In January of 1988 there was a good amount of snow on the ground. The temperatures were hovering around zero. Ft. Madison, Iowa, was pretty much iced in. I was finished. PTSD, anxiety, depression, sadness, a sense of failure were constant companions. I can feel that day as if it were just a brief, few days ago. Dreadful! I’m surprised I got out of bed. I knew I could not continue in ministry, even though I knew I was particularly good at it. My therapist at the time described me as a boxer in a ring taking blow after blow but refusing to fall down and surrender the bout.
Early in the morning that I am thinking about I had gotten up and gone to the basement to pray. I remembered that St. Thérèse of Lisieux had promised “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.” I prayed, “Thérèse, if ever you gave a bouquet of roses to anyone, I could sure use one now.” Then I proceeded to try to function through the day.
It was Wednesday so I had a women’s Bible study to lead in the morning. When this was finished, one of the church leaders followed me out to the church porch. Standing in the freezing cold with snow covering the grass and the sidewalks and the streets, full on January, she said, “You know, Charlie, you’ve taught us to love one another.” Then, in spite of the weather, I smelled roses. Not just briefly but for, what seemed to me, several minutes. Long enough that I was able to ask Juanita if she smelled them too. She did not. But I did. The encouragement that I got from this helped me transition from ministry to graduate school as I re-tooled for another career.