jean was in his office when his room shook violently. When the shaking stopped, Jean was on the floor, trapped under his desk. He couldn’t move his right leg – his foot and ankle and part of the bones in his shin had been crushed. His leg was badly broken, and he was bleeding from wounds around his ankle.

Around 3 a.m., a friend finally found him and carried him out of the rubble and was taken to a clinic. And because his injuries were not life threatening, the nurses laid him on the floor while while people died around him. The pain was terrible.He thought he might die. He almost definitely was going to lose his foot.

The infection had set in six weeks after he’d been injured. Hospital supplies were so low that he had to send friends and family to buy antiseptics to clean his wounds. Jean was taken to three or four different hospitals and clinics, and seen by countless doctors, many of them visitors from other countries who had come to help. Some said his foot could be saved; many more said it would have to be amputated.

Three months after the earthquake, a metal frame was placed around his leg to hold it in place – without it, his foot flopped to one side, totally unsupported. Heavy metal frame and pins as thick as ice picks held his crushed foot and ankle in place. Half of a key bone in his foot was missing, along with the bottom edge of his fibula. The frame around his shin and foot had been poorly placed and was holding his leg at an odd angle.

When the wounds became badly infected, that’s when he thought about leaving Haiti. Jean came to the US, with the help of his sister who is a doctor.

An orthopedic surgeon at S.F. General, had suggested to amputate his leg. Jean remembered God promise to him, ”that he would be walking again.” Every other day, Jean would be taken to an operating room to remove dead bone and tissue. Eventually, he was left with a hollow space where a large piece of his ankle didn’t exist anymore.To save the foot and get him. walking again, the orthopedic surgeon would have to reconstruct his ankle. More than half a dozen surgeries later, he’s walking again – and he still has his foot.

He thinks sometimes of Haiti and how completely his life has changed. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever go back. He said,

“The most important thing is to manage every present moment, because we are not sure about the future. Yes, I miss Haiti. But the most important thing isn’t what I miss, it’s what I have now.”

Life has a way of wearing on a person. Under the weight of losses, pressures, failures, and endless demands, something in our souls begins to wither. Passions dry up. The zeal of a beginning turns into a despairing end. A stone falls heavily down, crushing our will, and in those very places where Jesus once gave birth to vibrant hope, we yield to the grave. Our hearts retreat with a “no more” as death gets ahold of us.

But Jesus’ call to us is the same as His call to Lazarus as He stood before his grave in John 11: “Come out!” Come alive! We are not meant to live in a tomb. Our callings are needed in the world. Pain comes, but it does not get to seal our graves.

This is a man known for his wisdom, his gentleness, his deep faith, and particularly his joy. Joy in the midst of his circumstances. Jean has been an encouragement to me and most often He would give me many ”aha” moments. This man who says, “I have many reasons to grieve, but I have many more to worship.” That is a heart set on Jesus. The deepest reality of all our lives at every given moment is that we always have a reason to worship. We always have a cause to be joyful. And sometimes that that manifests in dancing. I believe I will see Jean dancing again.

Accept your life will be a roller coaster journey as dreams are both achieved and course-corrected. What gives you resilience may be more important than the specific ups and downs.

Quit weighing yourself down with the need for purpose and your fear of feeling unfulfilled at life’s end. Instead of seeking to have it all, seek to feel as if you have it all already. Your life will unfold with more ease and grace.

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