Am I mad, or angry or bitter? That’s a question I’ve been asked. The short answer is no, I am not. My life the last few months has been marked by periods of grief, sorrow, hope and joy. Please allow me to elaborate.
Earlier this year I noticed it was harder for me to talk, especially when excited. Thinking it was all just allergy related, I put it to the back of my mind, until people in my congregation noticed it, and my wife really urged me to have it looked at. That was mid/late summer and after seeing my primary, an ENT and finally a neurologist (and during that time, noticing slight weakness in my left thumb and pinky) I was scheduled for an EMG. For those of you who have never heard an EMG, it is something like you would imagine ISIS would use to horrify their enemies. The test began by having mild electric stimulation put through certain nerves to test for conduction. They called it mild, I’ll say it is similar to grabbing an electric fence for a fraction of a second. That was the easy part. Next came the worst part: the doctor inserted a needle that I would guess to be at least 2” long into several major and minor muscles to “listen” to the nerve talk to the muscles. The doctor stuck that needle into me at least ten different times, including through the bottom of jaw up into my tongue and into the side of my neck. Once the needle was in the right place, the doctor would have me push that muscle to listen to it. It was painful, it lasted longer than I thought, and it left me emotionally and physically drained.
Then began the long wait. The doctor called this the “money test”. We knew something was wrong, something not good, but we were not sure. The test was on the 6th, and every day we anxiously waited. I also noticed that my muscles began to twitch strongly all over my body, without lessening, only increasing. It was on the 15th of December, the day after my birthday that the doctor called me back. My wife was off from work and we were going to celebrate my 47th birthday (my birthday is on the 14th, but she worked so we waited)by eating pizza and just hanging out with the kids, one my favorite things to do. I had gone to Pizza Hut to pick up dinner and was driving back when I got his call. The worst fear was confirmed: he said I had a lower motor neuron disease (my muscles and nerves don’t like each other) and that I would be placed in the care of an ALS doctor at a clinic (I’m scheduled for the 4th of January at Baptist Hospital in Winston Salem). ALS, or Lou Gherigs disease is a disease that occurs when there is a breakdown between the never and muscles. The muscles of the body become useless and the eventual result is death.
I cannot express the flood of emotion that swept over me or my family for that matter. My mother and father came over, my sister came over. I cried like a 6 year old boy who had been told he had to leave the party, but the party had only started. That is the best explanation I could give my wife. Waves of grief and fear put my on the floor. But I want you to know, that among this, there was strangely no anger or bitterness. Even as I heard my 3 year ask his mommy if daddy was sad or ok, I was not mad.
“But things like this aren’t supposed to happen, especially to a Christian and especially to a Pastor”. My wife and I are in our mid 40’s, we have three little kids. In fact the two boys just celebrated their 3rd and 4th birthday, their little sister just learned to walk. They are so little. My body is sick, there is no cure. There is a prognosis of 3-5 years (could be shorter, could be longer). But there is somewhat of a reality. As I sit here Christmas morning, I’m faced with limited Christmas times with my family. Could be several more, this could be the last (and yes, it could be everyone’s last, but what if you were told it was? See how much difference that makes?).
I have sorrow because I want to see my kids grow up, help raise them, spend the rest of my life with Wendie. That is what I want. I want to teach the boys to fish, play ball, drive, and work on cars. I want to walk Junebug down church aisle and give her away to a godly young man. I want to die an old man. My wants matter little, though.
But I have joy too. I have a beautiful wife who loves me and serves me and takes care of me faithfully. She loves me, she shows me. She has been better to me than I deserve.
I have three of the most awesome kids. God gave us kids after such a long period we had all but given up hope. I stood by their mom when she gave birth to each and I cut each of their cords. I love them in a way I doubt they’ll ever understand. I have incredible Joy.
But I have hope too. Sure, I pray that God would heal me, and I know others are. That is within the realm of possibilities of what God does. He’s in the healing business. Right now I’m on a whole host of medications, most of which drain me or make me feel weird. HOWEVER, my greatest hope is celebrated today, on Christmas. Jesus came to bind up the wounds of the hurting, to give peace to the tormented and to give forgiveness for sins. He came to give live, and give it to the max. But He also came to rescue the physically perishing. My body is messed up on the inside, it is not working right and the future has some unpleasant possibilities. But that baby in the manger came so that I don’t have to face those alone. He came to turn death from an unwanted enemy to the entrance way to glory. As the hymns says:
“No guilt in life, no fear in death: This is the power of Christ in me”
Or like O said in the movie Home, I has hope
I’m not angry at God, nor bitter. He has been far better to me than I deserve. Let’s just be frank for a moment: If God didn’t exist, why would this even be bad? If God does not exist, my situation is no different than that of a sick and dying bird somewhere in the woods that nobody notices. If God does not exist, there is no such thing as evil.
But He does exist, and that gives me hope. I has hope, because I trust Jesus. And that is hope enough.
That same hope is available to you