What I learned as a schlep for this prep
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “They are plans for good and not disaster, to give you a hope and a future.”
— Jeremiah 29:11
You look for them every Saturday morning. They are there faithfully, after all. I’m talking about The Sermon Prep, the reach out that speaks to the upcoming Sunday sermon. The prep has been consistent until this past Saturday, January 13th, when God perfectly planned for my appendix to rot within me just enough that surgery would entail minor complications.
I found and posted something for the church’s Facebook followers to read before I headed off to the hospital early Saturday morning not knowing that stop would be my first of two hospital stays that day, the second, longer one being the place of my surgery. All. God’s. Plans.
All. God’s. Plans. I was scheduled to stay in the second hospital until Monday. My surgery had complications, so keeping me a little longer was a good, safe idea until the head of surgery literally flagged me down in on the fourth-floor hallway with a “Hey, you!” and said I could leave Sunday afternoon. I took the suggestion. All. God’s. Plans. I was on my way home!
My facial expression in the accompanying picture says everything. It’s a great pic because it shows how the Sunday school kids lovingly and caringly made and hung this super large GET WELL banner in my living room (thank you!); it’s an accurate pic because my expression tells you I am literally dying from great pain. (This is the better of two pics. In the one you won’t see, I look Iike I’m being tortured.)
All. God’s. Plans.
By ambulance, I went BACK to the second hospital four hours after I left it with significant breathing issues. I spent the next 23 hours in the ER (there are no hospital rooms available) in pain which included tears and three heavy dozes of morphine. The story has more raw parts, painful parts.
I don’t think this was God’s plan. Instead, I think God actually had plans that weren’t upheld. This is a specific example of when we as individuals and as a culture think we know what’s best, or take the shorter, easier road because we think the fast break of good news and good luck will serve us well later.
I didn’t tell you about the breathing machine I was given to help reestablish the former ability of my lungs. It fell under my mom’s car as I tried to climb into it. (Those of you who have had three or four incisions in your middle know that maneuvering into a car is no small task. This does not include reaching under the dirty, snow-packed a car.) The ground was slick ice. The dark air outside the hospital stunk because someone nearby was filling it with cigarette smoke and the wrinkled expression on the inhale that said life is pretty crummy and that even a pain-faced minister who walks like he’s considerably constipated shouldn’t expect a lot out of it. My mom had broken a taillight taking this space some thirty minutes earlier and, for a moment, a piece of the minor accident rested on the dangerously ice-covered snow.
When I achingly bent down on one knee and stretched my best to reach for the breathing machine, which is this handheld plastic gizmo, I knew NONE OF THIS was God’s plan.
Major flaws and wrong turns happened in the story—many of which I have not even come close to mentioning. Yet, in this story, so much good happened, too. It’s the good that needs the future, the attention. For example, I met Diana, this awesome light who laughs like an angel, and Carey, the gorgeous soul who will marry her love this Valentine’s Day in Disney at 2:30 PM with a violin playing, and Chelsea, this spark-filled energy burst who reminds me of my sister-in-law in that she passionately loves to care and to teach.
See, when truly bad stuff happens, God still provides options for a future and a hope. God still provides opportunities to know Him and let Him be known. Remember, with more than a wince and a grown, I was down on one knee pain reaching for a breathing machine under a dirty car. I know life can be like hell. I was there. I also know that, even in the _____ (fill-in-the-blank) places, we can still choose God because God still (and always) chooses us.
Prayer: God, You gave me memories: the ladies I mentioned, the awesome ambulance crews I didn’t, and my little breathing machine. It’s still dirty, by the way, but You know that. I’ll wash it clean, and I will breathe You. And I when I do, help me to choose You, not darkness.