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The 700 Club

Peaceful Exceptionalism

Red Wing, MN

“There were times we'd come home, and mom was fine, and there were times we'd come home, and we thought mom was dead,” says Tom. From an early age Tom Blee tried to escape his dysfunctional home. With an alcoholic mom and a workaholic dad, Tom quickly learned to shoulder his own burdens and keep his emotions in check.

He says, “I can remember as a first grader going into school and one of the nuns coming up to me and saying, ‘Tom, is your mom sick again?’ And even as a child thinking you gotta hide this. And that anxiety that was put into my head at a young age, I mean, that's the buzzing. That's the clanging. That's the unrest.”

Tom felt more and more pressure to be perfect, so he projected an image that everything was fine. Yet nothing relieved his growing anxiety, not even God.

Tom says, “I can remember in church many times looking up and saying, ‘There's the Savior that is supposed to save me, hanging on the cross, who never comes off the cross.'"

At 16, Tom decided religion was pointless and stopped attending church. It seemed to him that he got better results from his own hard work.

He thought, “I don't need this God and this Jesus, and I just need my books and I need to pick my career and I need to get out of this house and get on with my life.”

Growing up in the shadow of the Mayo Clinic, Tom was drawn to the lifestyle of the doctors and their families.

He recalls, “How come I can go to people's houses and it's not dirty. It was the search constantly to find that area of peace. The doctors' families seemed to have peace.”

So, Tom decided to be a doctor. He did well at college and med school but the pressure to succeed and keep up a perfect façade fed his anxiety.

He says, “The uneasiness was there. The need to succeed was there. That buzzing in my head was there. You just can't get away from it.”

Tom graduated med school and married a nurse, hoping to achieve the ideal family life he never had.

He recalls, “It just didn't work. We were kinda the same people. She grew up in bad alcoholism with uh with her father. I grew up in bad alcoholism. We're very comfortable with chaos. That’s what we’ve grown up in.”

Soon, Tom found himself escaping as his dad had: working long hours and isolating himself at home when arguments arose.

He says, “If the heat was turned up, I would run and hide.”

For over a decade, Tom worked to maintain his perfect image of success. However, behind closed doors, his marriage was crumbling.

He recalls, “We have the house, we have the cars, we had all this stuff. And it was empty. It was exhausting. And I don't even know if ‘exhausting’ is a big enough word.”

Then, the evening of March 1, 2014, Tom finally faced his failures. Overwhelmed, he called his sister, who had given her life to Christ, and she urged him to get to know Jesus.

He says, “I hung up the phone and I sat in this chair in this kind of dimly lit room, and I looked up and said, ‘I don't even think you exist.’ And I said, ‘I'm so done with this, everything that's happening, that I'm gonna give you one more shot.’ And I got on my knees and I said, ‘Now, if you exist, you have five minutes to show me, because otherwise I'm tapping out.’ And I stood up and instantly felt different. ‘A’, there was a presence in the room, and, ‘B’, that buzzing stopped. There was finally lightness, so to speak. There was something like lifted off my shoulders. Saying, ‘Stop the struggle. You got help.'" That night Tom bought a Bible and started reading.

The more he learned about Jesus the more peace he felt, and the more he realized that Jesus was much different than the man he’d seen always hanging on the cross as a little boy. He says, “Jesus came down as a helper. He came down as someone to heal. He's completely different than the man on the cross, because He's present, He's here. You can ask, He shows up alive, dynamic.”

Tom started attending church and Bible studies. As he grew closer to God, he stopped striving to be perfect and sought God for help with his problems. Even though his marriage ended a year later, Tom had hope in someone greater than himself. He recalls, “All I could do is say, ‘I have nothing right now but you, God. Something is happening and I trust you.'"

Today Tom’s a trauma surgeon at the 7th busiest trauma center in the country. Yet with all that pressure, he doesn’t worry because he knows Christ is the ultimate healer. He says, “My work as a surgeon is constantly cheating death. And I know someone out there that actually can bring people back from death. I mean, that's what Jesus is. You are a new person, you get a new life, you get a second chance. You get hope. It doesn’t mean I don’t have challenges and trying times and some, but the buzzing is gone. There’s a peace there. Everything is fixable through Christ.”

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