This week I was retested for blockage in my coronary arteries and the vessels that were angioplastied and stented in August and November appear to be still open. I was quite apprehensive before the tests and quite grateful after.
What a ride! We came back to the States to prepare for Angola and undergo a planned knee replacement. Then the chest pain with exercise, the heart procedure in August to ballon open a blocked vessel, and the awareness that I had extensive disease in about all of my vessels to the tune of 10% – 20% blockage. I had the knee replaced in October and recovered sufficiently that by November I walked up stairs briskly and the chest pain returned. I was disappointed because I thought the recently opened artery had again become occluded. I was to find out that this had indeed occurred, but also that the main coronary artery had gone from 10% blockage to > 80% blockage in just 3 months and others had increased significantly, as well. This artery was stented and the original was again ballooned open. All this with no cardiac risk factors!
My world view has again been significantly challenged. My sense that I have control over my health has been identified as illusionary. The degree of control that I have in my life is far less than I thought. Simple lesson, learned many times. I’ve known that God is in control of my life for years, but now I am believing it more securely. Isn’t it true that we know much intellectually, yet don’t really “know” until faced with an experience that gives us certainty of what we already “knew”. I remember a friend hitting a parked car while driving at a slow rate of speed without his seatbelt. After experiencing the force involved in that minor impact, he “learned” the value of a seatbelt, though he “knew” this prior, and he has never driven without restraint since.
In the past few months, I have “learned” about my mortality in the same way. The brevity of life is more real to me. I can no longer count on a long future, though I may live for years. It is quite easy now to consider the world without me. What will my impact be? I have a new gratitude for each day, each moment because I now “know” that the next one isn’t guaranteed. My life’s goals have been challenged. Not only what I do but how I do it. Living like I might die soon is no longer a cute saying; it is reality (none of us know the day) and it is creating a different outlook. For example, I’m motivated to “do” rather than just to “hear”. I don’t want to procrastinate the words that need said or the task that will bless someone. My true (minimal) value in this world is more clear. My opinion is meaning less and less.
Eternity has increasing value. My “belief” of what is true about God, eternity, etc is insignificant. I no longer want to guess about what is true (in contrast to my opinion) about Him . I remember that Jesus said to the truth-pursuers of His culture, “I am the Truth”. I am re-motivated to seek to walk closely with the living Truth, rather than be “right”, know the Bible, do good things, or appear a certain way before people.
The things of this world are dimming. Relationships, encouragement, love, and that which lasts are becoming more significant in my daily thoughts and feelings. Life is becoming reduced to His love for me and my love for Him and those around me. Everything outside of these has less value and cause less concern.
Pain and illness, whether in body, mind or circumstance alters one’s soil. I’ve said before that love and affliction change something deep within us. The Kingdom of God breaks in most significantly when affliction encounters love. This affliction in my life has broken some of the fallow ground in my heart and seeds planted over many years are germinating. I can wish the illness away, deny its reality, or demand that He heal me and completely miss all that He is doing in me through the affliction. Eugene Peterson has said, “Perhaps the greatest thing to fear is getting what you want and missing what God wants.” We often seek healing from that sent by God to heal us!
In love beyond our ability to understand, God is continually bringing/allowing affliction (thorns) in our lives, in people around us and in people around the world so as to change the soil so it will be ready for seed. He uses illness, tragedy, financial hardship, failure etc to bring us to a place of hunger, brokenness, and mourning so that we can receive in humility the truly beautiful things (love, peace, joy…) He wants to plant in us. We see wealth and health as blessing while Jesus used illustrations with camels and needles and spoke of the blessing in hunger, brokenness, and mourning.
God is surely at work in the beautiful things. He is also at work in the painful, difficult things in our lives for the purpose of healing us of our pride, arrogance, self-concern and short-sidedness (by His stripes we are healed). Let us see the pain around us and in us this year and recognize in it the hand of our loving Father.
This year we all will face hardship because our Father wants to heal us and bring us closer to Him. We can have a new sensitivity this year and see the hurting people around us with new eyes. When we experience or see pain and suffering, rather than wish or pray it away, let us seek our Father’s purpose in it and seek Him as to how He might use us as instruments of His love and comfort.
And we can seek truth in the study of the Bible, philosophy, religion, doctrine, etc, or we can seek to walk with Truth and learn more what it means to follow Him, to seek first His kingdom, and to love Him and our neighbors as we appreciate more fully His sovereign purposes and His unconditional love.