In the church tradition Sunday is resurrection day; every Sunday celebrates the resurrection, not just Easter. It is also a day to celebrate victory of life over the obstacles of life, and this story by Dave Moore, a regular reader and contributor to this blog, can give each of us reasons to pause and give thanks to God — for the resurrection.
My Stroke of Insight
When it rains, it pours. Along with recently experiencing severe pain in all my joints due most likely to rheumatoid arthritis, I had what hopes to be a once in a lifetime experience with a minor stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack).
Sunday night I was watching TV with our oldest son, turned to him, and tried to say something, but the words could not be articulated. My tongue seemed heavy and moved slowly, though my mind was fully engaged. To say the least, it was rather unsettling. David ran to get Doreen. My speech came back within a few minutes. My mind went into overdrive to process what had occurred.
Doreen drove me to a Seton hospital here in Austin. I got immediate and great care from many, dedicated people. I love to watch anyone who does their job well. These folks were competent and kind. What a wonderful combination!
Many tests were taken. The CAT scan said my brain functioning was normal (some may object whether this has ever been the case), the artery scan showed that they were all clean, and the echocardiogram showed no problems with my heart. The doctors are not positive what caused the minor stroke (nice oxymoron), though it is possible that the arthritis and attendant inflammation could have been the culprit. My cholesterol level in some categories could be better, but in other areas is very good. One doctor said I was a bit low on vitamin B-12 and suggested that lean, red meat is a good source of it. This is a good motivation to stay put in Texas!
One of my favorite books, Pensées, is by Blaise Pascal. Pensées means “thoughts,” so Pascal recorded his reflections on several different areas of life. He never finished the book, but what we have available today contains a goldmine of insights. Pascal’s individual thoughts tend to be short. One in particular captures why I feel compelled to offer some thoughts of my own about this recent challenge. Pascal said, “Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature [a bit of an overstatement]; but he is a thinking reed [spot on].” In light of remembering afresh my own frailty, let me share a few things I thought about during the rather dense fifteen hours from Sunday night to Monday afternoon:
*During the CAT scan, I was grateful for the many people who over the years have encouraged me to meditate on and memorize Scripture. As I was reviewing various verses I have memorized, I landed on Ex. 14:14 which was a great encouragement. If you have not memorized it, I think you might be tempted to do so!
*Seeing others suffer around me in the ER was sobering and gave me a greater compassion for them. Being sick and keenly aware of your own mortality can produce good fruit. By God’s grace, I believe it will in my own life.
*I have a greater desire to focus on that which is most important. It is too easy to get caught up in good things which are not the best. I have many interests and am curious about many things which are not bad things per se, but they can keep me from focusing on the few things which are truly necessary.
*Gratitude to God for family and friends. There are too many blessings here to recount, but I must say that my wife was awesome through the entire time. We actually did quite a bit of cutting up and found humor was, as William F. Buckley liked to say, quite “salubrious.” You ought to look up that word if you don’t know what it means.
*Soon I speak at a retreat in Colorado. I have been asked to take people through some of the significant themes from one of my all-time favorite books, The Pilgrim’s Progress. John Bunyan understood better than most that Christians are individuals. As such, some struggle more with doubt, some more with worldliness, and so forth. I am grateful to God for the treasure trove of literature which has been used to equip and encourage me in the Christian faith. Bunyan’s book certainly helped me through my stroke.
*Most of all, remembering that God is merciful, loving, and good no matter how the circumstances turn out. Mine turned out very well, but God is good irrespective of the outcomes of one’s circumstances. Notice how often people attach the words “God is good” to prayers where the desired outcome occurs. Well, God is good whether you get healed or not. The cross of Christ settles once and for all that God is loving. Looking back at Christ’s work on the cross is what gives stability to the Christian’s life. Determining God’s goodness based on whether He is fixing my circumstances in the way I deem best is what an older believer in the faith calls a spiritual cul-de-sac. If we calibrate the goodness of God on how well He fixes our negative circumstances, we will find suffering a constant threat to “growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.”
Thanks for your love and prayers!